Wednesday, June 26, 2013
We said a difficult goodbye to Gump yesterday. Gump was our two-year-old, hatched right here Buff Orpington rooster, and our hearts are heavy.
Gump was special right from the start, in an endearingly odd kind of way. He was part of a hatch that was predominantly cockerels, and even though he was the biggest of the bunch he was the lowest on the pecking order. He was never part of the flock - he would wander his own way, doing his own thing in a gentle, clumsy, semi-clued-out kind of way. The other chickens would come running for scratch at the end of the day but Gump would only look over, mildly curious, and wander off into the bushes. We worried about Gump.
Once Gump and three of his young flock mates refused to come into the coop for the night. We're not sure if something spooked them or if they just wanted a camp out, but they lodged themselves into a thick stand of prickly bushes that we couldn't get into. And then, once night fell, there was no budging them. In the morning we were minus one pullet and Gump was missing a few tail feathers, but no matter how nicely we asked to hear the story of their adventure, nobody was talking.
When it came time to pick the cockerel who would be given charge of the flock we chose Gump. By that time it was clear the hens in the flock loved him: where Gump went so did they. They liked his gentle, protective ways, and so did we, and Gump proved we made a good choice. He was a big, gentle, slightly uncoordinated giant, and he took his rooster duties seriously. He did a great "I'm the rooster" dance (if you've never seen it, the rooster drops one wing and dances around the hen in a circle), he showed the hens good places to get food and lay eggs, and he kept a watchful eye out for overhead predators.
In recent months, however, one roosterly duty proved difficult for him: sex. Always a bit clumsy, he became increasingly lame, which meant he wasn't so good at mounting the hens. As a consequence, the fertility of our eggs began to suffer, and since Kim does a brisk business with hatching eggs through the spring, this was a problem. We began to look for a replacement rooster, but we were clear that Gump would stay with us no matter what.
It didn't work out that way. Even though we could find no reason for his lameness, it became more and more difficult for Gump to get around, to the point where he spent most of his day sitting down. We didn't even want to visit him in the chicken yard, because when he saw one of us he would struggle painfully to his feet to do the rooster dance. And so we finally made the decision to put him down.
We're still not prepared to do this ourselves, and so we took him to our local slaughterhouse. And today Kim took his carcass to a local food kitchen, where one of the diners said "Oh good, chicken soup."
Gump was good from beginning to end. Goodbye, Gump.