Mr. Joy rooster
Mr. Joy wearing his blue booties during recovery.

Mr. Joy came to me after his former owner became too ill to care for him.

Raised from an egg, Mr. Joy wasn't your average chicken. He loved to watch TV, ride around on friendly shoulders and snuggling in his owners lap.


When his owner's condition became terminal, he was admitted to a nursing home. 
Mr. Joy and the other chickens needed a home fast. 
Mr. Joy hates chicken trucks!
Trucks like these are on the road every day.
Years before Mr. Joy arrived, I'd had a different chicken encounter. On Memorial Day 1998, I was escorting an injured mourning dove to a wildlife rehabilitator in Wingate, NC. On my way back into town, something in the east bound lane caught my eye.

There on the centerline, lay a large, white, filthy hen. She’d fallen off one of the “chicken trucks” going to and from the local meat processing plants. I rushed her back to the rehabilitator but she could not be saved. Not because she sustained injuries from her fall to the pavement, but because as all "broiler" hens, she was bred to grow large quickly, no matter what the physical toll. At 8 weeks old, she was the size & weight of a packaged Thanksgiving turkey. She couldn't even stand. If not slaughtered, most die of heart failure. Euthanasia was the most humane option. After 8 years of shunning red meat, that day, I became a vegetarian.
 

It was a chilly winter day in 2001 when I got the phone call that Mr. Joy, and five other chickens were on their way to my house. It was much sooner than expected and 5 more than I’d bargained for.

I set them up in an old workshop on the edge off my yard. 5 roosters to 1 hen is an impossible ratio. I had to keep them all separated or they’d fight till they were bloody. I didn’t have enough cages; so timid Mr. Joy came to stay in my bathroom. He loved to be petted, closing his eyes with contentment. I decided to keep a mated pair, Hank & Fiona, and trade the other 3 roosters with a local Bantam breeder for a companion for Mr. Joy.

 

Mr. Joy & his new companion were introduced in my bathroom. Mr. Joy was a perfect gentleman. He cooed gently to her, communicating in their own special way. Soon it was clear she was smitten. Mr. & Mrs. Joy began their life together.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon was brief. Shortly after meeting, Mr. Joy became very ill. Anemic from mites and a staph infection called bumble foot, Mr. Joy nearly died. When I finally found an exotic animal vet who would see him, gangrene had ravaged his toes. Most of them had to be amputated. Months of antibiotics, hydrotherapy and T.L.C. in the bathroom "hospital" and Mr. Joy was well again. I fashioned special booties for his tender feet to keep them clean.


Warmer weather had arrived and I knew he’d be happier outside in the fresh air. I drew up a design and my mother & I built a fantastic coop. We built it as a duplex, so the two couples could be neighbors.

 
Mr. Joy doesn't usually ride on the dash. We were stuck in traffic and a little bored. They don't make chicken car seatsd, so Mr. Joy usually rides in the passenger seat or in my lap.
On the road again!

While he was still healing, I began taking him out in public. He loved getting out, riding in the car & going shopping with me. People were shocked that he sat contented in his little basket, taking in the sights and sounds and ocassional strokings of admirers. 

One day, I brought him with me on one of my pet sitting jobs. I gave subcutaneous fluids to Cocoa, an 18 year old cat, that lived with her owner at an assisted living center. Cocoa’s owner, Esther, was crippled with osteoporosis, and spent most of her time in bed. I brought Mr. Joy and arranged him on a towel on Esther’s lap. In the many months I’d been caring for Cocoa, I’d never seen her owner light up like she did that day. She & Mr. Joy took mutual delight in one another. Mr. Joy cooed & blinked, stretching his neck out for more stroking.
 It was then I knew I couldn’t keep his charms to myself. Mr. Joy had to spread the message, chickens are sentient, loving creatures.

 


Since that day, Mr. Joy & I decided to take our mission to the public. Mr. Joy traveled in his special basket with me to parks, assisted living centers, pet stores, parties and even in the parking lots of certain fast food restaurants, educating people about factory farming, animal sentience & vegetarianism.  

We handed out literature & Mr. Joy's business card along with a big dose of chicken love. He really enjoyed "working," meeting all sorts of people and seeing all sorts of things. Getting petted all day by adoring strangers probably helps, too!