“Believe it or not, these chicken parables are not that secretive. I usually explain the meaning to my friends and family. But my work colleagues and online friends never seem to ask for the meaning…and so I figure it’s not important. I wrote the first episode in 2000, in my futile attempt to make peace with a Christian minister who hated me. Wrote the last one in 2017. If anyone ever wants them explained, just ask.”
-The Late Mitchell Warren
One early morning, a lonely little chick went up to the top of the barn and started to cock a doodle doo. When the rooster of the farm heard the noise he was furious.
The rooster said, “Who does that chick think he is? It’s my job to cock a doodle doo every morning. It’s my whole life!”
The rooster didn’t bother talking to the little chick, since he considered him beneath his rooster responsibilities and was too busy anyway. But he told one of the hens to give the little chick a warning.
“One of these days all that cock a doodle dooing is going to get you into big trouble. And if I ever see you doing it again, I’ll peck your eyes out.”
Well, the little chick cowered away and became afraid of the rooster. A year passed and the chick matured and got some more meat on him.
Now, the little chick hears that the farmer has decided to butcher and eat one of the chickens tonight. He also hears that the rooster, who is now one of three different roosters, will probably be the one picked. The chick realizes he’s only one of a million, and decides to do a favor for the rooster– and maybe make it up to him.
So when the farmer comes to the slaughter he takes a good long look at the Rooster first. But then the chick starts jumping up and down, trying to get the farmer’s attention, and thereby distracting the farmer from taking the rooster. He even starts cock a doodle dooing just to make sure he is noticed. The plan works and the farmer takes the cock a doodle dooing chicken away to eat.
The rooster sees this and laughs, saying “I told you so, little chick. I told you one of these days all that cock a doodle dooing would get you into trouble.”
A little chick lived on a well to do farm and aspired to be a rooster one glorious day. In fact, the alpha rooster–The most important rooster on the farm.
So while young he began to practice his cockadoodledooing. Every dawn he would go to the top of the barn and cockadoodledoo until he got it just right. He would wake the whole farm every morning with his cockadoodledooing, and did so consistently for the next few weeks.
One day the chick decided to ask one of his contemporaries, in this case a hen, how he was going about his cockadoodledooing and how to improve. The hen listened to his call and then offered some criticism.
“You’ve got the call down, but you’re not quite ready to be a rooster. If you’re going to cockadoodledoo so loud, be sure to hold your beak up so your voice will carry.” The chick thanked the hen and was sure to practice holding his head up every morning.
So the chick practiced and practiced until he matured from a chick to a rooster. Years later, the Aspiring Rooter approached the farmer, the alpha rooster and other important hens from the barn and demonstrated his cockadoodledoo. After hearing the call, the collective informed the rooster that his call was not satisfactory. The rooster asked why.
The farmer said, “You hold up your head too high, it alters your squawk. The hens added, “Your timing is off. You should always cockadoodledoo at five a.m. every morning without exception. Finally, the alpha rooster commented, “Your cockadoodledoo is strange sounding. It sounds too shrill and whiny. Always strive to imitate the typical call you hear by an experienced rooster exactly as you hear it. Otherwise you’ll never be taken seriously.”
But the collective still encouraged the Aspiring Rooster, “Keep trying!”
“You’ll get it right.”
“You’re almost there!”
“Never give up!”
He used to say, “Roosters are the most important fowl among us. If you’re a rooster than you’re respected. Then you’re somebody. That’s what I want most, to be a rooster and for all the chicks and hens to follow my lead.”
Then one day the chick decided to ask another one of his contemporaries, in this case a pig, how he was going about his cockadoodledooing and how to improve. The pig listened to his call and then offered some criticism.
“You’ve got the call down, but you’re not quite ready to be a rooster. If you’re going to cockadoodledoo every morning, be sure and do it at about ten o’clock, later on in the day so you don’t wake the cows and hens, not to mention the farmer.”
The chick thanked the pig, and was sure to practice later in the morning.
Then another day the chick decided to ask another one of his contemporaries, in this case a cow, how he was going about his cockadoodledooing and how to improve. The cow listened to his call and then offered some criticism.
“You’ve got the call down, but you’re not quite ready to be a rooster. If you’re going to cockadoodledoo like all the other roosters, you have to make sure your call is unique. All the would-be roosters are loud and hold their head up high. Do something different. For a change, why don’t you use a different call besides “cockadoodledoo?” Say “cockapoodleyou or something. Make it softer or shriller…something new.”
