Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Quality of Mercy is Somewhat Strained


When I announced that we were getting chickens this year, a lot of people asked me if I thought I'd be able to do the butchering myself.

Apparently I can.

But I don't like it.

This poor bird was so sick, laying there with its head in the dirt... Yesterday at least it looked around every now and then. Today it was nearly comatose, and was having so much trouble breathing. It's been a very cold, and recently wet, spring. I think it was pneumonia.

So I got the axe. And after apologizing profusely, I dispatched it.

I don't want to talk about that part anymore.

You know, there I was apologizing to this animal, and I think it bothered me more that I'd called it into being on my farm and its life went for nothing, than the killing itself. It died because I'm inept at raising chickens, not because it was ready for the next stage, sustaining my life.

But I felt worse just watching it die slowly. When I killed it, I suffered a bit, but it didn't. And I think that's the important thing. I think. It's all got me a bit flustered.

Then a couple hours later I heard this horrible little skreeing from the area of the back porch. I opened the door, and there was the kitten with a mouthful of struggling baby chickadee. Mercy. I shut the door again.

Wherever I look, there's the Janus-face of life and death.

8 comments:

e4 said...

I think it's too early to blame ineptitude. Chickens are just fragile, especially the first year. Some are, well, fitter than others.

arcolaura said...

Ah... endings... regret of beginnings... wondering what is merciful... yes.

Seems to be gopher suicide season on the roads. I hadn't hit one for years, and now two in a couple of weeks. Somebody was joking about what it means to swerve "for" a gopher...

CONSTANTINE said...

Ah...my friend...very poignant post. Embracing the mystery of life with its point and counter point can be gut wrenching at times.

CG said...

chickens die. I generally expect to lose 20% to something. The trick when they are injured and sick, and I'm sure you know this from Salatin's stuff, is to get them out of the pecking order and to somewhere protected where they don't have to compete for food and water. Then they decide whether they live or die.

now, having said the practical stuff, it IS amazing, isn't it, the life/death dance? And our part in it.

Madcap said...

e4 - Thanks for the perspective. I feel like I'm doing my damndest and that should be enough to work miracles... but it isn't. Or maybe the miracle is any of them survive at all?!

A'Laura - Mercy is very situational, isn't it? People, chickens, gophers. Not so much gophers though. They are the WORST nuisances; thank goodness for my gopher-hungry cat.

Constantine - Yes. I wish my guts weren't so easily wrenched, because it's so hard on the heart to have the rest of the viscera lurching around like that.

CG - We've lost close to 30% at this point, but we've also had a very cold, and now wet and windy, spring/summer. Something I've noticed, and it's a pleasant surprise in all this, is that we haven't had any pecking problems at all. Even the sick ones are left alone. My back-up plan was to put them back in the brooder pen in that case, but I haven't needed to. Or I didn't notice that I needed to, at any rate.

I haven't got the hang of this dance yet, but I'll keep trying. Part of me wants to get out of this chickening altogether, but the tougher part just wants to do it better.

My confirmation word is "whormick". Sounds very rooood, without actually being it.

jules said...

My cats and I have an agreement: If you bring it to me dead, you get to keep it. If you bring it to me still alive, I get it back.

Sorry about the chicken but glad you dispatched of it properly.

Madcap said...

Hi Jules,

I should talk to my cat about this! Usually she doesn't bring it live, but currently she's trying to teach her kitten to hunt, so I think that's why they're still kicking.

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