Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 20, 2010

R.I.P. Mysterio

Last spring, we sent away for a box of unsorted heritage breed chicks from a supplier in Ohio. We had decided on Wyandotte chickens. They are considered good enough layers, and the males are suitable for eating when they get to be that awkward age. Our supplier sent a ‘mystery’ chick along with the Wyandottes.

We didn’t have to wonder for long as to which of the chicks was not like the other ones. Aside from his different coloring, the other chicks put him near or at the bottom of the flock’s pecking order. He was smaller than most of the other chicks–noticeably so within days of their arrival. He had a big patch of lighter feathers where the other chicks were solidly mottled in grays and browns. Oddly, he was braver than the other chicks as well.

We took to calling him ‘Mysterio”. He and our farm manager bonded. When the farm manager went out to make adjustments to the chick brooder, Mysterio would climb, sidle and hop along on his shoulders, back and head. Maybe he felt safer there from the other chicks. Maybe he liked the view. Maybe he was enjoying all that mammalian body heat.

When the chickens were introduced to the great outdoors, in the form of a trip into the backyard under their first chicken tractor (a wooden frame open to the ground on the bottom covered in chicken wire), Mysterio was the first chick to attempt scratching at the dirt beneath his claws. He was also the first chick to try out a live bug snack. The other chickens, in the way of this species, followed his example until their learning curve caught up with his–then they spurned him all over again.

As the roosters came into their maturity, the flock’s attentions to Mysterio became more hostile. A gang of roosters would take turns: some of them eating whilst the others prevented him from getting at the food. We took to feeding him separately, and standing guard over the process so that the toughs in the flock didn’t have an opportunity to do their worst. He began putting on more weight and becoming more vocal.

When the other roosters went off to ‘Summer Camp’ on the third of July, we decided to keep Mysterio. It took him only one day to realize that he was now in charge of his very own flock of chickens. Perhaps he even overcompensated for his promotion through the ranks. He frequently attacked me, occasionally the WWOOFers, and as necessary Buck when it seemed like Buck might have warm intentions towards any of the chickens in Mysterio’s care.

Mysterio’s bravery and commitment to keeping his flock safe was never more evident than when he took on the marauding bird dog in mid-November. He sustained grievous injuries, from which he was still healing–the feathers he had lost at the back were just beginning to regrow, and Mysterio’s limp was less pronounced only in the last week.

We weren’t here to see what broke his back and paralyzed his legs. Our WWOOFers were out tending the pigs when we think the incident occurred. As none of the other birds was harmed, we believe the attacker to have been a hawk. There are several which monitor our farm regularly.

We will miss our brave, noisy, cocky rooster. He had panache, and a vivid sense of responsibility towards his flock. We will likely get another rooster when we bring in another batch of chickens in the spring, but there will never be another bird quite like him on this farm.



  1. Carrie, this is a beautiful post – thank you for sharing Mysterio’s story with us. This post and the one on permaculture made me think, again, how closely life and death are intertwined and how those who make their livings on farms understand this in a way that the rest of us urban folk don’t.

    • Thank you, Lisa. I’m glad these words serve some useful end–however slight.

  2. Thanks for that overview. A lovely biography on a short, brave life.

    (Though Paul nearly split a gut at “Summer Camp”…)

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