This day had been coming for a couple of years. It was a day I both looked forward to and dreaded.
My original flock of chickens, the reds, reached an age of being less than viable and were ready for their next job. Stew chickens.
I texted my friend Karen. Could she squeeze in a few extra the next time she processed? Yes, she replied, but the fall is busy. Bring your birds tomorrow.
Ugh. Tomorrow? Really? I figured I’d have at least a couple of weeks to get comfortable with the reality of my decision.
Throughout the evening my ambivalence grew.
On the one hand, I’ve longed to join the ranks of my ancestors and their ancestors, all who have participated in the most basic and noble act of human survival. It seems unfortunate that what was once a normality has morphed into an oddity, or worse, an unspoken act of diabolicalness.
But there’s no joy in killing an animal. Especially one I’ve raised.
The next morning, with eight red birds loaded into Doug’s straw-filled dog crate, I drove to Georgiatown Farm. Hours later, returning home with eight shrink wrapped chickens ~ killed, plucked, eviscerated and ready for the cooking ~ I was overwhelmed and numb.
Scenes from the day moved through my mind. Karen’s gentle and swift movements. The birds, transformed in the plucker from plump feathery chickens to naked carcasses. My clumsy knife skills and glaring ignorance of animal anatomy.
But I was proud. Proud to have done it. To have participated in the full cycle of life, an act far too uncommon these days. And proud to have treated it with the respect and dignity that all life deserves.
The next day my friend Tim came to visit. “I know a lady who wants birds,” he said.
“These are yardbirds, not meat birds.”
“That’s right,” he said. “That’s what the lady wants.”
Later that afternoon Tim pulled up in his truck, a woman in the passenger seat. I recognized her from behind the counter at a local gas station. She called her brother as I assembled the eight frozen stew chickens in a cardboard box.
“What language were you speaking?” I asked when she hung up.
“Nepalese,” she said. “I’ll take them all.”
Having traveled to Nepal I was thrilled to talk with her about her country and thrilled that she bought all the chickens. Eight processed chickens and a new friend, not a bad ending to the week.
Thank you to Karen Doyle of Georgiatown Farm for her generosity of time and her sincere compassion for me and the birds. Thank you to Terrin, an expert chicken wrangler, and to Albert for always reassuring me that I’m doing the right thing. And, as always thank you for stopping by, Carolyn