Bill the Cross-Beaked Bantam, May '07-July '08 It is with a heavy heart that I write this tribute in memory of a great little rooster. His name was Bill, which was short for Cross-Bill, because he developed a crossed beak when he was about 3-4 weeks old. He was hatched at home, a hearty mutt mix which probably contributed to his long life despite his impairment. I asked for advice on several forums about this condition and was told I might have to cull him since it couldn't be remedied and it would inhibit his ability to eat. Some even said it would be cruel NOT to cull him, since he would just slowly starve to death. However, Bill posessed a certain spark, a spunkiness, a whole lot of pluck and determination. I decided to wait to see how he would do, ready to step in and cull if ever I saw he was in decline or distress. Though his beak grew more twisted, Bill kept up with his nest-mates. He devised ways to eat and drink, pushing his face right into the dishes. He grew & developed slower than the others, but eventually reached maturity. He had a cream & tan colored body & a metallic green tail. I had to keep his lower beak trimmed, dust him more frequently for mites, and occasionally give him a bath. His bent beak kept him from properly grooming himself. My boys grew to love Bill because he was more approachable than the other chickens. Most of that attribute was due to the fact that he was often hungry, and knew that we were a good source of food & treats. Bill was always nearby whenever you'd go out in the yard, and the boys liked that. They were always picking him up and carrying him around. Sometimes Bill would be a pest, hopping right into the feed bins & bags when you'd open them to fill the feeders. But apparantly Bill was getting enough sustenance to keep him energized, he was a busy & lively little guy. Last summer our family went away on vacation for 10 days while another friend came to feed & tend our chickens. We got a special welcome from Bill when we returned. Our flight brought us home at sunrise, and when we pulled into the driveway little Bill came running around the corner of the house into the front yard to greet us! He had never done that before or ever after, and was the only chicken in our flock to welcome us home that way. Bill was entered into our local Poultry Club's in-house chicken show last October and won the trophy for Ugliest Chicken. The judge was a local veterinarian and a long-time chicken keeper himself. He admired Bill for his pluck and wanted to honor him somehow. It was a very proud moment for Bill and his family to see him there on Champion Row with all the other trophy winners. Bill also had a large following in the rest of our flock. His never-ending quest for food motivated him to fly up into the wild-bird feeders, wide plastic plant saucers attatched to the tops of 6' posts and filled with bird seed. He would scratch & peck in the tray of seed and scatter much of it to the ground below. There would always be a crowd of other chickens at the foot of the post, clucking encouragement to Bill and eating up the fallen seed. To me it looked like Bill was a rock star up on stage performing to the raving admiration of his many fans below. Bill! Bill! Bill! We love you Bill! Bill seemed fine even just last week. I was constructing a new pen for the ducks and picked up Bill to impress his footprints into the wet cement around one of the fence posts, and didn't notice anything amiss. But a few days later my middle son was holding Bill and told me he thought Bill felt lighter, and looked a bit weak. We gave his beak a fresh trim, re-dusted him for mites, and made him a special meal, chick starter made into mush with water and lots of goodies & vitamins added. Bill ate with enthusiasm, which gave me hope. But it was becoming more apparant that little Bill was on the decline, and that his reserves were giving out. He lasted just a few more days, but still with courage & dignity. He never showed discomfort or distress, but moved slowly about the yard, visiting all the gardens he knew. By his last night he felt light as a feather. I put him in a straw-lined planter in the coop in the company of his flock, since he seemed too weak to hold onto the roost. We all stroked him gently and told him how much we loved him, and what a good, good boy he was. He never woke up this morning. I buried him at the foot of the post holding the bird feeder where he used to perform for his admiring fans. Bill was just a little mongrel bantam rooster with a severe physical deformity. He wasn't much to look at, lacked the strength to protect the hens, was unfit for breeding, unqualified for showing, and not even worth the effort to process for the table. But he had an enormous amount to teach my family and me about fortitude, and courage, and purpose, and destiny.