Last Friday we had to put down Tom Petty, our first rooster. I’m granting him the title of “rooster” even though he never became a grown-up: he never crowed, mated, or dominated. It is kindness to award him the rank of “cock of the walk” posthumously.
Tom Petty was a Swedish flower rooster hatched this spring. He had just begun to develop his adult rooster features. About two weeks ago I noticed him stumble when he came out of the coop one morning. That evening he wasn’t perched on the roost with the ladies so I set him in a lay box for the night. Same story the next day so I decided to bring him into the chicken hospital: a small pen in the basement where we can isolate sick or injured chickens.
He seemed okay at first and the internet provided a few ideas as to what might be ailing him, since he seemed to be losing coordination. We had hoped it was a B12 deficiency and fed him supplements, but within a few days he got worse: unable to stand and falling over when he tried. Eventually he could not get up at all and lay sprawled on the straw. It was then that his droppings started to look like banana taffy, that is, bright yellow, sticky, and extruded looking. This allowed us to make a final diagnosis of blackhead, clinically known as histomoniasis.
Blackhead is a parasite he likely ate that gestated within him. It is more common in turkeys, but chickens and other poultry can get it. The medicine is harmful to humans, and because it is usually given to turkeys, which get eaten, it has been removed from the market to protect human consumers. Unfortunately for Tom, whom we did not plan to eat, we couldn’t treat him.
Tom is survived by his sister, Judy Garland (pictured), as well as his aunts Prince, Janice Joplin, Mitch “Midge” Hedberg, Carrie Fischer, and Phillip “Philly” Seymour Hoffman.