Henpecked rooster back to ruling the roost after care at UF

Larry, a rooster who was seen at the UF Small Animal Hospital.

Larry, a white crested black Polish rooster who resides at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park, visited UF for examination and treatment on Nov. 1. (Photo by Sarah Carey)

By Sarah Carey

If Larry could talk, he might tell quite a tale, touching on life as the lone rooster in a group of 25 chicks ordered from a hatchery to live among the orange trees and other fowl at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park.

The 3-year-old white crested black Polish rooster might remember the surprise on the part of park officials when they noticed that Larry, a “bonus chick” from their order of 25, was actually a male, as witnessed by the growth of his stunning headdress. He’d likely relay some of his war stories, including how he survived being literally hen-pecked and the loss of his stunning head feathers, then went on to endure a fight with the only other rooster on the property. That fight resulted in some right-side paralysis and neurological deficits.

He’d have to add a key detail involving the special care spent nursing his wounds at the park by a particular staff member there, Donna Wright, who personally nursed Larry’s wounds and worked with him until he finally could start hobbling around. Whether or not Larry knows it, a key part of his story involves a generous donor to the park who also supports the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. This donor, a regular park visitor, saw his condition and covered the cost of Larry’s visit to the UF Small Animal Hospital for treatment on Nov. 1.

UF veterinarians diagnosed and treated a skin infection, and recommended that the park create a separate enclosure for Larry to allow his plumage to come back and his infection to heal.

“Larry was a beautiful rooster who came in for abnormal feathers on his head,” said Dr. Jane Christman, a resident with the hospital’s zoo medicine service. “We worked with our dermatology service for Larry’s care, which included treatment for a skin infection, and are hopeful he will grow his beautiful feathers back soon.”

The plan appears to have worked. Today, Larry’s crowing, as healthy roosters do, in a separate enclosure on the park property, seemingly happy in his own kingdom and with the occasional company of a Minorca hen, park officials said.

“He crows like a crazy man, and when roosters crow, I assume that means they’re feeling good,” said Rick Mulligan, a park ranger based at the Rawlings home.

Mulligan said that while Larry’s movement is now much more restricted, his head feathers are returning and he sports the weathered look of a feisty bird whose life has had a few twists and turns.

“All in all, he’s doing well,” Mulligan said.

He added that the park’s birds are a key feature of the environment that Rawlings lived in for many years of her life, and while she wrote her Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Yearling.

“It’s like a frozen snapshot in time,” Mulligan said. “Our chickens are beloved by people who visit here and get a lot of attention. Marjorie had chickens and ducks, so we try to make sure everything is as much as possible as it was when she lived here, down to her furniture and her original possessions. People swoon at how peaceful it is out here and love that the state has kept this part of Old Florida.”



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November-December 2017

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