Camille Licate never thought her rescue rooster Bree would lead her on a new path
It’s 5 A.M. and my alarm clock crows—literally. Lucky for me, I’m an early bird. So is my rescue rooster, Bree.
I’ll never forget the day we met. It was a sunny April morning in 2017. I was working at the Wild Bird Fund—New York City’s only rehabilitation center for sick, injured and orphaned wild birds—when a woman called, claiming she had rescued an exotic bird. I asked her to text me a photo. It was a baby chicken! Not exactly exotic, but definitely an uncommon sight on the streets of Manhattan.
The caller brought in the bird. The fuzzy yellow chick was peeping loudly. I scooped the baby, who the staff named Bree, into the palm of my hand. Our eyes met and I was smitten.
Bree stayed at my desk all day, helping me with my work and taking breaks to nap on my warm computer keyboard.
Later, as I got ready to go home to Brooklyn, I watched Bree run after staff members, peeping desperately for attention. Something came over me. “I’ll take the chick!” I said. I would be the little one’s foster mom until we could find a forever home.
Like a kitten, puppy or human baby, this fragile creature needed to feel safe and loved. I didn’t mind being followed around my apartment or letting the sweet baby nestle in my pocket, sleeve or hood. When I went out, Bree came along in a backpack bird carrier. Passersby couldn’t help smiling at the chick.
I emailed animal sanctuaries to find Bree a permanent home. The routine response: “If Bree is a hen, yes! If Bree is a rooster, sorry, but no.” Sanctuaries are inundated with abandoned roosters. It’s hard to tell the sex of chickens when they’re young. Most cities allow only hens, so when chicks turn out to be male, they’re usually given up.
I prayed that Bree was a hen. But at three months old, it happened: Bree crowed. Now what? I thought. It’s illegal to keep a rooster in New York City. I sat on my apartment floor next to him. He must have sensed my concern, because he climbed into my lap and hunkered down. I looked at Bree and knew. “I’m not your foster mom,” I said. “I’m your forever mom.”
We “flew the coop” and moved to my hometown of Ashtabula, Ohio. Bree is now a chicken with a mission. Together, we host school and community events to encourage everyone to “Bree Kind to All Animals” by adopting a “Bree Kind Lifestyle,” which includes eating a vegan diet and using eco and animal-friendly products in our homes and on our bodies.
Each day, Bree reminds us that roosters are intelligent, loving and loyal creatures. His current flock includes my parents, family rescue dogs, the mailman and our rooster sitter, Amy. He loves hearing me sing to him, watching Netflix and hanging with my dad outdoors.
I feel more fulfilled in my work and life with Bree by my side. I never expected a chick to lead me on a new path, but I know it’s one we’re meant to walk—and crow about—together.
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