Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Cash’

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.

 

Robin

Once again I am renam­ing the small gar­den area on the side of the house.

chickens-on-wallkabout-august-09

Back when Winifred, our sweet Bel­gian Mali­nois, was still with us, we called it Winnie’s Poop Gar­den. It was not a place where you wanted to spend your free time.

Last year, des­per­ate for more veg­etable grow­ing space, I planted toma­toes and cucum­bers there and dubbed it the Other Veg­gie Garden.

chicks-august-09

This year, the Palazzo di Pollo and the aux­il­iary chicken coop, the Eglu, now reside in that area. And since I was divid­ing what seemed like hun­dreds of hostas this spring, I began trans­plant­ing them into the shaded area beside the coops. Nat­u­rally, I added more hostas as I fell in love with them dur­ing vis­its to gar­den cen­ters. I called it the Hosta Gar­den, but just as eas­ily could have called it the Slug Gar­den, since the slugs and snails moved in to par­take of the expan­sive hosta buffet—their fav.

Now that the baby chicks are old enough for some super­vised walk­a­bout time, I am call­ing this the Chicken Gar­den. This is where the big chick­ens and lit­tle chick­ens are cur­rently engaged in their nightly meet-and-greet lead­ing up to the merge of the two tribes.

Miss P adores the chickens. She would, in fact, love to eat the chickens. But being a smart cat, she understands they are off-limits and has ceased making predatory moves in their direction. It doesn't stop her from looking though.

Miss P adores the chick­ens. She would, in fact, love to eat the chick­ens. But being a smart cat, she under­stands they are off-limits and has ceased mak­ing preda­tory moves in their direc­tion. It doesn’t stop her from look­ing though.

You can­not just toss lit­tle chick­ens in with big chick­ens because they will be pecked on and could be injured. It is best for chick­ens to get to know each other a bit, work out their dif­fer­ences in rel­a­tive safety and begin estab­lish­ing the new peck­ing order prior to being thrust under the same roof. Using the Eglu as the tem­po­rary home for new chick­ens allows the chick­ens to see each other but not co-mingle until they are ready. This also allows us to ensure that the new chick­ens are dis­ease– and pest-free before intro­duc­ing them into the flock.

Now that the Pol­ish and Easter egg chick­ens are about 11 weeks old, it’s just a mat­ter of days before we attempt the big move. Until then, they peck and scratch in the Chicken Gar­den under close super­vi­sion.  After all, we don’t want a repeat of the inci­dent that took Johnny Cash.

P.S.

I SWEAR I am still gar­den­ing. I have the pho­tos to prove it. More soon.

P.P.S.

You can see the whole chicken photo album here. Click on the photo for a larger image. There are more pho­tos in the albums from the pho­tos sign at the top of this page.

Robin

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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