The lab results are in, and it appears my rooster died from lymphoid leukosis, a once-common poultry retro-virus. He probably contracted it at conception from his mother. It can spread to other chickens through contact, though that’s rare. I will have to watch the others, though. Unfortunately, the exterior symptoms are subtle to non-existant, and the disease is untreatable. Most chickens fight off the virus, but those that lose the fight always die with tumors in the liver and other organs.
I notified the hatchery, and they’re looking in to the problem on their end. The chicks were vacinated for Marek’s disease, a more prevalent and nasty virus, but not for lymphoid leukosis.
Meanwhile, much like amphibians, my number one hen has switched sides to become my new rooster. Yes, I thought that was odd, too. Penny is my favorite hen. She was always by my side in the garden, eating the grubs and bugs I found for her. She’d let me hold her with hardly a stuggle. She and the rooster were childhood best friends, but when the rooster matured, he preferred the company of the early-maturing white hen to Penny. A couple weeks ago, the rooster was crowing mightily in the yard and I heard a tiny, whispered echo crow. Several times. I looked around, and there was Penny, mimicing the rooster. He’d flap his wings, puff up his chest, and let one rip. She’d flap her wings, ruffle her feathers, and in the faintest possible voice she’d cockle-doodle-doo. I thought it was pretty cute, but it made me wonder. Was she mimicing, or was she an extremely slow developer? Once the rooster died, though, everything changed. Her comb tripled in size in just a couple days. Already the largest bird, she filled out even more. Her crows changed from a whisper to a yell. And now she’s mating with the other hens. So now… she’s our rooster. Penny — short for Pendleton?