Three weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to the Azores, where I spent five days in Ponta Delgada and then flew to Terceira, where I enjoyed an opportunity to witness the breathtaking beauty of these magical islands.
When I visited Terceira, I was greeted every morning and throughout the day by the sound of crowing roosters, whose melodic sounds rang through the countryside.
According to lore, the “Galo de Barcelos” (Rooster of Barcelos) is considered to be the unofficial symbol of Portugal, and is usually found in colorfully decorated ceramic figurines or on embroidered towels or aprons.
As my fascination with these picturesque islands continued, my interest in roosters developed, and in no time, I was on the telephone with a good friend, Tish Ciccotelli of Rochester, a well-known equestrian, horse trainer and farmer, who owns 30 beautiful roosters of every shape, size and age at her pristine farm.
“I love the chickens but the roosters are fascinating to watch,” said Ciccotelli, owner of Englenook Farm. She adds that it’s the hen’s job to lay eggs, and the rooster’s role is to act as a protector and find food for the hens.
The farmer says that hens do not need a rooster to lay an egg.
“I have some roosters that are five years or older,” she said, laughing. “I don’t discriminate.”
Ciccotelli describes the roosters as “flashy and always prettier” than hens, although she admits to finding pleasure in all of her birds.
When asked to explain the difference between a hen and a rooster, the farmer shares that she’s usually able to tell when the birds are about three weeks old.
“The roosters grow bigger and faster,” Ciccotelli said, smiling. “It’s a typical guy thing. There are always more roosters than hens.”
According to Ciccotelli, it’s her own personal choice not to use the hens or roosters for cooking. She sells fresh eggs to customers in Provincetown as well as on her farm in Rochester.
“The roosters are mesmerizing to watch,” she said. “They have a purpose. They make sure that the hens are fed and that they are kept away from predators.”
Ciccotelli notes that roosters can crow throughout the day, not just early in the early morning as many people believe. She said that a rooster will sound an alarm to alert the hens that a hawk, fisher cat or other predator is approaching.
“They have different sounds at various times depending on what they have to say,” the animal enthusiast shares. “They have their own language.”
While the farmer emphasizes that she appreciates all of her hens and roosters, Ciccotelli shares that she has a special place in her heart for “Little Roo,” a large bird with colorful plumes that struts around the farm and likes to visit guests.
Ciccotelli also has an affinity for “Alvin, Theodore and Simon,” a trio of comical young roosters that cause the farmer to laugh throughout the day.
“The three of them are inseparable,” she said. “They like to hang out together all day.”
The roosters eat seeds, cracked corn, grains, grubs and worms.
“They require a lot of upkeep,” she said. “You have to have a passion to raise chickens. I find it to be a very relaxing pursuit.”
Ciccotelli said that while she has “great neighbors” who respect the birds, some communities, especially those in populated areas, don’t want roosters living next door or close by. While the law protects the rights of residents in these “Right to Farm” towns, a growing number of communities across the state have been stopped from keeping roosters on their property.
“Roosters are like guard dogs,” she said. “Their job is to hunt for food and to protect.”
Wampanoag Kennel Club Spring Match
The Wampanoag Kennel Club will hold its annual spring all-breed and obedience match today, May 6, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., on the grounds of the Freetown State Forest, 110 Slab Bridge Road, Assonet. Admission is free.