The death of Pavarotti

The quintessential Pavarotti as I like to remember him.

The quintessential Pavarotti as I like to remember him.

Pavarotti was part of the group of chickens first born to the farm. He was the head honcho of the chicken coop for the past four and a half years; now he is gone. He died last Friday evening from what I think is a chicken form of laryngitis. He’d had it once before a couple of summers ago and we nearly lost him then. I guess he was just that much younger and stronger and manage to make a comeback from the first go around with this disease but this week, at the ripe old age of 4 1/2 years old, it proved to be too much for him.

I found him hunched over looking perfectly sorry for himself: his tail feathers drooped down behind him, his eyes only half opened, he had lost his voice and will to call and could barely suck in a full breath. He was in dire straits. In case this was contagious, I decided I’d better separate him from the rest of the flock and put him in our ‘long term care facility’ i.e. one of our mobile chicken tractors.

I then looked to the Internet for a good resource page on chicken respiratory illnesses and found the University of Florida’s IFAS Extension Services pages. They had a downloadable document on common poultry diseases which I printed off. I poured over all of the disease options trying to find the culprit for Pavarotti’s dire condition. I surmised that the problem was Infectious Laryngotracheitis which affects chickens and pheasants. According to the report, chickens over fourteen weeks and older are most susceptible and most outbreaks occurring in mature animals. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension: The clinical sign usually first noticed is watery eyes. Affected birds remain quiet because the breathing is difficult. Coughing, sneezing, and shaking of the head to dislodge exudate plugs in the windpipe follow. Birds extend their head and neck to facilitate breathing (commonly referred to as “pump handle respiration”). Inhalation produces a wheezing and gurgling sound. Blood-tinged exudates and serum clots are expelled from the trachea of affected birds. Many birds die from asphyxiation due to a blockage of the trachea when the tracheal plug is freed, which is exactly what happened in the end this time for Pavarotti.

Pavarotti was the patriarch of the flock. We bought the place in April 2005 and he hatched out in May that same year. He is one of the first livestock to live on the farm; I hatched him myself. My first son, as it were. I always knew how old he was because he was as old as the farm. Now I’ll have to mark the age in some of the first hens that hatched along with him. We still have several of his vintage hens with us and they are still laying and making good mothers.

Pavarotti was a gentleman with his ladies. He spent his time finding food and clucking to his gals when he locates tasty morsels, then lets them eat from his beak; I hardly ever see him eat. He is also a great ‘watch-rooster’. He lets me know if there are foxes about with a particular cluck: fa-Ox, fa-Ox, fa-Ox. The cluck for deer is entirely different: da-da-da-DEER. He has a call for when my neighbour is on her way through the treed fence-line, and another for hawks and overhead danger. I’m not kidding. Chickens have a language, and you can learn it if you are attentive.

Lots of folks tell me that roosters can be stroppy or vicious. Maybe, but not Pav. He was a keeper. Any new young roosters that challenge him get put in the pot. Ones that know who’s king get to stay and add to the gene pool. Now he has lived out his days on the farm. I thought he would die much older and am sad that he’s gone so soon. He is now buried in the garden with some of the other much beloved animals of Howling Duck Ranch. I miss his song.



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9 responses to “The death of Pavarotti

  1. amongstthecedars

    So sorry to hear. That is SUCH a great photo!

  2. Mitch

    What a sad moment to loose one of your first animals on your farm must be tuff
    I hope the other chickens dont get the disease he had

    Good luck

  3. LittleFfarm Dairy

    So very sorry to hear you lost your beloved Pavarotti: our sincere, deepest sympathy.

    We truly appreciate how much he meant to you. There’s a hard saying, in farming: “where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock.” And of course some of a farmer’s charges will be bred purely for their meat – you accept that.

    However there are those who form the foundation of that farm; those whose strength, character & personality pervade everyday life with a sense of purpose, humour, enjoyment & even occasional exasperation – but nevertheless, a deep affection & indeed love: animals are an open book with neither hidden agenda nor studied self-interest thus are companions, honest & true.

    I dread the day we lose our lovely caprine Matriarch, Armeria…hopefully she’ll be with us for many more adventures; but I know the day we say goodbye, the tears we shed would swell the river which winds through our ancient valley with such a sorrowful ache that the stones themselves would weep for years.

    Pavarotti was the finest of tenor-strutting fowl: may he enjoy an eternal duet with his namesake, on that great operatic Stage in the Sky.

  4. Doris

    How cool that you not only heard him, but that you were savvy enough to understand him. I will pay closer attention to my roosters language. In Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, he shared how the wolves talked and how the natives understood their communication. I love that you named him Pavarotti, totally apropos. You have given a fitting eulogy for the icon that he is.

    • I’ve never had another rooster like him in terms of language ability, or my own understanding of it. I guess there just are some animals that you have a connection with that runs deeper than can be easily explained. My dog Tatra for example, I believe she was my soul mate. We had an uncanny ability to understand each other, often seemingly through our sixth sense. I always wanted to own a horse and often said I wanted the equivalent of Tatra in a Horse. The first time I rode Nick, who I agreed to ride and exercise only, I immediately felt that same kind of unspoken connection with him. I knew I could trust him so I bought him immediately. I hadn’t really thought of Pavarotti in these sames terms until reflecting upon this now. I guess he too may have been the chicken equivalent of Nick and Tatra! I do miss him.

      • My sympathies. I understand exactly what you are saying…I felt that way over loosing Cathy the ex battery hen and Ginger, the matriarch of the hens.

        They do get to us, don’t they?

        RIP Pavarotti, have fun in the great dust bath in the sky……

  5. sergio

    Curious that you got rid of young birds that challenged him, since it is that way that nature warrants the reproduction of better, healthier animals. At least is what I would have done. I would want strong individuals to breed, not weak.

    I myself have some rooser culling to do. My hens will appreciate it.

    • Hey Sergio,

      He was a huge bird and I wanted his genes and size passed on through the flock. Also, he was lovely with his ladies, a great guardian in terms of announcing predators on the farm, and quite a dominant rooster in general. I liked his temperament. For example, he often sorted out fights between the younger cocks and so overall kept the peace in the flock. It is important for me to have a happy flock and sometimes letting the most aggressive cock lead is not the best thing for everyone. I always look for a balance between dominance and kindness in my roosters. Consequently, I don’t have any of them attacking me or anyone else who may look after the farm (unlike other farmers I know who have been attacked by their roosters!)



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