There is so much I enjoy about farming in the city–seeing things grow, interacting with all kinds of people, contributing to the health of the community in many ways, creating something beautiful, spending time outside. But occasionally there are things I have to do that I really dislike. One of them happened recently, when I needed to kill a chicken. This particular chicken had shown up on my porch one day in a bird cage, after a friend found it wandering through his backyard on Derry St. It appeared to be about 8 weeks old and looked pretty bedraggled. I put it in a coop by itself, to make sure that it was healthy before introducing it to the flock, and to give it time to grow some new feathers and fill out a bit more. After a month, its feathers had filled in and it had definitely put on weight, but it seemed to have trouble walking around, plopping down unceremoniously after just a few steps. Then one morning I noticed it was bleeding around a leg joint; closer inspection revealed maggots and flies festering in a large open wound. I reluctantly went to the house to sharpen a knife, cut its neck with a minimum of mess, and buried it in an undisclosed location. I won’t be posting pictures of the event.
There’s a saying among farmers: “If you have livestock, you have dead stock.” We don’t have many animals on our farm and don’t currently raise any for meat, so we don’t have to deal with death very often. But as a meat eater, I think it’s important to remember that meat involves killing. Hanni and I joke about the people with backyard chickens who post ads on Craigslist trying to find good homes for their “spent” hens (the ones that are too old to lay consistently). “Take some responsibility, folks!,” we protest. “You fed this bird and helped it to live, now help it to die–don’t shy away from the hard part of the cycle!” Who in their right mind would want an unproductive chicken for a pet, anyway?! Alas, my life is fraught with inconsistencies, as I continue to feed the bunny, and I wonder how long it will be until I have to make hard choices about our aging hens.