Challenges just don’t seem to end for us (I’m sure many of you have times like this!). Mike’s doctor’s office seriously botched the treatment he was to start this week, we’ve had one thing after another break down here in our funky lifestyle, the story goes on..…so for distraction, I decided to write the story of Studdly our funny rooster who most nights I take on a little walk about from one coop to the other……. About ten years ago Studdly and three hens were the last chicks to be hatched out in our chicken coop. After their hatch, and after decades of raising bantams, we decided to reduce our fowl population. Studdly has outlived his three sisters. The gorgeous gray hen was killed early in life by a weasel, the beautiful black-as-onyx hen died suddenly three years ago, and Little Red Hen, a very special, tiny hen I have written about many times, died two summers ago. Always the gentleman to the hens…Studdly was a fierce warrior when it came to his father, the ‘other’ rooster! After the weasel incident, Studdly and his remaining two hens were moved from a fenced off area in the big coop to a new little red chicken house closer to our house. For years we would awaken every morning to the sound of stereo crowing as the two roosters, like dueling banjos, would send retorts back and forth. (Banty roosters have a rather comical high-pitched crow. A sound I’ve lived with for over 30 years, I find their odd falsetto cock-a-doodle-do both funny and charming.)
The worse cock fight was when he chased the old guy into the bigger coop and under the chicken-house. I stepped out on our porch to shake some rugs and heard an odd thump thump coming from the chicken coop. Running to the coop, I saw the two roosters hitting their heads on the bottom of the house as they sparred. Lying on my belly, I pulled out a bloody, panting Studdly, and watched as the other rooster staggered out and fell over. I rushed Studdly into the house, turned on the bathroom faucet, drenched him, looking to see how much damage was done, all the while scolding him for his behavior. Cleaned up, he looked fine and was locked in his own coop while I went to get the other rooster. I wasn’t sure he was going to make it, but he too washed up fine and lived many more years…avoiding Studdly. Studdly continued to try to go a court’n, and occasionally tried to pick a fight, but if he saw me coming, he turned and headed the other direction. We had an understanding.
Studdly was a loyal and concerned mate for Little Red. Other than his occasional wanderings, when they were out he stayed with her. If she wandered away from him, he would go looking for her. The times she was in our house recuperating from some ailment he seemed stressed to be without her. And when she died, Studdly, gentleman, warrior, a guy meant-to-be-mated, was suddenly alone with no purpose in life.
A few months later, on Halloween, feeling sorry for him, I brought home a ‘rescue’ chicken from the Farmer’s Market. We named her Millie. Oh my, she is an odd one! Not only a different breed, she is skittish and at first never wanted to leave the roost nor the house. That went on for 6 months. Studdly did not know what to make of her. It was not love at first sight, nor did it grow. Spring came and she began to wander outside and Studdly had his old job back of clucking when he found a morsel to share, someone to keep track of, attend to, and through last summer they had a compatible, if not cozy, relationship.
Everything changed this past winter when the old rooster died. His 15 or so years of living the perfect rooster life ended quietly one night, he just wore out. Everything changed for everyone. No more stereo crowing. The two elderly hens seemed lost at first, but settled into their new life as widows, clearly not interested in their occasional suitor. But Studdly finally had the opportunity he had been waiting for his entire life. Slowly, politely, he won them over and moved in, leaving Millie alone.
I understand his desires, but it’s not acceptable. As long as there are four chickens, everyone should have a housemate. So every day they are cooped up (now you know where that expression comes from) Studdly lives with Millie. Every day they are out and about he goes courting and settles in with the older hens. In the evening I go take him off their roost, and we have a little walk about and chat on the way back to the little red house and Millie. It is a strange arrangement, but he’s a good guy, and resigns himself to his confinement with Millie. He has tried to introduce the twosome to her, but there is no tolerance on either side. Studdly is an old guy himself now. One of his spurs grew into his leg and had to be cut a few months ago. Someday he too will wear out. But until then, he has a busy life keeping three hens in two households happy.
(the hardest thing about writing chicken stories, or any pet story, is the revisions to say they have died. Studdily died one night when his pen door was not closed and a raccoon got in. He lived a good, long life, RIP Studdily)