Studdly the Rooster

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……. DSC03853About 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.)

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Looking cocky and sure of himself

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.

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Studdly out with his Little Red Hen, now deceased

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.

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Studdly and Milie trying to work things out

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.

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Studdly’s “dad” with two of his flock, in his younger years. Yep, Studdly looks like him, though Stud’s a little brighter in color, and a lot more comical and cocky!

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.

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Home again to Millie, his unusual coop mate

IMG_6588I 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.

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Studdly has an odd little side ways dance he does when he loses his balance, I call it his happy dance……he takes life seriously, but so often he is very comical!

(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)

Heaven and Nature Dancing Together

It's name being Trail Plant, this lovely plant has dusky gray undersides to its leaves and grows...along trails!

It’s name being Trail Plant, this lovely plant has dusky gray undersides to its leaves and grows…along trails!

If you live in the Northwest, you know today was not a day to be inside, so this is short!  For me it was a day for taking my iTouch, my smallest camera, and heading into the woods where I found favorite plants along the trail.  It was a day for my senses to experience some of the heavenly delights Nature has to offer.

The first ethereal (dictionary definition: extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world) gift from Nature was in song. The Swainson’s Thrush, an elusive member of the thrush family, is related to the American Robin, though, unlike the Robin, it is not likely to be in your front yard looking for worms or nesting in your eaves.  Though I’ve occasionally seen Swainson’s Thrushs near the house, (sadly, I found a dead one that had hit a window several years ago) they generally nest and forage in conifer forests, where in the evening and morning, they sing a song that is both eery and heavenly.  You can listen to a recording of it here: Swainson’s Thrush, but a recording does not have the ethereal sound when Big Leaf Maples and giant Firs provide the acoustics for the high notes as they resonate throughout the forest.  On gray days the birds often sing all day.  Though a sunny day, this morning several Swainson’s Thrushes sang well into early afternoon before they abruptly stopped. Being territorial, each song was coming from a different direction…a surround sound stereo performance!  As I sat on the back porch I felt transported to another place, a celestial place.

IMG_0277While on my walk in the woods my next sense delight from Nature was the heavenly scent of Bald Hip Roses. These diminutive little roses, growing on spiny, spindly bushes, are the most scented of the wild roses, possibly of all roses.  Bald Hip Roses do not have the aggressive growth habits of our other native rose, the Nootka Rose.  Single bushes are found here and there in semi-dense forested areas.  They are at the peak of their bloom this time of year.  Short lived blossoms fill the surrounding air with a rose scent that can send one swooning. Roses have represented the Divine for centuries, their scent being described as the scent of God. And of course poets have written of roses as the quintessential symbol of romantic love. The petite Bald Hip Rose is truly Nature’s gift of love to our olfactory senses!

IMG_0284The final representation of this dance of  Heaven and Nature was the arrival of the first Clodius Parnessium butterfly in our yard.  Parnassiam Butterflies are the most ethereal of butterflies with their semi-transparent wings. One can imagine that they are the butterflies of Angels!  In their caterpillar stage they are completely depend on bleeding-hearts, making them very habitat specific. Fortunately we have a forest full of wild bleeding-hearts so each June we see the arrival of newly metamorphosed Parnessiums floating around to necter on blooming Dame’s Rocket.

Another trail favorite, a plant that loves moist soil, is Fendler's Waterleaf

Another trail favorite, and another plant that loves moist soil, is Fendler’s Waterleaf

The title to this post was inspired by a chant by Paramahansa Yogananda entitled Spirit and Nature Dancing Together.

Heaven and Nature seemed to be dancing all day today! Hope you had time to enjoy the performance!