It was a sad week here at the homestead. It started when my most beloved three-year-old rooster, T. Boone Chickens, developed a serious abscess on his big chicken foot.
I hauled him off to the veterinarian who anesthetized him and examined him more closely. According to the vet, because chickens don’t have significant blood circulation in their feet, it’s difficult for a major foot wound to heal.
“Robin, you need to put T. Boone to sleep,” advised the vet. “He’s not going to get better. In fact, he’s going to get a lot worse. And he is in pain.”
Now, if you haven’t ever had pet chickens, you might find it odd that I was reduced to a puddle of tears at hearing this news. Even some people who have pet chickens might consider the fact that I spent the better part of the afternoon weeping an overreaction.
But I raised T. Boone from the time he was a baby fuzz ball in my palm, which may account for part of why he was so tame.
I bought T. Boone and two other baby chicks from an Amish farmers market. I was assured that all three chicks would grow up to be fine hens. So we called him Olivia—for a while anyway. Two of the three chicks survived and both were roosters. (So much for the chick sexing skills of the guy at the farmers market.)
T. Boone was second rooster around here for a long time. In fact, he was at the bottom of the pecking order and the hens never hesitated to shoo him away or punish him by pecking at him. The big chicken on campus at that time was Johnny Cash.
But when free ranging in the yard, T. Boone still patrolled and protected the hens who disrespected him in the coop.
Two years ago T. Boone, Johnny Cash and the hens were on walkabout, searching for bugs, stretching their legs and enjoying the unseasonably warm February day. I didn’t see what happened, but it appeared that the roosters fought off an attack by one—or possibly two—hawks or eagles. Johnny Cash was carried off and never seen again. There were two huge pools of T. Boone’s white feathers about 200 yards apart. Could T. Boone have been attacked, dropped and attacked again?
When we finally found T. Boone in the woods it was clear that he was gravely injured. He was dazed and couldn’t walk. He let me pick him up to examine him and I found he had huge puncture wounds on both sides of his body under his wings.
I was certain that he wouldn’t live until morning. I didn’t know of any veterinarian at the time who would even euthanize a chicken but I didn’t have the heart (or the nerve) to break his neck—even to put him out of his misery. Neither my husband nor my son would take on the job.
We put him into the coop where he crawled into one of the nest boxes to hide. Well, he thought he was hiding, but as you can see, he didn’t fit. T. Boone was a very big chicken.
Days went by and T. Boone kept hanging on. I gave him water, put salve on his wounds and prepared myself to find him dead every morning I went into the coop to greet the chickens for the day.
Instead of dying, T. Boone crawled out of the nest box and tried to stand! At first he couldn’t hold his head up or walk. He did a lot of standing around. I positioned him near the food and water so he could help himself whenever he was thirsty or hungry. After a month or so, he could stand upright again, but he walked. With a limp.
Nevertheless, he had cheated death—that time.
Without Johnny Cash in the role of leading chicken, T. Boone stepped into the job. Whenever the hens were on walkabout, T. Boone would be standing guard. He knew full well what dangers the hens faced outside the safety of their coop and chicken run. The chickens would hunt and peck for bugs. T. Boone would stand nearby warily eyeing the sky and the woods. Any time there was a sense of danger, T. would begin honking in alarm, sending the hens scrambling under the shrubs and into the trees.
He also fulfilled all of his roosterly duties (if you know what I mean).
Some people have had bad experiences with aggressive or mean roosters. I have seen both sides of the rooster behavior spectrum and T. Boone was definitely one of the kinder, gentler roosters. He always greeted us and would follow me around begging for treats. His favorites were corn, pizza and any kind of baked good—cake, muffins, biscuits, bread. He would even show up at the back door to peer in and beg.
“Is this where you keep the cans of corn?”
I love my hens. But they don’t have the bold personality, the larger-than-life appearance or the endearingly quirky habits that T. Boone had. If you can love a chicken, I loved T. Boone.
Rest in peace, T. Boone. You were a good and brave rooster. I hope you’re in chicken heaven where the sun is shining and where there is an endless supply of corn, pizza and baked goods.