I’ve been meaning to take a minute to write about the chickens.
It’s just that I don’t exactly know what to say.
In the winter, my amazing friend Paula wondered if we might want to invest in a small flock of meat-birds she was preparing to raise on her family’s farm. The plan was that we’d come out and help with some of the care and feeding, and then eventually help with the slaughter. We wanted in. Of course I was nervous about the slaughter part.
So then spring came and her little peeps arrived. She moved them out to her barn, and Z. & I went out to visit. We met the meat-birds, who Paula got me in the habit of calling “lummoxes” as they’re bred for quick growth, big size, and not especially for smarts. (You chicken-knowers may detect some ornamentals in the bunch. Don’t worry – they’re being raised to show at the fair this year, not for meat.)
We helped fill their water and mix in the oyster shell with grain, helped shoo the layers where they were supposed to go.
And then I went out one more time and did some more of the same; of course Paula’s been going out every day. And now all of a sudden tomorrow is chicken slaughter day. We’re not doing it ourselves, but are instead packing up the birds and caravaning to Morrisville where there’s a butcher who will slaughter, dress and pack the birds for us. We go back a few hours later and pick them up, all ready to go into the freezer.
I’ve talked to the boys extensively about this venture, about how animals should be treated well even if they’re going to be eaten. How we as a family try to make sure that the animals we eat had good lives and were treated well, and that getting to know our food is part of that.
I would have thought that Z., who is younger and so very sweet, would have been especially traumatized. But it’s his brother who’s taking it hard, refusing to go along for the trip. And who has announced that he won’t even look at the birds if he has to be in the car with them. I think Z. is okay because he knows we’ll be going to Applecheek Farm and Bee’s Knees and he probably suspects there will be juice boxes and treats involved. He’s definitely right.
I’m looking at that picture of the bird in the grass, thinking about how right now as I’m listening to the crickets chirp it’s having its last night as a living being. If I’m going to keep eating animals, I have to be okay with that. Am I? It’s hard to say for sure. I’d like to be able to smugly congratulate myself, knowing that my freezer’s about to be filled with animals who lived a good and dignified life, and weren’t treated horribly and then stuck in a warehouse freezer. I know this is better. And I know that this ambiguity is appropriate.
And now I just hope we get through tomorrow.