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Did you know that "rooster" used to be the generic term for any gender gallus gallus domesticus, which you may know as the chicken? It was only when certain people decided that the older name for the male of the species—"cock", if you were wondering—was something they didn't want to say in mixed company that "rooster" came to be the term for the big ones with the spurs and the cockadoodledoo. That means that we only have hens here at our house, but the point is that, in a less prudish world, they could be called roosters. Because roosting what they do. Or they're supposed to... only our small hens didn't get the memo.

We moved them outside about a week ago, when their smell prompted me to finally finish their house. They liked having more room to roam (inside their enclosure; I don't trust them enough to give them the run of the yard yet) but when it got dark they missed their comfortable box and all huddled up near the door. That meant if it rained they were going to get soaked; I knew if I left them there and it did start raining in the middle of the night I'd have to go save them. So I brought them in before I went to bed. The next night it did start raining, right as I was about to go to sleep, so once again I went out and got them (they hadn't gotten too wet, nor did I).

We persisted. There was finally a clear night and, though it was a bit chilly, I left them to huddle in the straw by their door. They survived. But I started to despair that they'd ever figure out that they could use the nice roosting pole I made them, or at least, you know, go to sleep under their roof. Then yesterday saw more rain, but this time perfectly timed: it started in the late afternoon, driving them into the roofed part of the house (they're not idiots when they're fully awake) and continued until after dark. I went out to check on them just in case, and there they were, cuddled together on the pole like proper roosters. Hooray!

And they've figured it out. Today was clear and dry, but at bedtime they once again flew up to the roost. I feel like a parent whose child just passed their first spelling test. Now all we have to do is get them integrated with the rest of the flock in a month or so. That couldn't possibly be hard, right?


We talk a fair amount about the roosters on our property, and unfortunately U.S. sensibilities around naming has not traveled to South Africa. I cringe awkwardly at the public discussion of cocks and try to persuade a name change, but that just makes me come across as ... crass...and my friends and family as particularly pure-minded, where cock is just another word for male chicken . Oh well. Anyway, I welcome the name change.

Thanks for the insight, Jo! I guess for me not hearing the older name ever I didn't think of how it might be unpleasant to hear it over and over again now that the... other meaning is so prevalent. Suffice it to say, here in New England I won't ever be calling male chickens anything other than roosters!

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