No harm, no fowl, say admirers of McNugget, the rooster who shares a downtown Issaquah, Washington parking lot with Your Espresso and Staples stores.
© Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times
As she leaves Staples in Issaquah, Katheryn Parker admires McNugget the rooster, who has been wandering the parking lot for 11 years.
He's not exactly a wild creature, but he's too independent to be considered a farm animal or a pet.
He's a free-range kind of guy.
Since the bantam rooster known as McNugget first showed up in a downtown Issaquah parking lot 11 years ago, he's stuck around and brought smiles to shoppers and passers-by.
Michelle Schneider, owner of the Your Espresso stand on Front Street North, was terrified when the black-feathered bird suddenly appeared one day at her window.
After calming down, she learned he had escaped from a customer of the nearby Grange Supply store. A Grange employee captured him, but he escaped again, and at that point, attempts to catch and return him to his owner ended.
McNugget, who was named in a poll of Your Espresso customers, hasn't left since.
He sleeps in a maple tree next to the espresso stand and splits his days between the coffee shop, a Staples office-supply store and Issaquah Creek.
Baristas and a neighbor feed him chicken feed and mealworms. Customers and other admirers bring him treats.
When he's hungry, he flies up to a serving window.
"If I say, 'Down!' " - Schneider snaps her fingers - "he gets down. He's like a dog."
Issaquah's land-use code prohibits keeping roosters in residential areas, but there's no prohibition in the commercially zoned parking lot where McNugget roosts.
Charming though he can be, the rooster does have a cantankerous streak, known on occasion to attack people in wheelchairs and on bicycles and motorcycles. And - since being clamped in the jaws of a pit bull - he refuses to be intimidated by curious canines.
Kristin Parshall, a Fall City animal-rights advocate who gave McNugget a doghouse, isn't happy that he lives with no other protection against cold weather or predators. "If he was a white fluffy dog," she says, "people would not be OK with it, but because he's a chicken he's devalued."
A King County Regional Animal Services supervisor found no records of complaints about McNugget from 2009 on, and Issaquah has received no requests for a ban on roosters downtown.
"There are people on occasion who find him to be a nuisance," said Mayor Ava Frisinger. "But I think most people, to the extent they notice McNugget, are happy to see McNugget."
He's become a senior citizen. Chickens often die by the time they're 8, and rarely live beyond 15, said Michelle Boman, a chicken owner and operations manager of the Grange Supply.
As a "flock animal," Boman said, McNugget seems to have adopted the neighborhood pigeons as his flock.
On one recent afternoon, the rooster was on the grass outside the shop when barista Candice Mercado called out to him just as Issaquah resident Pat McGrath got out of a car and threw him some Ritz crackers.
"If they're good enough for me, they're probably good enough for him," said McGrath. "He's an independent chap, so he's a good ad for freedom."
Jene Kramer, owner of The Boarding House restaurant at Gilman Village, smiles when she sees the rooster peering in fascination at Staples' reflective-glass windows.
"I just think he is in love with himself," Kramer says. "He's handsome and he's hilarious."
Perhaps his biggest fan is Schneider: "Oh, yeah, I love the little guy. He makes my day."