Saturday, May 12, 2007
Yes, that's right. Our lovely rooster, Rufous, is no more.
He passed away this morning of unknown causes.
Wombat and I went out to feed the chickens before breakfast this morning as we always do. I knew something was wrong immediately, because they weren't all waiting at the door, clucking for their food. When they heard us coming, they came out one by one and stood by the door - but Rufous was missing. Wombat seemed to know something was wrong, because he stood quietly waiting instead of chasing them around as usual. I found Rufous lying near their perch, very cold and obviously unwell. I wrapped him in my jumper and carried him (and Wombat) back inside to Yeti. While I organised a box for him by the heater, he quietly died.
It was bitterly cold last night - the first frost we have had. I think Rufous was reasonably old for a rooster (the lady I bought the chooks from did tell me that some of the hens were quite old, and I think Rufous was the same). He was also incredibly gentlemanly, and as a result, never got as much to eat as the others - I would try to throw tidbits his way to make sure he got some, but almost always he would let one of the hens or one of the three young ones, his children, snatch the food from his beak.
I'm going to miss him. He was my favourite! I loved his beautiful tail, with its sheen of green and purple, and I loved the way he bravely took care of his family in every new situation.
(that's him on the right, with Ruby on the left.) He had been molting a bit lately - I had found several wing feathers that seemed to belong to him, and I had been waiting to collect a tail feather, but it seemed he was never going to drop one. This morning when I went back to make sure all the others were ok, and to look for any sign of struggle, the only unusual thing I found was one single tail feather - perhaps it was his gift for me. I know I couldn't bear to pull one from him now. I am consoling myself by thinking that he knew he had brought his family to a safe place where they would be well looked after, and he just gave up the fight and succumbed to the cold. (I am desperately hoping he wasn't sick, because then I would have to worry about Wombat getting sick as well - especially as he has been sneezing this morning - but I hope that has more to do with him kicking off his blankets all night - I must have covered him up 10 times or more.)
The story of Rufous is not over, however. There is his son, Stevie, growing into a fine rooster who will take his father's place.
Stevie has all the makings of a wonderful pet rooster. He has a mercenary attitude to food & is very intelligent, which means he quickly worked out that letting Wombat occasionally touch his feathers means he gets a lot more to eat! I had been telling him off for being a greedy young rooster, but now I will make sure he gets as much as he wants, as he has a big job to do. The other two young ones have been named Henny Penny (for the girl) and Chicken Little (for the boy) as they both have a "the sky is falling" kind of nervousness to them - nothing at all like Stevie's brash confidence. We had been concerned that we would soon need to move Stevie and one of the hens to a new pen to give him a territory of his own, so he wouldn't fight with Rufous. Now I guess Rufous has taken that worry from us. (I certainly don't think Stevie played any part in Rufous' demise... he's not at all mature yet.)
Not only did Rufous leave Stevie to carry on, but there is (fingers crossed) another generation on the way. A week ago, Rosie started to become possessive about her eggs. She is the only hen who is laying, and when I collected her eggs, she would go scratching around looking for them. Then she started laying in the nestbox Yeti built for them, and making it obvious that she wanted to sit on them, so I have left them for her. She has laid an egg a day, and is now sitting on a clutch of four. I do hope she won't be upset by the loss of Rufous and stop nesting, as it will be lovely to have some fluffy little chicks for Wombat to watch.
Wombat does seem to be aware that Rufous isn't around any more. I told him Rufous wasn't feeling well and we were taking him in to Daddy, who would look after him. I have made sure he didn't see Rufous' body, and while we were out giving a special breakfast treat to the other chooks, I started quietly telling him that Jesus needed a really good rooster, so Rufous has gone to live with him. You can laugh at me, but Wombat is quite keen on the idea of Jesus. He often brings his bible and prayer story books for me to read, and we say our prayers together every night before bed. A while ago, when he was teething and upset, I grabbed a holy card from my teaching supplies and handed it to him (a picture of Jesus with a lamb). Wombat loved it and insisted on putting it in the toy-pocket I have sewn on his bed bumper. The other morning, when I went in to get him up, I found him lying quietly singing and talking to this picture ;) He particularly likes the prayer: "Jesus, tender shepherd, hear me. Bless thy little lamb tonight. Through the darkness, be thou near me. Watch my sleep till morning light." As a result, I felt quite justified in telling him Rufous had gone to heaven. (As a teenager, I spent several weeks researching and preparing a paper designed to prove to one of my teachers that animals DID go to heaven. I never convinced her... but she never managed to convince me that they didn't!)
Anyway, that is all a sidetrack and I have to get back to studying. I will get Yeti to bury Rufous later while I keep Wombat occupied, and then we will plant a nice rosebush for him.