Except for the barking of the dogs and the chatter of birds at my feeder, there is a noticeable silence in our farmyard.
When my husband entered the kitchen after feeding the chickens, he announced, “Well, it looks like Sam is dying.” Sam is our 11-year-old Bantam rooster. I felt instantly sad. This proud, beautiful bird, who crows a greeting when someone enters the coop, is now sitting under the heat lamp with his head tucked under his wing, breathing his last. His coppery-brown feathers, with multicoloured wings and tail, are slightly faded with age; some noticeably missing. Although smaller than the Leghorn hens, he stood out against the white of his flock.
I don’t know how many days he has left, but we will miss this beautiful rooster. The hens will continue to cackle, but there will be no crowing. I shed a few tears for this proud bird. Somehow his age and imminent death reminds me that my husband and I are nearer to the end than the beginning.
When I phoned my daughter and told her about Sam, she didn’t have much sympathy. She had formed no bonds with roosters that often chased her as a child. She responded, “You know I hate roosters. The only place I like them is as collectibles in my kitchen.” Too bad she never got to know Sam. He graced our chicken coop with style.
We had earlier decided not to restock our henhouse. After 53 years we would allow the present hens to live out their lives and then buy eggs at the grocers. It is difficult, however, to stop a lifelong activity. There are so many perks that go with raising chickens: the freshness of the eggs, the fresh air, the exercise from caring for them and the positive feeling one gets when feeding in a busy atmosphere of happy, cackling birds. I thought, “If we are going to miss Sam so much, then how about the hens? How will we really feel about an empty coop?”
Sam died that evening. He had lived longer than any other rooster on our farm. We had formed an attachment to this rooster who had always announced the rising sun and also crowed his pride in his flock of hens as he strutted amongst them. It is now very quiet. Except for the barking of the dogs and the chatter of birds at my feeder, there is a noticeable silence in our farmyard.
We changed our minds and are now looking for another Bantam rooster. Since spring is just around the corner, we just might buy some pullets too. After all, Sam (the second) could inject some new life back into the henhouse. Those fresh eggs are also too good to give up!
Joanne Rawluk writes from Gypsumville, Manitoba