Chicken rearing differs from child rearing in an odd respect. When the chick is born, you don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. It’s cute. It’s fluffy. It’s chirpy. But, to everyone except the highly trained professionals (called “chick sexers”—really), it’s an androgynous mystery.

Our brood was no different. We purchased four chicks assuming they were hens, but had we been honest with ourselves, they were the poultry equivalent of “It’s Pat.”

…You can tell where this is going, can’t you?

Chicks getting fresh air

Around 10 p.m. last Monday we heard a shriek from the back bedroom that we thought could only mean a chicken fight.

“What was that?” asked Mike.

“I’ll go check on them,” I said, expecting to open the door and find two chicks battling in beak-to-throat combat. Instead, the four chicks were peaceably scratching around their new playpen that Mike built. Then I heard the banshee wail again. Eeee-ee-eeeee!

Oh my. The epiphany smacked me across the forehead: This must be what a prepubescent rooster sounds like. “Françoise” would seem to be “François.”

baby rooster and chicks

This poses a serious problem for us suburban homesteaders. Aside from my squeamishness for eating fertilized chicken eggs, our town has a ban against roosters. Amberlin, who we purchased the chicks from, warned us of this fate. She gave us instructions for what to do if we got a “roo.” (In short: beg anyone and everyone to take him off our hands—the feed stores, Craigslist, backyardchickens.com.) In the back of my mind, I’d steeled myself for this possibility.

Baby rooster

I failed to prepare for my husband becoming smitten with François. As the only male creatures in the house, it seems they’ve bonded. “Re-home him?!” A few extra feathers ruffled at my suggestion. So, for now, he stays.

The whippersnapper is awfully handsome. He is a feathered ball of energy—pecking, scratching, flapping, strutting, and owning his kingdom—wherever that may be for the moment. His voice has gone from a broken shriek, to what actually sounds like a cockle-doodle-doo—with laryngitis.

All of which means I have a predicament: How do you hide a rooster from the dawn?