The chick thanked the cow, and was sure to make his call unique.
The Rooster went back to the basics and practiced his call for a few good years. Every time he went back to the collective farm animals and farmer, he met with the same result: Not Quite Ready. Years passed and the rooster grew from an upright and energetic young rooster into an old and infirm rooster. His cockadoodledoo became affected and strained.
Finally he approached the alpha rooster one day to inquire again about his life long ambition.
“You all said if I kept trying, that I could become the alpha rooster and someday replace you. But now look at me! I’m too old and worn out to cockadoodledoo anymore.”
The Alpha Rooster looked confused but then gradually nodded. “I’m not sure who you are. You must be thinking of the last Alpha Rooster. I replaced him a year ago.”
The Aspiring Rooster squawked back, “Well now what am I supposed to do? They said I had the call down and just needed a little bit of practice before I was ready. So, what then?”
The Alpha Rooster shrugged. “Well, maybe you’re just not that great of a rooster.”
The Aspiring Rooster feeling dejected, decided to go and pout in the barn. There he met up with one of his old farm friends from way back when, a sheepdog. “Why the long face, buddy?” the sheepdog asked.
The Rooster answered sadly, “I always wanted to be the rooster of the farm. I wanted to cockadoodledoo every morning, strut around the henhouse, and be respected by the animals of the farm. But I waited and waited, according to their advice. Now look at me, dog.”
The sheepdog tilted his head in concern. “My friend, you’ve been a rooster for a long time now. If only you had taken the time to enjoy being a rooster.”
Once upon a time, a little chick decided he was big enough to eat from the trough like all his siblings. He went over and paid attention to what everyone else was eating. Some chicks ate grit, some ate fruits and veggies, and some ate scrambled eggs. Still others ate bugs and worms, and a few thought they were enlightened enough to eat grass.
The little chick decided to try the grit first. “Ew!” said one chicken. “That’s stupid. Why would you want to eat something so gross?”
The little chick moved on and decided to eat some of the fruits and veggies. Another chicken said, “That’s not natural, you know. You’re eating human food. You should be eating things that are meant for chicks.”
So the little chick went over to the other trough and started eating bugs and worms, the way chickens ought to eat. He liked it OK enough…but then a few of his friends started saying, “You seem tired all the time. I don’t think your diet is healthy. I think you need a booster. Eat some scrambled eggs and you’ll feel like a firecracker!”
So the little chick ate some scrambled eggs and sure enough he felt energized. But just as he acquired a taste for it, another chick said, “Ew! Why are you eating your own kind?” The chick said, “But it’s not alive.” But the other chick lectured, “Yes but you’re still eating the waste of your own species and it’s unclean.”
The chick sighed, hungry and not sure what to eat anymore. Then he went to some of the older chicks and found them eating grass, the kind of things younger chicks couldn’t even stomach.
“You have to be a grown up like us to eat the grass,” said one older chick. “You have to develop sophisticated tastes like we have.”
“But is it the right thing to eat?”
The older chicks laughed. “Are you kidding? The Rooster eats everything. He eats anything he wants. He eats eggs, bugs, worms, grit and human food, grass and sometimes even live mice!”
“Wow. He actually eats mice? Isn’t that the worst thing of all?”
“Not really. Because the Rooster is so big he can digest everything. And he doesn’t have to answer to anybody. Because he’s head of all the chicken coop. He knows what’s best.”
The chick went away to the barn, a bit hungry. Just then a younger sibling came up, eager to sample the newest food from the trough.
“Hey friend. What do you think I should eat?”
“Well, there’s grits, veggies and fruits, worms, eggs and grass,” the chick answered. “But if you ask me, I think you should just take a tray of what you want and then go back to the barn so you can eat in peace.”
The younger chick said, “No, I think I’m going to eat ice cream. And I’m going to eat it in front of everybody, because I’m just as good as any old rooster.”
“You do that, friend,” the chick said, enjoying his buffet of worms, grits, veggies and eggs.
So that young chick took a half carton of ice cream and chowed down, offering the other chicks all the ice cream they could eat. The other chicks looked at each other in amazement.
The next morning, the young dead chick was scooped out of the coop. He had been picked to death by a hundred little beaks.
And the chick gobbled down his buffet meal from his cage, wondering what that ice cream must have tasted like.
Once upon a time, a mutant rooster went up to the top of the barn to crow.
He went: “cock a woof meow oink who!”
The ducks, cows and chickens looked at one another, not sure of what they just heard.
