Pacifico came to the sanctuary as one of a number of fighting roosters rescued from a breeder in Alabama. He and the other “Bama Boyz” arrived on an icy morning, their bright feathers and frantic energy bringing color and warmth to a grey, frigid day. Some moved into the coops—a shiny black bird we called Rooftop even managed to charm Fanny—while others took to the trees.


Chickens go feral more easily than any other “domesticated” animal, with the possible exception of cats. Because they are genetically very close to the Red Junglefowl from which chickens descended, roosters exploited in cockfighting (and the hens used to breed them) eagerly “rewild” themselves if allowed the opportunity to do so.

These Red Junglefowl at a national park in India (photo: Lip Kee Yap) are virtually indistinguishable from birds used in cockfighting.

At the sanctuary, we believe in self-determination and freedom for everybody. So, any bird who demonstrates that she or he can do so safely is welcome to choose the trees over the coops. Pacifico and many others made that choice, eventually forming several feral flocks who ranged widely during the days, coming back to the grounds of the sanctuary to sleep at night.

Feral flock at the sanctuary

This made our relocation complicated! In the days before the big move from our original location in Maryland to our new spread in Vermont, we had to climb into the trees at dawn and dusk, to gather the feral birds. Poor Pacifico lost a few of his lovely tail feathers in the process! But they have grown back just as beautiful as before, and Pacifio easily made the transition, choosing a tall evergreen tree near the house as his nighttime roosting spot. That means that we get the pleasure of seeing him descend in a flurry of bright feathers every morning.

Gentle Pacifico is popular with hens and gets along well with other roosters, showing patience even when adolescent birds behave badly according to chicken conventions. He sleeps with several hens who also were rescued from cockfighting operations. While he mostly forages with them, he enjoys socializing with a wide variety of hens. (Did we mention that he is very popular?)

As roosters age, they seem to know when it’s time to quit sleeping in the trees and start coming into a barn or coop at night. That day may come for Pacifico, who already has been with us for some years. Until then, he makes the most of his freedom, being the bird that he wants to be.