May 15, 2001--September 9, 2008
May 15, 2001--September 9, 2008
Back in May of 2001 the fruits of a determined broody hen were about to hatch. She had been a good diligent hen, despite the fact she was a 'production' breed and should have never gone to setting. On day 21 chicks started to hatch, and disaster struck. The chicks were weak, and the hen was inadvertently smashing them. I had to pull the rest of the eggs out and rush them into the house. Once inside I set up both an emergency incubator (hot water bottle, heat lamp and a mister bottle), side by side with a Chickie ICU (heat lamp, soft towels). The chicks were pipping, and a few started to break through their shells. After several hours, it was apparent though that some just could not break out of the shells. Even though you are never, never, never suppose to peel chicks out of the eggs, there wasn't any choice. It was worth a try. I peeled three out of their shells--two lived and the third faded away. In the end there were five little chicks all tucked up under the heat lamp. Back out in the brooder house, the hen was still patiently sitting on her (now empty) nest. She wanted to be a momma so bad, that although I felt the newly hatched chicks were too fragile to put under her, I relented and the next day went and bought seven little day old chicks at the hatchery. I slipped them under her that evening, and she never realized the deception. She went on to happily raise her little adopted brood, while I begrudgingly raised her real brood.
Out of the five chicks three turned out to be roosters--Little Three Crows (who became Eddie), Watch and Erin. There were two hens--Chesney and Tweed and all were Ameracuanas. (Do you see the double deception here---I didn't even put the hen's real eggs under her!). The chicks were firmly imprinted on me, and were always eager to see me. Eventually Momma hen got sick of her kids, and wanted out, so I combined both bunches of chicks and gradually gave them more freedom in a separate chicken yard. Disaster struck once again when they were about three months old. Watch, Chesney, Cinnamon Queen, Henny2 (white rock), and Golden 205 were all murdered in a single day. Not one body was ever found or recovered. Whatever the villain was, they left no trace and I was never able to solve the mystery. The chicks went back into tight confinement. Eddie and Erin squabbled constantly. Eventually, when they were much larger, and the fences had all been triple reinforced they were given more room to roam. Erin went on to the main flock and became king rooster until I gave him away to a fellow Shetland breeder years later.
Eddie was always friendly and was often trailing around after me, when I was doing chores.
One day, Eddie had trouble standing up. Gradually he lost the ability to walk and his legs became weaker and weaker. I moved him down to the yard and babied him. Something happened to his legs and they withered and rotted off. It was bad, real bad, but Eddie never faltered or lost his appetite. What in the world was I going to do with a legless rooster? Over time, while he lived in a rabbit cage well padded with hay, his legs healed and he developed a thick pad over the ends of the stubs. He had about two to three inches of stubs. I would lift him out and let him rummage about. He got where he could sorta hop about using his stubs and wings. He took dust baths and he always liked special treats.
I worried about him, but he seemed happy and adjusted. He would have crowing competitions (every morning) with the other rooster. He talked and sang and seemed content.
Then one day, I noticed one of the old hens out in the chicken yard looking bedraggled and beaten and she was limping badly. In order to keep her from being pecked to death by the others, I caught her, lanced and disinfected her foot, and put her in a cage...down in the yard. After about a week of this, I thought to myself--this is crazy, having two crippled chickens in two separate pens. Once I was sure the hen's foot was healed of infection, I did the big merge. It was bitter and ugly. The hen was tired of being beaten and abused and wasn't taking it anymore. Eddie gave his best, rearing up on his stubs, fluffing his neck feathers out and looking tall and mean. They had it out for a good ten minutes, before they called a truce. From that moment on they were devoted to each other. Sue had found a safe home and Eddie had found true love. While Sue would roam about the yard in the daytime when I let her out, Eddie would never go far from the pen. If he heard her cackle or sound distressed (like the time I had to catch her and pitch her back over the fence), he would carry on something fierce, trying his best to scare off her attacker.
They sang and clucked and coo-ed to each other and to life in general. Sue would occasionally lay an egg, which was a big deal to them both. Eddie and Sue became a prominent fixture in the yard. Eddie still enjoyed special treats, but he always made sure Sue got what she wanted first.
Eddie started fading just a few days ago. He ate a little when I went to work on Tuesday, but when I got home, he hadn't moved. He was still holding on, but barely. I wrapped him up in a towel and tried to coax him to eat or drink. He died just a little while later. I peeled Eddie into this world seven and half years ago, and being with him when he left seemed like a little gift, even though it was sad.
Eddie was 'just' a rooster, and I never imagined he would live as long and cheerfully as he did. And I never imagined how firmly he had entrenched himself in my heart.
Goodbye my feathered friend. You had a good run, despite all the hardships you had to overcome. You showed me a truly noble spirit and inspired me with your determination. I'll miss you, and I know Sue misses you too.