This is Russell Crow. He is a three-year-old Rhode Island Red rooster. He is my second favourite rooster I have ever owned, coming after my old black Silkie boy Brewster, who was from the first batch of Silkies I bred. Brewster lived to be seven years old, making him the longest-lived bird I have owned to date. Brew started a line of Silkies that I bred for seven generations, and in his last winter I had to go out each morning and unstick his eyelids so he could see to get out of the Silkie House. He helped keep chicks warm under his wings when they got too big for the hens to cover them all. He was sadly taken by a fox a few months before I bought Russell and his two RIR ladies.
Russell is quite a character himself. He is a great big lump of a bird, but very gentle. Except when he tries to jump up and get food out of my hand at dinner time, although I seem to have broken him of that habit. He likes to help in the barn, and has been known to stand in the goat head bail helping the goats eat their food while I trim their hooves. He has supervised several kiddings. He is always around and generally more a source of amusement than annoyance.
He was conspicuous by his absence when I went to put the chooks and ducks away tonight. Russell is never late for dinner, so when he was nowhere to be seen while everyone else was eating, I knew something was physically preventing him from turning up.
I thought perhaps he might have got shut in the garage when I got home from town. I wasn’t too worried. I made sure everyone else was present and went to see if there were eggs to take in.
With one duck, two red hens and Silkie sitting on eggs, we have had a bit of a drop in production. I had been griping at the Pekin ducks for their apparent laziness in the laying department, especially when Derek the drake has been working so hard to maximise fertility in the duck family.
I found a Muscovy egg in the Silkie House, thanks to Millie, who has been moping around a bit while her life partner Martha sits tight on her nest in the breeding cage. Then, for the first time in about a week, I went to check the nest in what is known as the dog house. I figured Russell would be fine in the garage for a few more minutes, and it would save me an extra trip back to the house if I collected the eggs first.
This is what I found in the dog house…
Last time I checked, nobody was laying in the dog house. When nobody had been laying in there for about a week I stopped checking the nest. By the looks of this, at least two different ducks and two different hens have been laying in there for about the past week. Today was the first time I checked this nest in a long time.
Which turned out to be very lucky for Russell Crow, because this is where I found him…
He was in that tiny gap between the dog house (on the left) and the chook house (on the right). He was most of the way to the back of that gap, where the dog house butts up against the heavy-duty mesh of the chook pen fence. And he was well and truly stuck.
Now, I actually wouldn’t have noticed him if I had just lifted the roof of the dog house, checked the nest, taken the eggs and left. The reason I did notice him was because one of the red hens had left an egg on the ground right near the corner of the chook house. And when I went to pick that egg up, I found Russell.
I thought I was going to have to move the dog house in order to get him out, but after removing the roof to make it lighter and trying to move the main part on my own with no success I decided to see if I could pull him out backwards. Luckily I managed to do that, and I carried my great lump of red bird into the pen, set him down gently, watched him fluff himself up and flap his wings, before he walked off with a slight limp.
It would have been so easy for me not to have found Russell tonight. So easy for me not to have checked the nest in the dog house. For that red hen not to have randomly left an egg on the grass at the corner of the shed. I would have just assumed that a fox had got Russell, or that he had got into the house yard and fallen foul of the dogs, before crawling under a bush to die. I would have found him in a few days, or maybe weeks, much too late. But tonight, due to a series of fortunate events, Russell Crow, the boof-headed but gentle Rhode Island Red rooster, is perched with his red girls and Erica the little black Australorp bantam, with only a few ruffled feathers and bit of a stiff leg. And tomorrow, an hour before dawn, like every other morning since he came here he will sing to greet another day.