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  • Writer's pictureChristina Swaan

End of the line

This past week was an unusual one to say the least. Starting with delivering a hit-by-car turtle to a wildlife rehab facility, followed by my husband's car getting backed into. They say things happen in 3s, so of course we couldn't finish the weekend without one more major catastrophe...

In the year I've been working with Rufio trying to manage him around my daughter has always been the biggest challenge. He has gone after her multiple times - each seemingly unprovoked. We had been practicing trying to be careful and generally I had a good routine down where if my daughter was outside playing he would be safely separated to avoid conflict. Unfortunately precocious children and even more precocious birds do not make a good mix. This time was different though, the attack resulted in my daughter receiving a large cut and scratches on her nose and near her eye, and a chunk of one of Rufio's spurs broke off in her forehead. I am certain had I not been nearby to intervene the injuries she sustained would have been SO MUCH more severe.

As fall approaches and many young birds are finding their crows, the need to place unwanted roosters into new homes peaks. Even farms and poultry keepers who don't mind having a rooster around may come to the conclusion that the costs and efforts of upkeeping "non-productive" birds is outside their budgets and management preferences. With so many roosters needing to find placement, there are simply not many options for "bad birds." The risk of liability from a rooster who has caused a medically-significant injury to a child is one that should not be taken lightly - and despite my hopes and so many months of work and effort I put into trying to socialize and redirect Rufio's aggression, I had to accept the responsibility for this bird and make the final decision to remove him from our flock, and prevent him from causing injury to others.

As an advocate for humane and ethical treatment of animals, it is my responsibility to ensure that none of my animals suffer cruelty, neglect, or trauma. For a bird who's father also developed severe behavioral issues I did not want to see him get bounced to the next backyard chicken keeper to potentially repeat his actions, and with so many other rooster sanctuaries and facilities filled to the brim with otherwise "nice" birds who's owners simply couldn't keep them it was no question that I would not want him to add to that population. For Rufio, the most humane option I felt comfortable with is to donate him to the local wildlife rehab facility - where he would be humanely dispatched and processed to provide food for the animals there.

I feel disappointed in myself for not having been more vigilant, not spending more time trying to work my daughter and the bird to curb his aggression, and for having put off so long the decision that so many others tried to warn me about. This is life on the farm I suppose, and while I love having these animals around and am always willing to learn more - there are some lessons that cannot be learned without heartbreak.

Rest in peace Rufio. May your spirit find the peace and tranquility that I was not able to give you.

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