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A flock added to family

Family appeals to city to keep their pet rooster in their yard

Jeannie Barton-Northrup,

It started with one. Cheddar is her name, and she is a hen.

Park Hills mom Ashley Weiss says her family soon discovered chickens need a chicken family, not just a human family. Havarti, Pepper Jack, Parmesan, and Provolone soon joined the flock.

When asked why they gave the chickens cheese names, Fiona Weiss said, “We like cheese.” Fiona is 13 and the only daughter of three children.

According to Ashley, the matriarch of the Weiss clan, the family chose chickens as pets because her husband, Brad, is severely allergic to almost every other pet. Also, Fiona is allergic to dogs, while one of her brothers is allergic to cats.

Fiona Weiss, 13, takes her rooster, Provolone for a walk.

“A ‘normal’ pet just wasn’t a feasible option for us,” said Ashley.

A bit of controversy surrounds Provolone right now. Roosters are not allowed in Park Hills, where the Weiss family lives. When the family was notified earlier this year that roosters were not allowed, they were offered the opportunity to speak to the city council about changing the city code. The family took the offered opportunity and have been fighting hard to keep their beloved Provolone.

To Mayor Stacey Easter, allowing a change in city code due to an ignorance of the law sets a precedent that may have unforeseen consequences.

At the last work session, the Park Hills City Council decided to draw up a draft amending the current city code and to discuss the matter further. The next city meeting is Tuesday.

Fiona doesn’t want to talk about the situation with the city. “It makes me sad,” she said before becoming quiet. Ashley spoke up and said, “No one wants to confront the possibility of losing a pet.”

The family remains hopeful and enjoys their time with a rooster who has become integral to the family.

Fiona and Ashley recently discussed how the family often held the chickens and played with them as they aged. As the chickens matured, the family realized Provolone was a rooster, not the hen they believed they’d gotten. The Weiss family says it doesn’t matter to them; they love every member of their flock equally.

However, the flock is three years old, and Provolone has started stealing the show.

Last year Fiona began participating in a 4H program through Iron County with Provolone. She demonstrated how she showed his wings, feet, nose, beak, eyes, and ears. Ashley said she came across the program while researching homeschool activities and thought it would be an excellent experience for her daughter and Provolone.

Ashley says she has learned to rely on Provolone like other families rely on a loyal dog. She says he is a protector of his flock and has different vocalizations for differing situations. For instance, Fiona places treats in various locations in the yard for the chickens to find. When Provolone finds the goodies first, he “calls” the hens to him so they can share the treats. He also calls the hens to him if he feels a threat, like a hawk, intends harm.

Ashely says once the hens are with him, he changes his voice and “calls” for help from the humans.

Provolone poses with a few hens.

“He’s like a herding dog,” said Ashley. According to Ashley, when he sees Fiona is out of the fenced backyard and not in the house, he crows at her as if to tell her she needs to come back into the fence where it is safe. Fiona taught Provolone to wear a harness and walk with a leash to keep him with her outside the fenced area. Fiona also taught the hens, but the harness she uses doesn’t fit all of them equally and needs to be adjusted, so she uses it mainly for Provolone.

Fiona taught the hens to jump through a hoop, however Provolone goes under it. “He looks at me like I’m crazy,” said Fiona about trying to get Provolone to go through the hoop instead of beneath. Provolone does like to chase crackers into the yard when she throws them, so Fiona is considering a new trick — teaching Provolone to fetch.

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