Goodbye, Rooster

My flock is without a leader and I am without a friend. We had to put our rooster down. He was sick; nothing we could do. It was good to hear it from a vet. I didn’t feel as guilty then.

He wasn’t getting better. His breathing was ragged. He went lame, shuffling his mass across the straw when I found him under a two-by-four. He crowed once when I grabbed him up. He fell asleep on the way to the vet. I was in the backseat, saying my sorries and my goodbyes and my rationalizations. Nolan drove us, our eyes meeting in the rearview mirror. The rooster nodded off, his comb now bleeding, poking out of an airhole I had cut into the side with a dull screwdriver.

I wasn’t in the room when he died. We sat in the car. I needed air. It may be silly, but I’ve never handled these things well.

I am without a friend. Our flock is now at 26. This is the last photo I took of him. “He was a good boy” is the maxim we’re repeating. The small eulogy for his small life. He was thoughtful and gentle for a rooster. He was malnourished when we got him and his body grew to its limits quickly. He wobbled under his own weight. He was patient. He was vigilant. He sometimes, confused, brooded in the nesting boxes. He was as tall as Milo. He went peacefully and is buried by the creek bed. He was my first rooster I ever owned. I will miss him. The morning is no longer punctuated with his trumpeting. I will miss him.

Chicken 2.23-4.jpg

Morning on the Farm: The Chickens' Breakfast

My little pug in the morning

In bed by nine thirty - who have we become? Every day seems to be dragging once it hits 3 o’clock and Nolan and I just sit on the couch, staring at our phones…microwaving dinner…thinking of our upcoming vacation to Seattle, Chicago, and Austin.

But it’s the morning that’s come alive for me. N works more mornings now, so he’s up first. He brews the coffee while he has a cigarette and brings me a cup while I, stumbling for my glasses and alarm, let it cool on the table until my head is raised enough to avoid the coffee dribbling down my pajamas.

He goes to work; I read for an hour.

The dogs, snore and stretch and snuggle their heads into pillows and my thigh. Any way to avoid the sun.

And then I rouse them up. We do the chickens. This morning, I had to carry Murphy to the backdoor. He is stubborn and wouldn’t get up with the others.

In this cold weather, I give the chickens any attempt at warmth that I can. I keep an electric kettle down in the barn for them so I can easily heat water for them throughout the day. I also bought oatmeal, which I mix with any herbs that are still growing in our kitchen garden (this morning, it was basil) and a mix of dried herbs (usually red chili flakes, to help with worming and immunity). Mixed by hand, a reserve for my bantam, I throw the aluminum pan into their coop.

This is a near-daily act of love I use to say, “Thank you” to my flock.

How to Build a Chicken Swing

Since nearly doubling our flock in July, we opened up half of the barn for the chickens to use as they may. Previously outfitted for horses, the barn had two converted stalls for the chickens already. We keep it open, with the back doors ajar. We give them whatever they want. That's why they're here. 

But this week it threatened thunderstorms and the chickens stayed in the shadows of the day. They bathed in the dust and waited for the storm to break. They were lethargic and antsy and fought over the real estate of the open barn. 

And in their own way, they pecked, fought and pushed each other to get what they wanted.

It gave me an idea. I remembered seeing a chicken swing on Amazon last year. And after some research, I saw that I wasn't the only one with the idea. So I went down by the creek where the trees grow. I found a branch, I got my drill and made a swing for the girls.

How to Build a Chicken Swing

Build a Chicken Swing

Materials:

  • A branch 
  • Power drill outfitted with drill bit
  • Rope
  • 2 Screw hooks

Directions:

  1. Drill a hole on either side of your branch with about a 2 inch margin on either side
  2. Measure how far you want your swing to hang and cut two strips of rope in this measurement (I did about 2.5 feet off the ground)
  3. Pull rope through one hole and knot the bottom
  4. Repeat on other side
  5. Screw hooks into ceiling or on a rafter and tie other rope end into the hook
  6. That's it! Give the chickens a few days to get used to it, but some will jump up immediately!
Build a Chicken Swing
Build a Chicken Swing
Build a Chicken Swing