Every morning, we open the outside door and let the chickens out into the yard. Spring and fall, they are allowed to roam our property until they start to interfere with my flowers gardens or, if they behave, until my husband plants his vegetable gardens.
Every morning, our wonderful rooster is the last to leave. Now eight years old and a very big bird, it takes Brewster awhile to get his arthritic toes uncurled from the roost and jump down. The toes aren't fully unfurled as he begins his long walk from the coop, across the back yard, around the south side of the house to the front yard where everyone congregates because that's where it's sunny and that's where the bird seed is.
It's hard to watch him walk, knowing his feet hurt, knowing his toes are flat on the ground.
The other morning, when the wind was blowing so coldly, Brewster seemed to be struggling -- not dying-struggling, just cold-day-struggling. He lay down on the frosty grass in the back yard, in the shade, which wasn't the most comfortable place to rest up. Several hens came to him and I wondered if they'd get him moving but they passed on and he remained where is was. I went out to carry him out front but he wouldn't let me get near him; if I'd dashed and lunged, I could have grabbed him -- and once he was in my arms, he'd settle in for the ride -- but with his toes so mangled, I didn't want him to have to run. So we walked together to the front, slowly, and he joined his flock and lay down in the sunshine near the seed.
He's such a good rooster and outside of his twisted toes, he seems to be in great health. I'm grateful this has been such an easy winter because he's getting a longer season outside. It's worth that long walk from coop to front yard when the ground is free of snow and there's bird seed waiting.
These are the simple pleasures of a rooster in his golden years.
We have no idea what the natural life span of a rooster is -- we'll find out with Brewster -- and I hope I don't curse him by writing about him today.
Every morning, when the door opens, Brewster flaps and flops off his roosts and stands in the doorway and surveys his kingdom. Every day, it's a good day to be a rooster.