The Death of “Grandpa”

    We went away for several days, leaving our 50 or 60 chickens to fend for themselves more or less. We left them a lot of grain, and checked the weather while we were away and ascertained that the temperature was above freezing which meant that water would remain available.  Chickens are pretty hardy.
     We returned at night. The next morning, I went out early to feed the chickens and see how they had fared. They all came running, though I didn’t see “Grandpa”, who is a very old rooster who we have nurtured along in his old age, shooing the other roosters away while we make sure he consumes choice scraps and tidbits. He was first named “Snowman” but was eventually re-named because he had been with us since he was a wee lad, and then had grown up to father several of our hens, and to lead a long and noteworthy life as a retired “head rooster” which is actually a rather difficult role as younger roosters don’t tend to value longevity. If we didn’t specially look out for him, we are certain he would have expired a while ago, as he is not up to defending himself against the others. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t make it through this next winter, as he has taken in a somewhat witless way, to sleeping alone, outside, on top of the old chicken pen, where he would undoubtedly meet his end as a frozen bird one cold night. I called for him in my goofy “Grandpa” voice, and looked for him out beyond the electric fence where he sometimes ended up, probably in a desperate attempt to avoid attention from the other younger aggressive roosters. No sign of him, but that wasn’t unusual.
     All seemed well, until I got all the way into the hoop house. I was busy dumping more grain and searching for the few winter eggs, when I noticed the black and white pile of feathers in the far corner. He was dead. Had a desperate retreat into the warmth of the hoop house been his downfall? Had the other roosters picked on him to his death? He bore no signs of abuse when I picked him up later and put him to rest in a chicken food bag….

     This is one reason to keep “livestock”; as constant reminder of our ultimate destiny, and to help squeamish people like me literally learn how to “handle” death. 

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