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life cycles

2013 March 27
by Rachel Turiel

We’ve got 7 new baby chickens and it’s a little like an all night frat party around here. Someone’s always lying in someone else’s bodily fluids, someone seems to have fallen asleep standing up, again, and there’s always a crowd  playing Twister (put your beak on her tail), and then passing out mid-spin.

Chicks skyping with Baba and Nana

We’ve had various backyard chickens for the past four years (and have even eaten a few, though we’d never killed them ourselves) and then, well, that thing happened which happens with chickens, which is they stop laying, because they make a finite amount of eggs, and the gig is up, and your laying flock is now a bunch of sweet, voracious pets, and you’ve got some decisions to make.

Life Cycle of a Chicken, by Rose

The job of killing our last flock went to Dan, because I can’t even kill a grasshopper camped out on my chard without a convulsive shudder; also, he’s not coming right off the couch, so to speak, when it comes to providing meat for dinner. So, one night in bed we watched this video about humanely killing chickens, like date night for murderers. And then we put off the killing for 3 more months.

Next, it started snowing, which is a chicken’s biggest insult. It was time. I am simultaneously embarrassed, proud and perplexed to say Col and Rose were completely OK with the plan. (Rose had a moment of protest which was eclipsed 2 minutes later by outrage that Col got to carry the bag of pecans Lianne gave us for Christmas). While we hosted a homeschool co-op meeting at our house, Dan, in green apron, ghosted through falling snow from chicken coop to shed-turned-abattoir, a chicken cradled in his arms. Watching this from our upstairs windows, my heart squeezed shut.

We’ve eaten 2 of those 3 chickens, which is a stretch of the imagination, considering that we also loved them, and a stretch of jaw-power, considering their age.

And now we move on.

The inevitable set up

It’s great fun to have babies in the house again. They live in the bathroom and make us all talk in ridiculous high-pitched voices; even Dan said, while the hens were entangled in the latest game of Fowly Twister: “this is a really above average group.”

I’ve advised the kids not to name these new babies, though we compromised on one name for each breed.

The “Dandelions.”

With backyard chickens, there are endings and beginnings. I am glad to be on the beginning side this spring.




18 Responses leave one →
  1. Nasha permalink
    March 27, 2013

    …almost shot coffee out my nose “date night for murderers”. So good! Love your stories and want to talk chicken soon as Steve and I hope to have lil chicks next spring on our urban homestead.

  2. Danny permalink
    March 27, 2013

    EEEEEEEEP! Love it, thanks for including my quotes! Dan

  3. March 27, 2013

    They are too cute! We had to leave our girls and one boy behind in Nova Scotia… Miss them! They did become pets and it would have been hard, if not impossible to eat them. I am thinking a bigger flock next time might help with the “no pets to plate” chant I used to hear!

  4. March 27, 2013

    Ahhh! One day…one day we will embark on this adventure, but for now I’m happy to watch you :)

  5. andrea permalink
    March 27, 2013

    Well, all I have to say is that there is nothing more spiritual than eating the ones you cared for and loved and named for such time. All that love, all that time, all those eggs. Returning back to you. Congrats friends, pretty sure that’s what we mean when we throw around terms like ‘sustainability’.

    Ahem. Or something ‘glass half full’ like that.
    Bravo to hubbies who actualize such things!!

  6. March 27, 2013

    That video is great. I love that line about “some of my best adult life lessons I’ve learned from animals”. The neck thing…wow. That’s hard core, even for me. Loved your description of frat party babies. SO true. Two new lambs this morning. Twins that we have been waiting and waiting for. Mama was HUGE. What kind of chickens did you get? I’m guessing the dandelions are Buff’s?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 27, 2013

      We got 3 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Barred Rocks, and 2 Rhode Island Reds. We’ve had the Buffs and Barred Rocks before, but first time with the Reds. So beautiful.

      • Rachel Turiel permalink
        March 27, 2013

        Also, for what it’s worth, Dan said the killing was very peaceful. Just like the video, chickens upside down cradled btwn his legs. He stroked and thanked them, and then found that jugular.

  7. Kathy permalink
    March 27, 2013

    Trish suggested they give us chickens while we are at the little house this summer! Oh my goodness, I’m a city gal and I like cats, though I won’t be bringing them with me from MI. Should I say “yes” and give it a try? She can always take them back to her little farm… Do bears bother chickens? Do the bears come around in the summer? I am on a rabbit trail now! ;)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 27, 2013

      Our friends who live on the same block as the little house had their whole flock eaten by a joint bear/raccoon effort. Bear broke the coop open and raccoon cleaned up. And yes, unfortunately, we do get bears in the late summer these days.

      • Kathy permalink
        March 27, 2013

        Then I have a reason to not have chickens! I would not want to be responsible for unnecessary trauma for the birds and subsequent waste of food! I do know the bear came very close to the little house several times…

  8. March 27, 2013

    I wish we were getting more girls this season, but the 9 we have will have to suffice. We lost 2 this winter to illness – sadly, they were among the few that the neighborhood gang of kids named. We told the kids from the get-go that once the girls stop laying, they will be dinner. Thankfully, my daughter is such a meat loving localvore that she previously gleefully eaten other animals she’s been on a first name basis with. I hope that holds up when it comes time.

  9. March 27, 2013

    We used to name all the chicks of one breed the same name, and it had to start with the same letter as their breed. We had Aggie for Australorps, Lily for Leghorns, Dottie for Dominickers, etc. Great fun, and we too, ate the old (and tasty) hens when they stopped laying. I grew up with this and – like Rose – was momentarily saddened but understood and even helped. My dad would talk softly to the hen and tell her she was on her way “to warm green pastures, full of bugs” and then after he did the deed, I’d help pluck feathers and clean the birds. Is it twisted to say that these make up some of my happiest memories of my farming childhood?

  10. Molly Wieser permalink
    March 28, 2013

    Did you go to the feed store? Did you order them? Are there any boys, do you think? When will they start being outside? I’m not sure I’m ready for this, at my house. I am traumatized by the time my dad’s baby turkeys got their toes eaten by a rodent under their cage, which was wall mounted in a barn stall. Sorry for the graphic. Do you have a chicken book, something I can read while I postpone this for another year?

  11. Rachel Turiel permalink
    March 28, 2013

    Molly, we brought them home from the maternity ward of Basin Co-op ($3/each). They should be able to spend days outside in early May, nights in early June.
    The website is good. I think the biggest requirement is having a predator-proof coop…and procrastinating another year. :)

  12. March 28, 2013

    Cheep-cheep-cheep! The cuteness overwhelms me.

    This may be my new go-to phrase for describing my kids: ““this is a really above average group.”


  13. March 29, 2013

    you are more human for your mixed feelings. xoxo

  14. March 29, 2013

    Love this post. Made me think but also made me laugh (the date night for murderers ;)). Thanks so much for sharing.

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