“What was that?” a little chick said.
“It was my crow.”
“That didn’t sound like a crow. Roosters are supposed to say cockadoodledoo.”
“But if every rooster already says cockadoodledoo, why would I want to keep repeating what they already say?”
“Because, they’ll think you’re stupid if you keep saying it that way.”
“Meh, I dunno.”
“How about you try it? Just say cock – a – doodle – doo. Go ahead and try it with me.”
“Tsk,” the chick said, flapping his fuzz and walking away.
“That’s a horrible noise,” the pig said.
“Ugh,” the duck said, quacking away in disdain.
“Mooooooove out of the way,” the cow said.
All the farm animals grew weary of listening to the mutant rooster make his call. Eventually the chickens chased him away to a corner near the coop, since he obviously couldn’t do it right. Another rooster took over his crowing duties and went to the top of the barn every day. And then the farm lived happily ever after.
One day a dog came roaming around the farm. He was a stray and looked rabid and hungry. The mutant rooster was near the coop and saw the dog. He ran closer to the barn and cried out:
“Cock a woof meow oink who!”
The animals ignored him. But the dog heard the WOOF part of that crow and took it to mean that his kind had already infiltrated the farm.
The dog went on his way. The farm celebrated, thanking the second rooster for looking tough and scaring the dog away. They were oblivious that it was the mutant rooster’s work that saved them.
The next week, a cat stumbled onto the farm, hungry and wanting some chicken.
The mutant rooster crowed, “Cock a woof meow oink who!”
The cat heard the MEOW and figured there was already too many felines present and it wasn’t worth the fight. He went on his way.
The second rooster again got the credit for the mutant rooster’s call.
The next week, an owl came flying into the area and eyed some of the smaller farm animals for a tasty treat.
The mutant rooster saw him and screamed his loudest, “Cock a woof meow oink who!”
The owl was confused, and took the WHO statement to mean that a female owl was already there and sending out a mating call. He was a commitment-phobic owl and so he went on his merry way.
Again, the second rooster got all the credit for the mutant rooster’s work.
The mutant rooster was annoyed by now. But he still didn’t know what else to do except crow, so he screamed another “Cock a woof meow oink who!”
However, since he was so far away in the corner, no one from the farm could hear him.
The pig came over, clearly having heard the OINK part of that crow and understood it perfectly.
“Nice oink,” the pig said. “You did it better than I could even do it.”
The rooster pucked his head around in confusion. “You like it? But before you said it was a horrible noise.”
The pig nodded. “I know. But…you’re not on top of the barn. So I can’t hear you.”
Once upon a time there was a restless young chick. This chick always dreamed about what it would be like to swim like a duck. He used to see ducks quacking and geese honking, and always on the lake or near the shore. He wondered if he could swim too.
Well, one day the chick boldly went forward, introducing himself to the geese and the ducks and other water fowls who seemed reserved but mostly friendly.
What the chick noticed immediately was that the ducks and geese all had their own strange sense of propriety. You didn’t just quack like a duck. You didn’t just honk like a goose. It was all about the “proper way” to do so.
The chick then said, well if they can do it, so can I! I’m not afraid and I see how shallow the lake really is.
He jumped in the lake and flapped his tiny feathers…and then slowly sunk.
While down there, the chick contemplated his past, present and future. He wondered where he went wrong, why the lake was actually so deep when it appeared on the surface to be shallow.
He cried a tear but no one noticed because he was immersed in nothing but water.
Meanwhile, a goose had been watching the chick’s misguided dive. He shuffled over to the chick and grabbed him with his beak, pulling him from the lake.
The chick coughed and wheezed and finally could breathe. He eyed the tall goose and shook his head, squawking softly…
“It looked so shallow. Thanks…I would have drown.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t have drown. But you would have become a swamp chicken or moorhen. And nobody wants to see that.”
“Oh, okay,” he said.
“Go on home back to the farm, chick,” the goose said. “Mother Hen is calling you.”
The chick nodded and walked back towards the farm. As he turned back, he saw that the goose was still staring at him. The strange smile of the goose was unnerving, especially when a few more ducks joined in and watched the the little chick scurry away.
When the chick came home he told Mother Hen all about the bizarre experience.
“Hmm,” she replied softly. “Well, the real question is why don’t you want to become a moorhen? Boys can be moorhen too, you know.”
“Because if I had a choice, I’d rather live on dry land than in a swamp.”
And that’s why the geese and ducks were smiling.