Reuben (aka Rooster Cogburn) is my favorite of our four roosters. As a chick, he was a few weeks older than our other roosters, and he was the first to mature. I thought for sure he would be the alpha rooster of the flock, and for a short time he was, but he gradually lost his standing and now he’s become somewhat of an underdog. Which is why he is my favorite and has been getting special treatment for the last five months, because after all, who doesn’t root for the underdog? Last fall was when the Trouble with Roosters began. Reuben had developed some sort of trouble with his legs and was having difficulty walking, which is when his roommate, Ramon, began antagonizing Reuben. I separated them, and due to Reuben’s disability I put him in his own private enclosure since I certainly couldn’t put him back in with the ladies that were guarded by Brown Rooster. A month after Reuben was moved into his own quarters, there was a security breach, and Brown Rooster got in and attacked Reuben. Reuben had a large patch of feathers pecked off his head, and for the next several days he didn’t look very good and did not move around much. For the next few weeks I honestly wasn’t sure what Reuben’s fate would be.
The only way Reuben could walk seemed to be with the aid of a vigorous flapping of his wings and a large dose of willpower by which he was able to propel himself forward a few feet at a time. I was not sure what the cause of his disability was, so I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about treating it. He did not have any apparent external injury to his feet or legs, so I suspected it was either a genetic condition, a virus, or a nutritional deficiency. I couldn’t do anything about the first two potential causes, so I hoped it was a nutritional deficiency that I could correct. It was possible that since Ramon had been bullying Reuben, he may have also been preventing Reuben from getting enough to eat. I began putting a powdered vitamin supplement in Reuben’s water, and I hoped for the best. There was one period in the winter where I realized he had a terrible case of mites. He wasn’t able to groom himself very well, and he never took dust baths anymore, and the mites had definitely taken advantage of his condition. We gave him a bath in flea and tick shampoo and set him by the wood stove to dry out. Since the weather had turned cold, I convinced my husband to let him stay inside for a while, and he spent about a week in the living room. He wasn’t getting around much, it was all he could do to get into his pet carrier at night and hobble out in the morning for breakfast.
Eventually Reuben had to move back outside. Most mornings he would stay in his house until I came out to give everyone their breakfast. I would sit down in front of Reuben’s door, he would manage to stand up, and then I would help him out of his house, put him on my lap and hold his feeder and waterer up to him so he could have breakfast. Then he would flap his way a few feet over to the table that he would spend the rest of the day sitting under. Often times when he sat down, one of his legs would be stretched out behind him, and he looked like he was doing the splits. It certainly didn’t look comfortable, and I began to wonder if we should euthanize him. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and I still sensed a will to live in Reuben in the way he would stand up every morning when I came out to give him his breakfast.
About a month ago, Reuben started getting around a bit better. He no longer just sat under his table all day, and I would occasionally see him standing up or moving to different areas of his enclosure to sit in the grass in the sun. One night a couple of weeks ago when I came out to close up the main coop for the night, Reuben was waiting by the door of his enclosure. It seemed like he had noticed the ladies were going into their coop for the night, and he wanted to be let out of his enclosure so he could go into the coop too. Brown Rooster was already inside the coop, so I opened Reuben’s door to see what he would do. Sure enough, he hobbled slowly over to the main coop and began walking up the ramp to the door. I couldn’t let him go inside or Brown Rooster would attack him, so I scooped Reuben up at the last minute and returned him to his enclosure. This incident gave me hope, and I took it to mean that Reuben was feeling better and was ready for company. Another recent change in Reuben’s behavior is that he has begun crowing again. It had probably been three months since I had heard Reuben crow until a couple of weeks ago when he began belting out his melodious crow. His crow is my favorite of all of our rooster’s crows. The last week or so I have been letting a few of the ladies into Reuben’s enclosure during the day, and it’s easy to see that he loves these visits. He watches the ladies with great interest, stands up tall and proud and walks around a bit, crows repeatedly, and generally struts his stuff. He even tried to mate with Rhoda, but alas she was too quick for him and ran away just in time! It is great to see Reuben’s condition improving as the weeks go by. I’m not sure if he will recover his leg function 100 percent, but he definitely seems to be enjoying himself these days. I have no doubt that it was worth the effort to nurse him back to health, and hearing his crow ring out across the yard brings a smile to my face every time.