We received in the mail our first set of chicks this past February. They arrived as a variety of 6 very different breeds, with each chick having very different personalities emerging on pace with their adult feathers.

One such individual quickly gained notoriety and love as the first one of the bunch to develop the ability to crow – sort of. Listen for yourself:

Nailed it.

One can’t help but smile at such an endearing crackle of poultry puberty. As fate would have it, this would further serve as his saving grace on caponizing day (snip-snip). Once the recording was passed around the family group text, it was unanimously decided that this lucky cockerel would be named “Squeaky” and thus his male bits pardoned. As his forray into rooster-dom progressed unhindered we would soon learn that his expeditious development and crowd favor would not be limited to his initial vocal exercises.

Squeaky is a heritage rooster meaning his breed hasn’t been been affected by the exploits of those trying to produce a larger, meatier frame. He’s a bit leaner, yet more self-sufficient than most other chickens you’ll see. I don’t imagine being the lone rooster in a flock of prima-donna hens would be easy. I downright can’t fathom how he did it as one of the smallest chickens in the over-sized bunch. Yet, he took-on the yolk of flock protector with a sense of humble, eager duty.

He was often the first out of the coop to check the surroundings. On the off day that he wasn’t able, his indignation was undeniable. Whether it be a plastic sack floating in the breeze overhead or a vulture in search of its next meal, Squeaky would sound his now well developed alert. No hen would dare exit from shelter until he gave the all-clear. Even I was no exception to his retribution when the squawk of an in-hand hen would entwine us into what I’m sure he assumed would be a death match – equally his chance to win in his mind.

As is the norm for our pastured hens yesterday a portion of the flock wandered farther than the rest to the cactus patch by the pond. This wasn’t out of the ordinary, nor was it cause for alarm as I knew Squeaky would  be there. I was working on the barn within eyesight when I heard his standard alarm. Not thinking much of it I kept to my task when immediately after I heard the hens of the group squawking in distress. I walked around the corner to see them scattering, briefly catching out of the corner of my eye a hawk take-off from their spot. I ran. My stomach turned. Approaching the mess of feathers my heart sank as my fear was confirmed. Squeaky selflessly fought his last battle protecting his hens, placing himself between the hawk and its next meal.

We used to complain about the 4am wake-up calls. Phone calls with family and customers would erupt with chuckles at his robust background interjections. We joked that if any of his hens’ eggs hatched they’d be the too ugly to keep. Squeaky was an entrenched character in the cartoon of our farm. He is missed.

We lost our maternal grandpa this past decade; his resting simply, peacefully attributed to old-age. He was cut from a tougher cloth – outlived his pacemaker by a couple of years to the surprise of his cardiologist, but most knew him as a benevolent soul who’d give his migrant workers the shirt off his back if needed. Growing-up we called our him “Paw-paw”, but other’s knew him affectionately as “Squeaky” from his pubescent years.