When a rooster lives next door

Only recently I learned that some urban communities in Ontario actually allow residents to raise chickens in their back yards. Other municipalities have begun talking about doing the same. Many modern folks have never heard a rooster crow early in the morning, and those who have recall it as a childhood experience on the farm.

Today, you might not find chickens on some farms. Can you imagine the squawks from neighbours if roosters begin to crow early in the morning? And they do; their creator programmed them that way. But some cultures in the so-called third world make room for all sorts of noises any time of the day or night. Come with me to the island of Java, Indonesia, and hear it for yourself.  

At 4:15 in the morning the call to worship sounds from the minarets of the local mosque.

Seconds later, as though in answer, the same call reverberates from another a few hundred metres further along the street. The faithful awake, joined by the not-so-faithful. I find further sleep impossible; the cacophony of a dozen roosters make sure of that.

What to do at 4:15? The dying echo of the amplified call prompts an idea. I could always pray. Or maybe I could catch a few cat naps before the real noise begins in another hour. A tiny house lizard calls out from a beam above the bed, sounding like a ping-pong ball doing four or five rapid bounces. You can’t see him in the dark; later you will spot him watching from behind a beam or scurrying across a wall.

Now seated on a cane-bottomed chair I hear further noises of the awakening community entering through large louvres above the windows. Hundreds of birds now compete with the roosters as they greet the day with loud cheeps, chirps, or squawks. Even though still dark, joyful, chattering children pass on the street. Suddenly a diesel rice truck roars to life. Within minutes five others follow as the sun rises just minutes before six. A horse-drawn cart vies with a motorcycle for attention. By 6:30, the roosters have become quiet, but other sounds blend in a continual hum of activity.

Suddenly a motor cycle with the mating call of a Harley-Davidson thunders by. I know better; the biggest bikes here aren’t much larger than a moped; some back-yard mechanic has modified the muffler.

About 7 I head for the bak, or bathroom. Here the morning shower consists of throwing dippers of cold water over yourself from a tiled tank.

The first one down my back drags a squeal from me, precisely in time with an outburst of laughter entering through the louvred window. It takes a moment before I realize no one can see me; the laughter comes from the classroom of a government training centre just steps from my window. The instructor has just warmed up his class with a different kind of icebreaker.

You would never hear all this from a room in a five-star hotel. You need to arrange for a house in a suburban area to get close to the real Indonesia. We were very fortunate a friend found this place for us.

Chickens in the urban areas of Wellington? It might happen. Times have changed and people are looking for ways to become more green and bring food production closer to home. But if you want to increase the size of your flock, remember you will have to add a rooster to the feathered family. Then your neighbours will love you.


Ray Wiseman