If you look back at my first post about our new chicks, you will certainly see how incredibly adorable they were when we brought them home. I suppose it is a good thing indeed that they do not stay that way, as it would be all the more difficult to eat those cuddly little bundles of fur.
But the truth is they don't stay that cute. See the photo? They are quickly becoming hens and roosters, which means soft fluff is shed and splotchy, sporadic feathers start popping out all over, sometimes in patches, sometimes individually. And of course, any day now, the roosters' testosterone levels will peak, and... well... let's just say I was told that we would be more than ready to slaughter our roosters by the time they were ready (there is an illegal - and cruel- sport that takes advantage of those high testosterone levels...). The young roosters, in sudden fits of aggression, already run at each other every now and then, pecking, poking, and flapping.
So far, no cock-a-doodle-dooing, though. I'm waiting anxiously (though I imagine I'll eat those words before too long!). They are also becoming good caretakers, warning the hens, who are more skittish, every time something apparently "dangerous" (like Nissa, our pooch) is approaching. A few squawky chirps and they all high-tail it back into the coop.
The youngsters are enjoying the use of the chicken yard now. They took a few days to be brave enough to come out, but now I catch them chick-napping in the sun on lazy afternoons. I guess every day is a lazy day when you're a chicken....
On a side note, I am reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (wonderful!), and she currently is talking about the dilemma she faces when slaughtering her own animals. This has been an issue for us, as we will be slaughtering our animals for the first time ever in a few weeks. As a former city girl, I am not stupid enough to think this won't be a little difficult for me the first time, and maybe even the second and third. And of course everyone I know keeps pointing this out to me, as if it weren't occupying enough of my thoughts these days already!
But I have this deep sense that what we are doing is the right way to eat meat, if we are going to eat it at all... I just have to get my heart to follow my head, if that makes sense.
I love the way Barbara Kingsolver explains it. She hates when people ask her how she is able to kill her "pets". They are not pets, she explains gently, and they are treated with the utmost respect and humanity their entire lives, so there is nothing cruel about the way they live. In fact, when we stop to think about it, there is so much inherent cruelty for store-bought chickens, that are packed into a barn with 20,000 other chickens, pooping all over each other, never allowed outside, pecking each other to death more often than we'd like to admit. Barbara goes on to explain that her chickens live a wonderfully humane life, full of sunshine, green earth, and healthy food (lots of bugs- yum!!). When it comes time to harvest them (she uses "harvest" because it implies respect and usefulness, whereas "killing" implies cruelty and waste), she says a meaningful thank you to the chickens, and lets their short but happy lives come to an end. She has come to see her animals' death as part of the circle of life, because it allows her to survive, and her children to survive. She has embraced the fact that our lives depend on the deaths of other organisms, be it plants, or fish, or chickens, and by openly accepting her part in that circle of life, she lives with a deep respect for all living things.
So now I just have to get my silly, mushy heart to agree with that logic, which I admire and am attempting to absorb. I am fairly sure that I cannot be a part of the first slaughter, but I will do my best to face up to how my dinner came to be...