We had to kill our rooster yesterday; he had seemed ill for some time, growing scabs on his comb and hobbling along on scaly legs. I suspect he had scale mites, which can infect chicken legs, and how that he’s gone, I’ll clean out the chicken coop and the run to rid the area of anything that might infect our other chickens.
We never planned to have a rooster – when we first stockedour chicken coop, we got what we thought were six young hens. We got them a bit too young; one started growing a comb and wattle, and then began crowing.
That was four years ago, and they’ve given us quite a few adventures. Once we counted them in the evening and were missing a chicken, only to find that one had burrowed under the coop and got stuck. Another time we counted them and had one too many; one of our neighbour’s chickens got lost and wandered into our property, and joined her kindred in the coop. Or when we let them roam the yard, and started finding eggs in unusual places.
We weren’t fond of having a rooster – not the crowing outside my bedroom window, anyway -- but I never wanted to kill him for food; my daughter had given him a name, and was fond of him. By now, however, she’s an adolescent, and looks at them with older and unsentimental eyes. Looking back, I wish I had taken him for food last winter; he was sick enough that we were advised against using the meat, and that rankled more than losing an animal.
In the spirit of saying only kind words about the deceased, however, I will say that he was not particularly aggressive by rooster standards, looked after his flock, and only scratched me once when he was startled. He was probably the reason the fox, who took half our flock one day, didn’t get more.
I’d never killed a rooster before, but I had the basic idea: stump, hatchet. The Girl was there to witness, and while she cried years ago when the fox got the hens, now she remained interested but impassive. Together we threw the body on the bonfire we made, and he was almost entirely consumed.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “Things like this don’t affect me at all anymore.”
I’d like them to always affect you a bit, I said – we’re animals too. Always make sure you keep respect for an animal, and make its life pleasant and its death as quick as you can.
Photo: my daughter in her pre-adolescent days, rooster in the background.