Aug 2012 Throwback –
We had a plan. Hewey & Dewey tortured & tormented my chickens. They especially “loved” in their nasty style, my beloved Barred Rock, Cruella & Black Star, Ursula. These poor ladies had become bald & traumatized by these two brutal rapist assholes. These sneaky little bastards knew when I yelled their name to stop all attempts & run or face solitary confinement once again.
Now we are a small homestead, I do not believe in confining my animals in small cages, I want them all to live as freely and eat as naturally as possible. If these ducks can not live in peace with my beloved chickens, well then, they had to go. The decision is made. My hubby & I discuss the date of Hewey & Deweys execution. We had a plan.
I knew that we started our beautiful homestead to have fresh meat from our chickens sooner or later. The more I fell in love with these ladies, the more I had decided on much later. I knew the day would come that I would have to do it. I knew if I had a plan, that I could do it. I set a date at the end of fall to butcher our first chickens so as I would have 2 whole seasons to drill this into my head, mentally prepare & accept this idea. I would be ready. Well, one thing I have realized is when you have a plan, mother nature, fate, what have you, decides to shake or twist things up a bit.
So back to Dewey the dickhead duck. We decide, tomorrow is the day. We make sure we have all supplies ready, I refresh via books, notes & of course, YouTube. I am relieved I will self teach via culling a much deserved (in my mind) death of two ducks whom I have no emotional attachment.
Here’s the twist. So that evening, I go to the chicken coop to “tuck in” my ladies & for the first time ever my headcount shows that I am missing one! Panicked, I recount over & over. My Silver Lace, Alice is MIA. Flashlight in hand I search the yard, over & over. All favorite hiding places, nothing, no sign. After a long search, we go to bed hoping that she will be at the back door in the morning. She wasn’t. I was confused and sad, missing a beloved chicken on D-Day for DickDucks. I start my AM animal rounds which begin with feeding my dogs first before letting the ladies out to free range. The dogs & I have always had a hard time fending off all birds from the dog food. These poor dogs put up with so much & have been harmoniously living side by side with the chickens & ducks, no problem but of course, they get cranky around meal time.
So, the dogs are eating slowly as I enjoy my coffee and envision a smooth Duck Death Day. I have a lot to do & its going to get hot. I see the dogs are almost done so I head to the coop to release the happy hens. Like a stampede they race out to grab the leftover dog food. Gross. This had been our daily ritual for some time but today I jumped the gun and all hell broke loose. The hens are out. I head for the pullets to check food & water, I hear a bit of commotion with the dogs chasing off the hens, normal sounding stuff. About this time, my mastiff comes to me, insistently staring at me then at an overturned bucket. I ask her what she is trying to tell me and kind of nervously pick up the bucket. Under it is Alice, the missing hen! I swoop her up to give her a hug and ask her how the hell she managed to spend the night under a bucket. She didn’t answer, I think she was hungry. I thank my mastiff, Naboo & realize my hubby has been yelling for me. Silver Lace in tow, I excitedly yell my happiness to him as I stroll towards the house. I see in his face, something is wrong. He tells me to put the chicken down and come over.
My happiness was short lived for as I walk around the corner I see my sweet, fat faced, Americana, Cinderella, laying on the porch barely breathing. I am mortified. I pick her up and apologize over and over as I knew my hurry to get everyone fed led to her getting in the way of the dogs and their food. I hear her gurgles as blood spills from her beak and I tell Mr. Bad Baxter to get the butcher knife. She needed to be out of pain. As he is trying to get set up, I feel she is suffering, through my tears I see a zip tie on the ground and pick it up. I zipped her feet, hung her on a tree nail and before my husband even knew it, I had quickly dispatched my poor chicken. I was traumatized. I sat there crying while he finished setting up and we then quietly and sadly cleaned our first chicken for the freezer.
I should have kept going and did the two deserving ducks as well but I was emotionally drained from the whole experience. That day I lost a chicken, found a chicken, then lost another and so the dickhead ducks lived to see another day. They lived on ruining the happy foraging of my hens. I knew that it was going to be difficult to do that first feathered friend but I was not prepared that day. I blame myself but also learned that when it needs to be done, I can do it.
I have toughened up a lot since that first experience and I’m also happy to announce those ducks did meet their demise. We also now have Anconas who we love and manage more properly. We have butchered hundreds of chickens and though we are not in tears we still take it seriously and thank them for the food they provide. I also take much comfort in knowing they have lived a wonderful, spoiled chicken life on our farm. It does get easier, it should never be thoughtless or inhumane. Some people don’t understand how we can butcher our own meats. I don’t understand how they can blindly purchase meats from the grocery store when those animals never got to live real animal lives, or even eat real foods. We don’t want that for them as living creatures, nor would we put that low quality food into our body. We can all do better, try harder and just continue to learn.