Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Goodbye Gump

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.


Paula said...

I'm very sorry Miriam and Kim. I know that doing the right thing by your animals can be very, very hard to do.

I encourage you to learn to do it yourselves because, even though you may find it really, really hard, particularly if you love your bird, it will in all likelihood be a more compassionate and humane way for him to go instead of the slaughter house, where they cannot possibly care about him the way that you do.

I hope that your next Big Guy will be as lovely as Gump was.

Miriam said...

You are totally right about that, Paula, and I think I'm ready to look for someone in my neighbourhood who can show me what to do. I don't want to know how to pluck and gut birds, at least right now, but it would be a good thing to know how to quickly and humanely kill a chicken. I think I'm ready for that. I just want to cry, thinking about Gump.

Rae said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. :( He was obviously a lovely boy, both in manners and good looks.

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

Oh, darling. That sucks. I'm seriously tearing up over this story. What a great synopsis of his character and personality.

Sometimes, we just encounter GOOD animals. And it always hurts extra hard when the good ones leave us.

Anonymous said...

SO sorry to hear this, Miriam and Kim. Hope you've been able to find as nice a replacement, although he'll never replace Gump in your hearts.

If you do want to learn about "processing" your own birds, we can help with that too. It's never fun, but it is good to know that it's peaceful and in a familiar, non-stressful place. I really do like knowing that one moment Roo is in his favorite happy place, and the next he's gone--no stressful trip somewhere else in between.

Hugs to you both,

Shim Farm said...

Oh Miriam and Kim, I am so sorry to hear about Gump! I think *that's* part of the reason I don't have chickens, because I'd be a sobbing wreck all the time.

Your description of Gump is endearing. Lindsey said it best: it hurts extra-hard when the good ones leave us.

My thoughts are with you.

Kate Mossy said...

Losing chickens has been a hard lesson for our son. Our first flock were killed by our neighbors dog. We've had hawk incidents as well. People that have never had chickens don't understand how attached you can get.

Doc said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. God bless Gump.

k said...

Sorry to hear about your loss. If I've learned anything reading your blog, it's that your chickens are well cared for. I hope you and Kim can take comfort in knowing you gave Gump a very good life.

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