Story by | Michael Sagna (he/him/his)
Image by | Darren Ang (he/him/his)
“Sometime in early September, I was trying to go to sleep after a long night of studying and at 5 am I heard what sounded like an extremely loud alarm, with a poor ringtone choice, going off,” explained Arjav Sanghavi ‘23. “As the minutes passed, I realised this was no alarm… There was a rooster in our midst.”
The sound was coming from University Town’s (UTown) very own rooster, which resides on the path leading to UTown and thus crows within range of Cendana and Elm College of Yale-NUS College, the College of Alice and Peter Tan, Residential College 4, Cinnamon College, and Tembusu Colleges. This crowing is only amplified by the rooster’s strange behavior, often standing in the trees lining the pathway when it crows.
Within Yale-NUS, the rooster was affectionately nicknamed Nugget in a Facebook poll in the group Yale-NUS Stupid Arguments Hub. Other names which garnered significant support were “Sodexo’s Revenge,” “Halcyon Lite,” and “Katsu.”
A Reddit poll conducted by The Octant on the National University of Singapore (NUS) subreddit garnered 502 votes from the wider NUS community. Ultimately, it found that the most popular name proposed was Jīmmy, alluding to the Mandarin phrase 鸡米 (Jīmǐ), which roughly translates to chicken and uncooked rice. In this poll, Nugget came in a close second.
According to the word on the streets, the chicken relocated to the pathway adjacent to Cendana Tower A sometime in either late August or early September last year. Some say it came from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) just down Dover Road, whereas others joke that it was imported from NTU to NUS to lower our CAPs, and thus, competitiveness on the job market.
What’s more, we can’t even be certain of the number of chickens that exist on the pathway which leads to UTown, with alleged sightings of one, two, or even three chickens at a time.
Typically, NUS reacts with excitement to animals on campus. It has a cat café, with the sole purpose of feeding and looking after the cats in UTown. Yale-NUS shares this animal-friendly sentiment, as seen by the various articles that have been written in The Octant, as well as the multitude of photos posted in Yale-NUS’s “YNC Non-Human Friendspotting” Facebook group. However, in this case, feelings toward the rooster(s) have been ambivalent.
Kye Been Ng ‘23, took to the Yale-NUS Collective Wisdom Hub on Facebook to vent his frustrations. In a post on Nov. 20, he wrote, “Hello everyone, this past week I have been awoken at different times of the night ranging from 2am to 7am by some very noisy and insistent cocks. I stay at Cendana Tower A and can hear these birds crowing even when the sun does not shine. This issue is mildly annoying as I prefer to have my windows open for ventilation. Is anyone else facing the same issue & has anyone reached out to infra regarding this?”
Very quickly, the comments section turned into a circus. “What’s Infra gonna do? Make chicken rice?” one student asked. Another posted the link to a WikiHow article entitled “How to Stop a Rooster from Crowing.” A third student raised concerns about the fate of the chicken, commenting “just please dont [sic.] call ACRES or NEA to cull them…”
Similarly, in a Reddit post made on Nov. 23, 2020, an NUS student, nicknamed “roosttherooster,” voiced their frustration about the rooster. “What the HECK is that stupid rooster everyday crowing at the top of its lungs and why the heck do we have a rooster,” the student wrote. “Studying, having exams, super focused and all and suddenly I hear an annoying ass rooster omgggggggg can someone move it to some farm or something pleaseee [sic.].”
However, these NUS chickens are not as mundane as they seem. They appear to be Red Junglefowls, rather than the common chicken. As explained by NParks, this can be identified by the red comb on its head, and a white spot on its tail.
In fact, Jīmmy Nugget attracts attention from not just casual onlookers, but also from passionate student researchers. After seeing the polling post and being amazed by “how pretty they are,” an anonymous NUS student reached out to The Octant on Reddit about a potential research project on “to what extent Red Junglefowls have been hybridizing with domestic chicken” for their residential college module.
A Straits Times article explained that Singaporean Red Junglefowls, which the NUS roosters appear to be, have an endangered status. In addition, their genetic makeup has been skewed by interbreeding with the common chicken, meaning that the country’s Red Junglefowl is now hybridized.
Once again, the Reddit thread by the NUS student was filled with humorous replies. One student, posting from the rooster’s perspective, commented “they always ask ‘why’ is the rooster but never ‘how’ is the rooster”, whereas another posted the link to an Instagram page entitled “Cock Sightings” featuring chicken sightings around NUS and the city more broadly. This could be seen to indicate wider affection for chickens on the island, notably when they do not reside near one’s place of living.
Though the university, months later, has yet to get used to Jīmmy Nugget and his family, his endangered status makes him hard to evict.
By March of this year, however, Kye Been had had enough.
“After I received my text from my roommate at 5.39AM, I decided enough is enough. I decided to email the director of Infra, Dennis Aw, asking for a possible relocation of the rooster(s). The case was then referred to the college’s Security Executive, Bernard Kok, who agreed to contact the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) for assistance.”
After being terrorized by the roosters for more than half a year, it seems like the Residential Colleges of NUS may finally get closure with his proposed relocation. While for many the whole saga was a joke, for those within Jīmmy’s range of crowing, it was certainly not.
Good luck to Mr. Nugget and his family in their new home.