The fourth rooster in my rooster series has been completed, after much effort. First there was the “Fowl King”, the dictator; then the “Fowl Emperor”, the gentle ruler; and thirdly the “Fowl Martyr”, the fallen hero. Lastly is “Fowl Forlorn”, the outcast. This Buff Orphington rooster (named Buff) has had a rather eventful life. His story is like that of a novel, full of twists and turns that at first glance seem unlikely to happen.
His life started as most of our roosters did – he was the lone rooster in a bunch of hen chicks we bought. I was elated when we discovered we had another buff rooster. Previous to his arrival we had a very large, very docile rooster with the orange coloring that everyone and everything loved. He was the loving guardian of all the hens and other roosters and was well respected. His death of old age was saddening, but when Buff came I was happy to know that he would have a successor. As luck would have it, Buff had the gentle qualities I had hoped for. However, Big White (the Fowl King) wasn’t so enthusiastic. He turned his aggression on Buff and made him the whipping boy. Buff was so gentle and pudgy for a rooster that he not only couldn’t defend himself, but he couldn’t avoid his attackers. Buff’s demeanor became harsh and defensive. He wasn’t allowed a roost to sleep on, and he wasn’t allowed a hen to befriend. His large tail feathers weren’t allowed to grow either – when one would appear it would be brutally plucked. Even the Fowl Martyr, also feeling the wrath of the Fowl King, turned his anger on Buff. We couldn’t stop them, and we didn’t know what to do. Then came a horrible day. Buff had been beaten so severely that he was near death – he was bloody, weak, and refused to move. When we found him we immediately removed him from the aviary and placed him in a special cage in the barnyard we use for injured birds. We tended to his wounds and hoped the solitude would heal his broken soul. It worked. He grew strong and lively. To keep him from getting lonely we put a hen with him – a unique Star hen (they’re black with a star shaped cone and a red patch of feathers under their chin) that we named Betty. They fell in love. We couldn’t put Buff back into the aviary, and we couldn’t separate the lovers, so we let them roam free in the barnyard. After all, Buff was too fat to fly out! They enjoyed the grasses and free terrain to run in. The goats and llamas welcomed their company. Buff became the healthiest I had ever seen him – his tail grew out, he walked with a puffed up chest, he became gentle, and he crowed to his leisure because no one could stop him. Every night Buff and Betty would return to the healing enclosure and sleep in the dog house and roost that was there. They were inseparable. But tragedy struck. Betty was found dead one afternoon, attacked by something and left behind. We buried her, but Buff never saw her die…he looked for her day in and day out. He looked everywhere. We tried to tell him what happened, but he didn’t understand. We couldn’t show him her body and he became depressed. His only guess was that Betty was back in the aviary. So he paced and sat beside the aviary wire, looking inside for his love. I watched him dwindle from a happy, confident rooster to a sickly shadow in just a few weeks. We did what we could – we put food close to him so he would at least eat. He dared not leave the wire in case his Betty was there. Then we noticed him hiding. He had a ghastly wound on his thigh and flies were swarming him. We promptly cleaned him and gave him medicine, but it was too much. His weak and sickly body couldn’t handle the infection the mysterious wound gave him. He died with a broken heart on July 27, 2008, at 8:30 pm.
I’d rather not paint portraits of animals with such sad tales, but his story was one that begged to be told. Now Buff and Betty are together, forever. I thought that after this painting it was going to be last rooster I did, but things are not always sad. Recently we’ve discovered that in our new batch of 25 chicks there is another rooster – a buff rooster. We’ve named it He-she, because we think it’s a hermaphrodite. And so the buff orphington legacy continues.
“Fowl Forlorn” 16x20” acrylic on canvas. © Cara Bevan 2008
Time: 48 hours, 15 minutes