Meet Rose, our mascot and pet chicken. She came to us a year ago as the tiny fluffball you see here. A friend found her abandoned in Tortola and rescued her, but with a full-time job, she could not raise the little chick. Chicks are time intensive and since chickens are social creatures, chicks need company. Lots of it. Being separated from the mother hen creates anxiety for the chick and the chick will peep incessantly to alert its mother to where it is. At first, I couldn’t leave the little chick’s sight or a barrage of peeping would start. The chick behaved as if it had imprinted on people so in the chick’s mind, I was its mother and protector. I had to take it with me wherever I went. It takes about 3 or 4 months for chickens to mature enough for you to know whether or not you have a hen or a rooster, so Rose didn’t have a name for a while. I called her “Chicken” and that’s what she answers to.
Our previous chicken was another rescue. Bok Bok Chicken was about 2 months old when I found him. He had caught the disease that the mosquitoes carry here that causes the skin on the chicken’s head to form hard blisters. Bok Bok was so covered in
blisters that his eyes were shut. Most of the chickens in his wild flock were sick with it. They lived on the marina property in Red Hook. We saw him standing by the walkway (I was out with the kids) and felt sorry for him. I picked him up and he collapsed in my hand. His breastbone was protruding and he was so light. He couldn’t see to find food or water. I got a box and brought him to the boat. He drank water when his beak was dipped in and I fed him raw egg which he loved. I spent time holding him but with the blisters, he looked totally gross, so at first I held him with paper towels. Bok Bok responded well to being held, put on weight, and in time the blisters fell off. His eyesight was fine, but one eye was still partially closed from the skin regrowing too much where the blister was. He also had a wonky comb from the blisters. He stayed with us until he was about 4 months old and started crowing. At 3 am. Inside the boat. So he got to sleep in a tree near the marina where we were staying. It was about that time that he discovered hens. He managed to integrate himself into a local flock. That worked out great for both parties. He was happy and healthy and we could sleep. Even though he wasn’t on the boat anymore, he’d find me in the marina parking lot and bring hens over to get fed. Occasionally, he’d allow me to pick him up and bring him back to the boat for lunch. I haven’t seen him since the storms. He used to hang out by the guard shack. I like to think that he moved to a new territory.
Rose grew and at 4 months old, laid her first egg in the salon. When I’m not on charter, I take her with me to my job sewing canvas. My workshop is in the basement of a villa and Rose will spend the day by my side while I’m sewing. On charter, she has a dog crate that she stays in. She doesn’t mind boating life. We’ve sailed with her around St. Thomas and she likes to perch on the edge of the aft cabin top while we are going. She has a stubborn streak and won’t do things if she doesn’t feel like it. She knows two commands “go poop” and “get the cricket”. I’m trying to teach her others. She doesn’t always come when called. Like my children, she waits until I’ve called for a good five minutes until she appears.
Rose never learned how to be a chicken. To her, people are her flock. She is smaller than the wild chickens in the yard of a friend’s beach villa where I do my sewing. They pick on her when they see her so she prefers to stay inside. Before the storms, there was a rooster with them, named Checkerboard. When he matured, he’d chase Rose and do unspeakable things when he caught her. My family and I stayed at the villa for Maria. They day after Maria subsided, so much water was coming the hillside, that the villa was cut off and an island of its own. The two wild hens were still around, but Checkerboard was absent. I went walking around the yard once the water had drained enough. The two scruffy hens were by a grove of trees and were chattering. On either side were two deep gullies in the sand. I looked near where the wild hens were clucking and found two yellow chicken feet sticking out of the sand at the bottom of a gully. Checkerboard had been caught in the torrent of water coming from the mountains and swept into the sand. I left him there. There was nothing to be done.
Recently, a friend who lost both boats during hurricane Irma wrote a children’s book featuring Rose. One boat was her and her boyfriend’s home and the other was a charter boat. They stayed in the same houses we did during both Irma and Maria. They are trying to raise money to get a new boat and return to St. Thomas. Check out the book and the backstory. We are hoping that they are able to return soon.
Rose has been a steady egg-producer. Her eggs are slightly smaller than store bought eggs and are a pinkish brown color. They make for a great breakfast or addition to recipes. She lays about one egg per day.
Our kids love Rose. They spend time petting her or carrying her around like she’s a puppy dog. There aren’t many sailing chickens around. We’ve read about Monique, the sailing chicken. She’s really been on some travels! Rose is more of a Caribbean chicken. She loves to eat food and hang out. When it is time to work hard, she works hard. But she takes her roosting time seriously.