Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stars, Bars and What Ever Became of...

Wow, just 367 days since my last post. I'm on a roll for sure! I thought maybe, just maybe, I'd give this another go. I do miss having a log of "what's happening" here on the homestead. We try keeping an actual pen and paper journal to note items of significance but even that hasn't been updated since June. I felt like I spent far too much time trying to write about what I actually needed to be doing. My niece turned me on to PicMonkey.com and that may make this whole thing a lot easier.

So here's today's post:

What ever became of that chicken in the crockpot? I'm sorry to report that none of the other eggs ever did hatch. However, the one chick we got lived for a time in a cat carrier in the laundry room. Then she graduated to a dog kennel in the chicken coop. Until finally the day came when she was big enough to hold her own and make her way into the flock pecking order.

Here she is this morning sitting in a nest box. I'm wondering if she's gone broody since she still seems to be sitting there this afternoon.

She's a beautiful bird. We don't know her provenance although I have a guess. There is one hen with a black body and gold head. And of course her paternity is pretty sure since there's only Cogburn roostering around here now. I don't like to name my chickens because I become too attached to them. I like to cycle through a few choice chicken names that I use as they come to mind on whatever chicken I may be addressing. But we often referred specifically to this bird since she was the "new chicken". In fact, I guess you could say that for a long time her name was "New Chicken". That got to be a bit much and I changed it to "NC". That one change put me on a slippery slope and soon she became "Nancy".

I don't think I could have avoided getting attached to her, though. She walked around my desk while I worked when she was just a chick. She's the one who squeezes through the fence to come see us in the front yard when they are out free-ranging. She's the nosiest, most curious, and often off-doing-her-own-thing chicken in the flock. She makes herself stand out. I'm pretty convinced it's because of her unconventional upbringing.

And why don't I like to name my chickens?

This is why...

"What's so wrong with that?" you might ask.

What's so wrong with all this fluffy cuteness? These are the stars and bars... one day old Red Stars and Barred Rocks.

 What's wrong is that these are my new laying flock. New suggests that there must be an "old" laying flock. And there is. And since I don't run a retirement village for chickens here, that also means they will soon be the "late" flock. Also known as "chicken and biscuits" or "chicken soup".

It's life and death here on the homestead. I invest a lot of myself into my layers. I treat them with kindness, tenderness and give them the best care I can. I like to see them happy. I like to see them running around the yard enjoying the day. Or cozy in a warm coop on a cold day. I make them flock blocks in the winter to relieve their boredom. I hurry vegetable peels and cuttings out to them to see them get excited. When they are injured I nurse their wounds. I protect them from predators and weather. I tramp out to the coop before sunrise through the dew and damp to open them up to their yard. I head back out at nightfall to tuck them in. I scrub gross waterers and shovel soiled bedding and clean nest boxes. None of it glamorous. I get a lot of joy out of happy chickens. But I always know that eventually, when they lay so few eggs that I can't justify the expense of feed with little to show for it, they will move to the freezer and from there to the dinner table.

It's very, very hard. I've been steeling myself for butchering day for a couple of weeks. We do the deed this weekend. And yet I also take satisfaction in knowing that they have had as good a life as I could give them. They have lived a life without want, with room to move and flap and chase and explore, with little stress and lots of fresh air. I'm going to eat chicken. As, likely, most folks reading this will. I figure I have two choices:

1. Anesthetize myself to the suffering that goes on in commercial meat production. Think about it as little as possible and just grab some plastic wrapped chicken from the meat case, think about my recipe and not what life the chicken had, think about putting a nice meal on the table and not about what kind of diet that meat had during its life. I could go on but my point is not to insult or make anyone feel bad. It's just that I can't do that anymore. I think especially not since we've been raising our own meat.

2. Get my meat wrapped in feathers and fur. Love it, give it back scratches, worry about whether it is comfortable in the heat/cold/rain/wind, and then humanely and quickly dispatch it and waste nothing that can be used.

I'm pretty certain that if I could no long raise my own meat or find a source of locally raised meat that I trusted, I would become a vegetarian out of necessity.

Wow, didn't mean to get long winded or depressing. Just something that I've come to know is now a part of who I am. And I get to have lots of fun and excitement along the way. Try doing that with a leaky package of drumsticks.

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