Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Chicken Killing Cone

This week we got a package in the mail. It was one that we ordered. Did we really? Yes, indeed we did. I can't believe I ordered this thing on Amazon and actually shelled out the money for it. It's not that it was that expensive, it's just the nature of the item, more specifically, what it is used for. You see, we have intent. Our intent is to raise chickens for egg production, nitrogenous chicken poop, and down the line...for consumption after their laying life has waned.

But how does one reconcile intent with action? In this case, our intent to provide for ourselves and live a sustainable lifestyle runs smack up against a belief that all life is deserving of respect. In other words, I don't' think I am there yet...there being the act of using this killing cone. I know I know...we homo sapiens (puts us more on an animal level saying it that way) have been outfitted to eat meat: we have enzymes in our belly to digest it and teeth made to chew it. All useful underpinnings in my heady justification for my meat-eating ways. But to be so close to the harvest of meat has created some really heavy internal dialog. Taking the life of a little creature that I have named and have enjoyed watching run around my yard for two's just not something that I have been prepared for.

Several weeks ago, we had to take the life of one of our chickens that was sick and didn't get better after more than a month of trying. Trying translates into moving her indoors and having her share our house with us, forcing medicated water down her throat three times a day, holding and talking to her and having her become really comfortable as a lap chicken, rejoicing in signs that she was feeling better (like having the gumption to run away from us after we gave her a few hours of unfettered access to pasture), then saddened by the stark realization that she wasn't going to recover fully. We chopped her head off. Well, we is the proverbial sense, I was at work and got the moribund text just before and just after the difficult deed. Are we really gonna do this when our ladies are fit and happy?

Damn, nobody warned us about the other side of this equation. Even all the justification that I've heard from others haven't made this feel right. Like, for instance, the fact that our chickens are one of the most spoiled beings on the planet and in fact run our dogs out of the yard on occasion. The have a huge yard, all the food and cool clean water and, as Michael Pollan would put it, the opportunity to life out their full chicken-ness. I think it's easier to hunt and kill an animal that didn't exist side-by-side with you for several years. And to think that I scoffed at the craigslist add looking for a home for hens whose best laying days were behind them...a "no-kill" home, that is.

Vegetarianism is looking better and better.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Suburban Homestead Expansion

The old suburban homestead is expanding, hopefully not to suffer too many growing pangs, or copyright infringements as nobody I know has sought ownership of the words "suburban homestead" as the Dervaes Institute has over the words "Urban Homestead" (see Electronic Frontier Foundation's fight against the co-opting of this all too common phrase @

Our little plot of land is richer by 12 baby chicks that now include 4 Cuckoo Marans, prized for their dark chocolate colored eggs. I'd like to have some Black Copper Marans, but they are rare and that's for another chick season. Meanwhile new coop construction is taking place on the south 40 to house the new additions as we're not ready to cull any of our current flock.

We've also just adopted two kids, baby Nigerian Dwarf kids that is... they will someday supply us with milk. They are still with mom and won't come home for 8-10 weeks which will give us time to concoct some sort of shelter for them as well.  We visited them today and were charmed by their playful antics as they climbed up on everything in sight, including one of the mother goats,  jumping off and kicking up their heels with a carefree exuberance. They are the picture of bliss.

Meanwhile, the rare sight of snow last Friday delighted us, particularly since it neither lasted all that long nor posed a transportation hazard. It was the celebration of bringing home our last set of chicks. It is spring which means everything is popping, and there is much to do...if only the weather would cooperate.