My husband loves nothing more than a good chicken. Not a good roast chicken mind you (though he has no qualms about enjoying one of those), but a good strutting and clucking live chicken. Therefore, in my days as his wife, I have had some small experience with chickens and would like to share a few personal observations I have made about chickens in general, as well as about a few of our very own chickens.
First of all, as I have mentioned before, no chicken dies of natural causes. The cause is generally well known and it is generally a dog. I doubt anyone can tell you the average lifespan of a healthy chicken (unless they count death by unnatural causes in their reckoning). We once sold a dog for being the chicken killer that he was (my husband loved his chickens more than his dog). I am not sure how fair this was as I believe that to be the natural way of things. Chickens are born, they lay a few eggs, they excite a dog with all their flapping and clucking, the dog chases the chicken (who runs back and forth in a frenzy doing anything but helping itself), the dog tosses the chicken about happily for awhile, the chicken dies, the dog looks disappointed and trots off. Once I stopped our dog as I caught this happening. I was then left with a mostly dead chicken. This reduced me to tears and panicky “what do I do??” calls to my husband. It also convinced me it was best not to interfere with the natural order of things. There have always been farms and it seems they have always had chickens as well as dogs – which leads me to believe there must be some non-chicken killer dogs out there, but I have yet to meet one.
Another observation: “teenage” chickens are a horrible site. They are darling as fluffy chicks, but puberty is very unkind to the poor birds. The part fluff, part feathery creatures make one wish nothing more than to have the homely beasts gone immediately from one's sight.
Now, a little about our first rooster, He was of a variety only half the size of our hens. He was a vicious mean little thing and for all his smallness, it was rather intimidating to see him -- wings flared and all -- rushing upon you for an attack. While displaying amazing confidence in these attacks (considering his size), he was evidently not totally oblivious to his disadvantage as he most often attacked when your back was turned. I despised that rooster for these unfair attacks upon me (after all, I generally only paid my visit to feed and water the chickens). In retrospect, however, I feel pity for the fellow. As you might imagine, what with his size and all, he was most unsuccessful in doing that which roosters do. The hens seemed to have little respect for him as potential perpetuator of the species and his attempts to assert himself generally failed in a rather embarrassing fashion. I now see that, ashamed of his inadequacies, these attacks upon me were likely just attempts to redeem him self by showing how well he performed his duty as a protector to his would be harem. Perhaps he felt that this impressive display of flock protectiveness might reduce the evident lack of respect displayed by the hens -- thereby better allowing him to claim his roosterly rights.
You will note, that the rooster in the above photo is definitely not the rooster I have been referring to; rather, his larger and far more successful successor.