The thing about chicks is they grow up. (Guess the same could be said about having babies or puppies or kittens) They don’t stay tiny and cute and manageable for long. Soon they are big and awkward and making all kinds of noise. Our seven little chicks that hatched out last Memorial Day are now chickens. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except some of them, or at least one of them, is a rooster. I know this for certain because of the crowing. It’s time to put the new hens in with all the old hens, but what to do with the rooster? Surely if I toss little rooster-boy (he actually has a name the kids have given him, but I can’t ever keep them straight) in with the big roosters, I could get sited for cock-fighting. Although, I have no spare affection to shower on any rooster, and the extra cash from side bets might help me buy the new breadmaker I need, I really can’t bring myself to do that.
Instead, I’m investigating butchers. As much as I like to think I’m a farm girl and for as much as I can handle the realities of the animal kingdom, I can’t quite bring myself to take a life. I have no problem with taking the little crowing, strutting life to someone else for the killing, but I just can’t do it myself. So I’ve been making some inquiries. The butchers say, “Oh, it’s easy, you can do it.” I’ve had two very nice gentlemen carefully explain exactly what I need to do. Simple, kill ‘em, drain em’, pull the insides out (ew), boil ‘em, and the feathers come right off. Simple. Uh huh.
I need a farmer friend to volunteer his services. Another neighbor suggested I just take the rooster up in the woods away from the house and turn him loose for the foxes. This also seems cruel and irresponsible. What if the rooster finds his way to one of the nice 4 bedroom-2 ½ bath colonials nearby filled with pleasant people recently transplanted from the city? Will they trace it back to me? Is there a law against rooster-abandonment?
As I write this I can hear the little boy rooster crowing away and for every effort he makes, the big rooster yells back even louder. They’ve got a real call and response going, only I don’t think the message is anything like what you’d hear in church.
I’m giving myself until next weekend to make a decision. Then I’m going to put on my big-girl panties and take care of this situation. My ancestors did this. And really, all of us who eat meat should be able to do this. We’re hypocrites if we can’t, right?
First, I have to determine how many roosters I really have. Determining chicken sex is not as simple as you might think. There are two other young chickens in with rooster-boy who look suspicious. They have longer tail feathers and small attitudes. But they haven’t let loose with a crow yet. I don’t know if they’re intimidated by the guy already doing all that crowing, or if they haven’t figured it out yet, or if maybe (hopefully) they’re actually hens in rooster drag. I do want to be certain who I’m killing before I start killing.
Next spring when my hens start all their brooding nonsense, I promise I won’t be such a softy. There is no reason they need to hatch chicks. The Achterberg farm is a small China in reverse – only one male allowed in the chicken pen. The rest, well, the rest are going to be eliminated by someone. Maybe me. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I welcome your chicken butchering suggestions and assistance. Free To A Good, oh heck, ANY Home: One rooster.
If you are what you eat, and you don't know what you're eating, do you know who you are? --Unknown
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Crash Patrols the Chicken Pen
In an effort to deter the hawks who were making off with our hens in alarming numbers, we strung up the chicken pen with wire and hanging plastic. Not only does it work, but it gives the pen a certain party atmosphere!
What I'm Reading and Loving
Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale
Magical Journey by Katrina Kenison
What to Eat by Marion Nestle
My Year of Meats by Ruth L Ozeki
Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
A Householder's Guide to the Universe by Harriet Fasenfest
Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman
Food Rules by Michael Pollan
Second Nature by Michael Pollan
Coop: A Family, A Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg by Michael Perry
I'm a reluctantly busy mother of three children, one large partially educated horse, 22 chickens, 2 cats, 2 hound dogs, and assorted small animals that live in aquariums. I am blessed with an incredibly patient husband who is almost always a good sport. We live on 6 acres on a hill side in South Central Pennsylvania. I'm a compulsive writer, constant thinker, and passionate believer in organic living. As a freelance writer always looking for work, I welcome your suggestions, connections, and sympathy!