I have a small backyard flock of hens, who were picked for their beauty, temperaments and egg laying. There are six of my beauties, small enough to all have names and know the personality of each; large enough flock to not be pets.
I have been sad and having some stress because my small backyard flock of hens is going to require some culling. Some have developed problems with their eggs, and others have nearly stopped laying. I hate having to decide who stays and who goes. I hate the act of putting them down. It causes me sadness because I do know each of my hens. It causes me stress because it by my hand that they will die.
Yet I feel that they have lived very full a natural lives for hens. When so many live in cages about size of a sheet of paper, mine have nest boxes larger than that. While commercial cage free hens, are just birds without cages packed into a barn, mine live in a bright yellow painted coop with a working window, lots of roost and floor space. While commercial free range hens, are just birds that have access to the out doors, it doesn’t mean they have grass or the access is large enough for the whole flock go out; mine roam my pasture and all the neighbor’s pastures. While the US is finally banning arsenic from poultry feed (it was to help them gain weight and prevent some diseases) my ladies eat grasses, and insects until their crops are bursting full with delights they foraged.
They have been treated with respect as a living creatures, but it doesn’t make my task any easier. I wish I was a city girl who didn’t think or care much about where my chicken came from, how it was raised or butchered. Instead I know the details of my bird’s lives from beginning to end. My ladies will be swiftly put down and then they will be dressed to used to feed us. The older ladies will go to the pressure cooker to make stock and stew meat that I will shred and grind for soups. The younger girls may be roasted. It will the the last honor we can pay to them is to not waste them but use them for sustenance.
Yet tonight I procrastinate a little longer, knowing that I must soon do this. But I give myself a few more days maybe a week or two at the most, to reflect and get ready for this last dreaded task.