Monday, September 20, 2010

Chicken Situations

We have been keeping chickens for many years now, for the eggs. One of the dilemmas is what to do with an old chicken that no longer lays eggs, but our solution to that has been to just keep them and give them a nice comfortable old age if we can. It's only come up once, as local raccoon predation has killed off all of our other chickens before they reached old age.

But we've recently had a new problem when one of our chickens started eating eggs, her own and everyone else's as well. We weren't getting any eggs at all. I went through a problem-solving process to see what we getting the eggs, and once I realized it was one of the chickens, I just started pulling them out of the coop one by one and seeing what happened. We identified the culprit, and were very happy to have our fresh eggs again, but then we had a chicken just running loose in our backyard (we don't have a second coop anymore since I recycled it's lumber into a raised garden bed). It might have been OK with us to have a loose chicken, except that she liked to hang out on our back porch and in the kids' tree house, pooping copiously, and generally making the whole place foul (pun intended). It also occurred to us that she was unlikely to survive the winter by herself with no shelter or protection from predators, yet we didn't want to invest more resources or precious backyard space for her.

If we are going to have an urban homestead, we'll have to be a bit tougher, like our great grandparents were. My grandmother would have wrung that chicken's neck in a heartbeat, no debate about it. We had to debate it. We talked as a family, and we didn't do anything until we were all agreed, even both of the kids. Carbon cried, and wanted us to "sell her to someone else who will kill her", but that just gave us a wonderful opportunity for talking about personal responsibility and shared responsibility, such as how we are still morally responsible for the death of animals when we buy meat.

Yesterday my dear husband took care of the chicken for us while the rest of the family was at church. He had helped with chicken slaughters before with my mom, so he felt up to it. He even cleaned and plucked it, so it's all wrapped up and ready to cook in the fridge. We respectfully buried the head in the little corner of our yard that has become a "chicken cemetery" with the other chickens we have lost. We wished her a good return to the cycle of life and matter, and tonight I'll cook the meat and we'll acknowledge it all over again.

Keeping chickens is not without "its dark side" as my minister commented. We are brought into relationship with life and death and the food cycle in a whole different way.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, isn't it amazing how God knows what has been laid upon our heart and finds ways to speak to us! We have been struggling with this same situation. Thank you for sharing.