Wednesday, November 04, 2015
A patriarch is gone-we lose Papa Roo to nature
Papa Roo was our very first rooster. In fact, he was the very first rooster I had ever known. He came to Apifera from a local farm, along with our first hens, including some of the sneaky Banties that are such expert nest hiders producing many surprise clutches over the years which brought delight, more hens...and more roosters.
But Papa was always the number one man and I did my best to protect that.
But a couple years ago, he had taken to roosting up high in Old Barn, rather than returning to the hen house at night. This came after a series of encounters with one of the roosters, Chicken Jack, born out of a surprise clutch. I had made a deal with Chicken Jack due to the magical timing of his birth–you might remember the situation–the old donkey, Giacomo had to be put down, a very sad occasion as he had only arrived 19 days earlier. He was a very special donkey, my first elder equine, but it was obvious he was not well, and blood work proved how bad his condition was, and he was suffering. The day after he died, we heard chirping in the hay loft, and there was a brood of chicks. One of them turned out to be a rooster, a lovely fellow and I named him Chicken Jack, in honor of Giacomo.
I made a deal with Chicken Jack,
"Treat our Papa Roo with respect and you stay, otherwise, you leave one way or another."
He abided by that request for about 6 months, but as is often the case with 6 month old roosters, he started feeling too big for his underpants, and I began to find Papa in corners, wounded. Papa was a Bantie rooster, much smaller and less agile than Chicken Jack, an Aracuana mix.
But Papa always pulled through. And he eventually took some hens, and relocated to Old Barn. He spent days and nights there, and if he did venture out, he stayed out of the barnyard where Chicken Jack was.
Well one day, there was another fight, Chicken Jack wanted some of Papa's hens, and those hens had no interest in Chicken Jack. Papa got the worst of it, but he pulled through again. And Chicken Jack got a new home, a nice place with his own little flock. I see him all the time because I ride up there. I call out to him and I swear he runs for cover, thinking I might rehome him again.
After Chicken Jack left, I tried to entice Papa back to the hen house for night time safety. But it was futile. He and some of his girls had high roosts in the barn, and I let go of controlling it. If they made it, they made it. I can't control every incident of nature, nor can you. One morning I found Papa's feathers everywhere, clearly there had been a fight with a raccoon, and I followed the path of destruction to the back woods. I was sure he was dead. But I found him in the barn, a little worse for wear, but he was okay. He had managed to fight off death one more time, defending his girls.
Over time, Papa's hens began to wander back to the coop, because another rooster had come along, in yet another surprise clutch by one of the those rascal Banties! Papa was probably 12 years old at this point, and the hens, although loyal to him, understood who now had the strength. It was sort of sad to watch, but it is survival of the fittest. It took a lot of under cover work on my part but I managed to get all the hens back in the coop, and they were all put in lock down because I couldn't handle one more surprise clutch.
But Papa remained in Old Barn. I felt badly about it, and had planned to put him in a stall with one hen, so I could watch the eggs so as not to have more chicks. But in a few weeks, he had adopted himself to our front porch, where he would show up every morning and crow and crow, and then eat cat food with Little Orange and Plum. He spent time in the front garden dusting and he had an entire little area he roamed, free from the hassle of White Dogs or other roosters. While he had no hens, he seemed happy, and he always returned to Old Barn to sleep. He had the company, if you can call it that, of the World's Grumpiest Pig, Rosie, and the donkeys, and sheep. Sometimes I'd go to feed Rosie and there would be Papa, waiting by her side for some grain to fall.
So when I fed the cats this morning, and he wasn't there, I sensed it. Sometimes he wouldn't show up at the porch in the morning, but this day it just felt wrong. When I entered Old Barn to feed Rosie, I could see his perch area, feathers strewn all over.
"Papa?" I said quietly. But I knew.
I followed the trail of feathers about 300 feet to the edge of the fence line and could see where they entered the woods with him. I tried to see if his body was still around, or his wings, but couldn't see through the bramble. I managed to pick up some of the remaining feathers, but non of his beautiful cackles were there. He was well over twelve years old and had had a good run as a rooster. He went out feeding nature and no doubt was killed fast, at least I hope for that-he is gone now.
I returned to Old Barn and leaned into her side and cried. He was one of the original Apiferians. I was crying for a lot more than Papa though. I will share that in weeks to come.