When I met Patchouli at Farm Sanctuary’s Watkins Glen, New York shelter, home to over 500 rescued animals, in mid-2014, I was amazed that I managed to capture a photograph of him at all. As the jet-black rooster darted around visitors’ feet, our tour guide shared the beginnings of his story.
A shipment of chicks had been sent out to a customer by a hatchery but was found some time later in transit bearing the words “return to sender.”
About half the animals in the shipment, marked as containing 100 hens, had died. But Patchouli was among the living. It was thought that as a rooster, he might have just been thrown in as packing material.
Shortly after birth, I’ve read, chicks have the ability to outsmart human babies in “peek-a-boo” and apparently have a better grasp on physics than I can claim, preferring realistic drawing plans over impossible ones.
I have no doubt that Patchouli, in his unfathomable tiny yellow chick form, aced these and other developmental milestones. And in his striking adult form, he maneuvered over the landscape sharply, with purpose, as if announcing his majesty’s reign to foreign invaders. His story might have begun in a dark, cramped box, but he surely got his happily-ever-after in the rolling hills of Upstate New York.