Dave, a rooster who went missing from a Union farm in May 2021, was photographed just after his reappearance this week. Dave was tired, hungry, cold and missing a toe, but otherwise OK, according to owner Lizzie Dickerson. Credit: Lizzie Dickerson / BDN

After a year on the run, Dave the rooster has come home to his Union farm.

When Lizzie Dickerson’s pet rooster and hen went missing last spring, she feared the worst. Still, she tried to reassure her young son with the idea that the birds might have gone to visit friends and would come back eventually.  

But Dickerson was astonished on Monday when the rooster did indeed return — dirty, cold, hungry and missing a toe, but alive.

“I didn’t really believe my own story,” she said. “He’s OK, but he was definitely in rough shape. He was glad to get some food and water.”

Dave the rooster, seen here with 9-year-old Zion Davidson, reappeared this week after going missing from a farm in Union in May 2021.

Where Dave has been the last 10 months is unknown. Dickerson said the “very fancy, very pretty, big, giant rooster” and Rachel, a little brown Rhode Island Red hen, disappeared at about the same time from Twin Springs Farm. She and her family members searched for them, but to no avail, suspecting the birds might have come to a bad end at the claws of the chicken hawks they saw around the farm.

Still, Dickerson, a former Rockland city councilor and Democratic state representative, had doubts.

“Roosters are pretty ferocious. It was hard for me to think how he could have gotten eaten by a chicken hawk,” she said. “Lots of times when your chicken gets attacked by a chicken hawk, there’s a pile of feathers. But this time there was nothing. It was really weird.”

Life at the farm went on after the birds vanished. The family got a new rooster to guard the remaining hens, and it seemed more and more likely that they would never know what had happened to Dave and Rachel.

Then, on Monday morning, Keri Kaczor, who lives in the neighborhood, went jogging with her dog.

“I heard a rooster in the woods, and on the jog back, Dave, the fancy rooster, came running up to us,” she said. “He looked a little disheveled. Messier than usual.”

Kaczor, who had not realized that Dave had disappeared, texted Dickerson, telling her that she thought her rooster was out.

“She said, ‘Oh my God, it can’t be Dave. He’s been missing since May of last year,’” Kaczor said. “What an incredible story of survival. Who knows what he’s been up to?”

After hearing from Kaczor that Dave was alive, Dickerson went to fetch him.

“He came running right up when he saw us,” she said. “I came out with some food and water and he was so happy to see us.”

Dickerson is convinced that the rooster is Dave. Because of his large size and distinctive plumage, Dave is unique and hard to confuse with another bird, she said.

The rooster’s ability to survive long winter cold snaps, blizzards and the constant threat of predation seemed amazing to Kaczor.

“There’s a lot of coyotes, a lot of bobcats, a lot of fisher cats,” she said. “I am so surprised, and I have so many questions for Dave. Where have you been? Where did you go?”

Amanda Pease-Lisenby, who works at Belfast Veterinary Hospital and has many years of  experience with her own birds, said that chickens can be resourceful.

“Some breeds are more hardy than others and can tolerate the cold a bit better,” she said. “But as resourceful as they are, I would say it’s very surprising that he turned back up. To go missing for that length of time, that is impressive.”

Dickerson has questions, too. If Dave had been around the farm all these months, she thinks he would have been found before now.

“He’s got a really loud crow, and you’d think that we would have heard him,” she said. “I don’t know if he’s been out here this whole time, or if somebody driving by picked him up, and he eventually made his way home.”

Dickerson said a friend suggested she turn the story of Dave’s return into a children’s book about resilience and overcoming obstacles.

“Animals are amazing,” she said.

She does have one more hope for a second tale of survival against the odds.  

“If anybody sees Rachel out and about, it might be good to get her back on the farm, too,” Dickerson said.