The Rooster Man from St. Louis plans to rescue the Hill District’s loud bird

Henry Gaston has one more shot to remove the rooster from his property in the Hill District — and this time he has expert help.

The Hill District rooster spotted by City housing inspector Roberta Bullock on Nov. 1.

The Hill District rooster spotted by City housing inspector Roberta Bullock on Nov. 1.

Provided by Magisterial District Court.
MJ Slaby

The Rooster Man is coming to the Hill District to help it with its rooster problem.

Neighbors know the rooster. They hear him. Some feed him.

Drive around the neighborhood, and they’ll point you to the intersection of Wylie Avenue and Roberts Street to try to catch a glimpse of him. Neighborhood kids call him Rudy.

But it’s his early morning wake up calls — and the fact that roosters aren’t allowed in the city — that have landed Henry Gaston in court four times. He was told in late September that he had 30 days to catch the bird.

He didn’t.

“As soon as I go to approach him, he runs,” Gaston told District Judge Oscar Petite Jr. on Wednesday. 

But, Gaston said, he talked to someone Tuesday from St. Louis, who could catch him.

Enter: The Rooster Man.

Frank Cantone aka The Rooster Man had called city housing inspector Roberta Bullock and Petite’s office, too. The judge seemed skeptical.

He asked Gaston for the rooster man’s phone number and called him on speaker phone from the courtroom.

Four rings. No answer.

Now what? Another chance? Petite wanted to close the case.

Then, the courtroom phone rang.

It was Cantone.

“I run a chicken rescue in Missouri,” he told the court.

St. Louis Chicken Rescue to be exact. It’s a nonprofit that rescues the birds, cares for them (they have a veterinarian on staff) and re-homes them.

Cantone heard about the Hill District rooster in the news. Who hasn’t? (WTAE talked to people last month who fell into several categories: “likes the rooster,” “loves the rooster” and “does not love the rooster.”)

Petite told Cantone that the Hill District rooster is elusive, and even though Gaston claims the rooster isn’t his, it’s not the first bird to show up on the property.

“Oh, he likes roosters,” Cantone said of Gaston.

“I don’t know what he likes, but they like his property,” the judge answered.

Cantone explained that most people don’t know the best way to catch a rooster is at night. Roosters are basically blind at night, so it’s easier to catch them, he said.

He outlined his plan for the court: Set up camp and watch the rooster during the day, then when the rooster is in a tree or bush to sleep, that’s the time to catch him.

It may even require a bucket truck, he said.

Others have suggested plans for catching Rudy.

In September, Petite told Gaston to take the suggestion of Assistant City Solicitor Adam Rosenthal who said “Someone with a rooster issue on the South Side caught it by feeding it in the same spot every time and then threw a net over it,” as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“So someone else has thought of a net,” Judge Petite said, looking at Mr. Gaston.

“I’ve tried my best,” Mr. Gaston said.

“You haven’t tried a net,” Judge Petite said. “Feed it if that’s what it takes to catch it.”

“Put corn out in the same spot every day” as a lure, Mr. Rosenthal said. “I’d give him 30 more days if he tries that.”

“Thirty days?” Judge Petite asked, and Mr. Gaston nodded.

“OK,” the judge said. “Hopefully, [if caught] he will be transferred to a farm. We don’t want the bird euthanized. That’s a nice-looking bird.” Then he put his finger in the air and said, “This is the last continuance.”

Cantone said he’s traveled to places like Wisconsin and Tennessee to rescue chickens and roosters. He later told The Incline in a phone interview that many homeless birds live in urban areas where people abandon them. The birds were often an Easter gift or something like that and then they don’t know how to fend for themselves, he said.

With agreement from Rosenthal, who was in court again, Cantone, Petite and Gaston settled on Nov. 19 to capture the bird.

But not before Petite asked why. Why would Canton be willing to travel so far for one rooster? What’s in it for him?

“Saving a chicken’s life,” he told the judge.