Big doin’s in the chicken yard. To recap: last year at this time we picked up three Black Australorp layers and a New Hampshire Red rooster named Nigel from a large flock the owner was selling. A few months later we lost one hen to natural causes (she just died, didn’t appear diseased). The two hens and Nigel sailed on through spring and summer until…the hens went broody. Both of them! We picked up three young hens from Raintree Poultry, two Sussex and a Gold Star. For some time we were feeding six chickens and getting no eggs.
This fall one of Australorps started laying again. We decided not to figure out which one and cull the other, but carry the whole flock to the end of their chicken lives. We were partly influenced by the bonding between the chickens – they seemed to miss the one they lost, and the two black hens and Nigel walked around together clicking beaks like little old married people.
We put a light in the coop but frankly didn’t expect anything until spring. So we were very surprised when one, then two of the new chickens started laying in early December. Go chickens! The eggs are small and easy to tell apart with distinct shapes and colors.
Nigel hasn’t seemed himself in the past months. Since he lost a dominance fight with a rooster from a neighboring flock he has seemed less, well, cocky. In the last week he hasn’t been roosting at night but settling on the floor. That was where he passed away yesterday on a cold winter night in the company of the chickens he loved. Alex is doing a detailed examination, but his assessment is that the rooster died naturally in his time. We’re not sure how old he was but his physical state indicates he had achieved some years. It’s sad, we liked that rooster a lot – he was attentive, gentle to people, and fierce in protecting his flock.
We decided not to replace him right away. We don’t have trouble with aerial predators, we have an electric fence for protection at night, and the flock is settled in place and with each other. Next spring we’ll decide if we need fertile eggs or quiet mornings more.
There are so many things about raising chickens that the books and web sites don’t cover. We try to do right by our flock, and they give us eggs and entertainment in response. They’re farm animals, not pets, but they are living beings, and we care about them. Fare thee well Nigel! You were a good rooster.