We are very sad (well, many of us are sad) to have to report that Darren the rooster has passed away. He was almost 13 years old (most roosters live 6-8 years). He was found mostly unresponsive on Thursday, and Elizabeth took him home so he could be warm and dry. He passed quietly and peacefully that evening.
Darren’s Origin Story
Darren was a force of nature, a chick who had been a “project” by an elementary school classroom (please don’t do this unless you plan on keeping the chickens for their lifetime- an animal is not a science experiment). The class did not turn the eggs in the incubator, and both Darren and his sister Endora ended up with feet that were malformed. The teacher decided that no one would want chicks will malformed feet, and were going to sell them to a pet store as snake food.
One of our neighbors intervened and asked if we could take them. We said yes, we could, without knowing at the time that Darren was a rooster (he was a just a little chicky!). Elizabeth took Darren and Endora home (it was too cold at the ranch and we don’t have a safe way to keep a heat lamp on them 24/7). They grew up in her bathroom, and would often watch television with her. Darren and Endora were named after characters in the television show Bewitched (all of our chickens were originally named for the characters- when we ran out of character names, we started naming the hens after famous witches). As he grew, and he started crowing, we realized that we had a rooster on our hands.
Darren’s Reign of Terror
We separated Darren from the chickens, and he lived with the sheep for his lifetime. He would sometimes jump up on the sheep’s back and would snuggle with them- and sometimes he would fight them. He would follow them around and hang out with him when they wandered around the property. It depended really on the day and his attitude at the time.
Darren was somewhat aggressive- that was certain. It wasn’t his fault, though- he was a rooster. He was just doing what roosters do. He scared several of the volunteers, and it was kind of funny actually, watching people run in fear of a five-pound chicken. We trimmed his spurs, but even so, his attacks did hurt and could leave bruises, so we tried to keep him inside the sheep pen when people were cleaning the stalls. Unfortunately he often managed to get out and harass people. He would also threaten people who tried to feed the sheep their breakfast and dinner, and more than one person would toss the hay in and slam the door and run away screaming (true story). In addition to preventing him from traumatizing any additional volunteers, when he got older he started to get pushed around and stepped on by the sheep. We realized that we had to separate him somehow.
Thankfully Lori’s husband Ken (Lori is our treasurer), who built the sheep pen, chicken coop and a myriad of other things at the ranch, stepped in to help build Darren a separate pen inside of the sheep pen. This would keep Darren safe from the sheep, and the volunteers safe from Darren. We could let Darren out and he could run around in the sheep pen, or, if no volunteers were out, he could run around the property. Even so, he would still try to attack the volunteers through the wire mesh of his pen. He was a fighter.
We don’t want to say that Darren had no love or kindness in his life- while he would attack the volunteers, Elizabeth would pick him up and carry him around. He didn’t care for it much, but he tolerated her kindness with equanimity. He would sometimes “accidentally” threaten to attack her, and her response was to pick him up and carry him around for a while. He usually would think better of his actions when she was around.
RIP Feisty Boy
And so Darren lived with us for almost 13 years, a force of nature and a legend that emoted terror. We think he would appreciate knowing that people would cower in fear at the mention of his name.
Jocelyn, our Vice President wrote a fitting eulogy, “He was an exceptional and worthy adversary in the octagon (the sheep pen), the last holdout of the early Bewitched crew, and we had the same angry outlook on life… I did get to pet him once or twice when E was holding him and it was dangerous and magical at the same time. RIP feisty boy.”
Darren is buried between Clara the hen and Philip the sheep. He doesn’t have a tombstone, but we planted some spiky succulents on his grave to represent his beautiful but prickly nature.