Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chicken Little

We lost our first chicken today.

We got a new batch last week that had been living at the home of a friend, so they were two weeks old when they arrived at our house. Everything seemed to be going well until Jay noticed today that one was missing. It seems that it had been trampled by the others and was laying under a pile of wood chips. Jay put him in his own tub by himself and helped him eat and drink, but things didn't look good. He was a lot smaller than the others and obviously weaker, almost like he suffered from the chicken version of Failure to Thrive.

By this evening he had died. I'm surprised that I feel so sad, but I kept thinking that his mother would know what to do. That's what you get for having mommy hormones racing around like crazy.

On the other hand, the first batch is now living outside and getting gnarlier by the day. That should make it a little easier when harvest day comes around.


Kat E said...

Aw, sorry to hear about that. I'm sad for you :(

You need to post some pics of the remaining "gnarly" ones...

HP said...

So, are you really going to eat them? Or just harvest their eggs?

Mary Beth said...

Right now we definitely plan to eat the boys (all except one) and use the girls for eggs.

HP said...

You are a braver woman than I am. I saw way too many chicken be-headings in Nicaragua to stomach killing my dinner.

I actually have become more committed to vegetarian eating. I gave it up after 15 years when I met J-Man and re-dsicovered the joy of hamburgers. But now, after years of eating meat, I'm beginning to get turned off again for a variety of reasons.

I suppose eating your own humanely raised and killed chickens is vastly better than purchasing the meat from somewhere else...but the sqauking and squirming...oh, I couldn't do it.

You go girl.

Mary Beth said...

That's kind of where we are...not ready to give up meat (we did that when we lived in California), so we're going to eat happy meat raised in our own backyard and killed as humanely as possible by us.

As far as beef, next fall we're going to by a side of pasture-fed, humanely-slaughtered beef from a local farmer.

We may have to give up fish unless it's Tennessee River catfish...and I don't think too much of that is a really good idea.

Kel Bel said...

Aw, I would be sad about the chicken too.

Does this mean you are giving up the yummy hot dogs from the Amish farmers market?

martha said...

I've been thinking about this a lot. It seems to me that the world that we were raised in, where meat comes from plastic packages, is messed up in many ways. A side effect, though, is that our natural inclincation is to see our place in the animal world primarily as caregivers, rather than placing ourselves in the food chain. That has its own messed up-ness, certainly, but it's always good to be able to love something for what it is, rather than care about it for what it can do for you (feed you, in this case).

I guess what I mean is that, even though everything that book says is true, don't judge yourself for wanting to be the chickens' mommy. It's just as valid an outlook to have. If you can't force yourself to be emotionally okay with chicken slaughter, it doesn't mean you've failed to have the proper view of chickens. It just means that the emotional power of the way you've always looked at tiny, fuzzy things is really strong.

Jay said...

Martha - your comments are very insightful.

I perceive myself first and foremost as a caregiver. In stark contrast to the tender loving neglect our garden received, I want to do everything I possibly can for our chickens so that they grow up being the most chicken-y chickens they possibly can. I want them to be able to roost comfortably, safe from predators, to chase bugs in the sunshine, to scratch around and eat anything they want to, and to be as healthy as they can be. Seeing happy, chicken-y chickens gives me a small amount of peace as a food chain participant. I want to serve our chickens as well as I can before I demand they serve me at my table. That's the only way I can imagine being able to look them in their beady-blue eyes when I take their lives. (HP- we'll use a killing cone, so hopefully no squawking and thrashing.)

Chicken Little was born, ultimately to die by our hands. But it shouldn't have been like this. I should have noticed he was the one always napping. I should have noticed he wasn't growing. I should have looked closer to see he didn't have as many feathers as the others. I'm sad because he should have had a better life, and my mistakes prevented that. Now the best thing left for me to do is learn from the experience.

Mary Beth said...

Martha--I think what I hear you saying is that in our prevailing culture we related to animals in one of two ways: either we buy their parts in plastic packages at Kroger or we keep them as pets. We really haven't learned a middle way, which is to see ourselves as part of the food chain.

I think that I'll be okay with harvesting the chickens when that time comes. It's just hard to see something so helpless die. Those crotchety, goofy things in the backyard are a different story. Maybe it's evolution's way of making sure that humans will take care of helpless things (making them fuzzy and cute) but make humans feel that it's OK to kill them later (by making them decidedly NOT cute).

I like what you said about loving something for what it is. It's a hopeful thought for all of us.

Kel Bel--Mmmmm, hot dogs from the butcher. I don't know. Maybe they're locally grown? In that case, I wouldn't have to feel guilty about enjoying them as much as I do.

martha said...

I read that article on the cnn website about Charles Schultz' biography, and his biographer said " ... The thing that 'Peanuts' taught us is that contradiction and ambiguity is as much a part of life as sweetness and happiness..."

So, in honor of Charlie Brown, Jay, remember that one part of having a chicken-y chicken life is getting pecked to death by your siblings.

Mom said...

Let it be known to friends of Mary Beth that today is her birthday. Happy Birthday!

martha said...

Happeeee Birthdaeeeeee!

anna said...

Happy Birthday!

and I totally agree that loving a cute little chick does grow into just maintaining the livelihood of an egg and meat producing entity. But they do grow a great personality that is really fun to watch. Sometimes David and I would just sit and watch them for hours.