I am just getting ready to head up to the "little house" which is where my Orchard and Chickens are. Looking in on my two babies I noticed that the bindings on my spraddle legged chick have come off. She can stand now and move around the brooder fairly well but her one leg is still turned outward and the foot is a bit clawed. This got me to thinking about my responsibilities as someone practicing animal husbandry even on such a small scale.
If I was a true farmer raising livestock purely for production more than likely this chick would have been culled at a day or two old, conversely if I were a fancier and looked upon all of the members of my flock as pets I would probably have an astronomical veterinarian bill by now. Myself and most urban/suburban wanna be farmers are more than likely doing what we do out of some indefinable inner urge to get closer to the earth and a very conscious need to feel we are doing something tangible to improve the world around us. That age old adage of "think global and act local" is a driving force behind my urge to produce food on my little piece of land. The idea that I can turn leftovers, gleanings, and insects around my home into eggs that are healthier and more nutritious than those in the supermarket is fascinating!
That being said, lately I have been thinking a lot about responsible use of the chickens I am raising. There are ads on craigslist offering 2 and 3 year old chickens free to a good home as long as you promise to not kill my pretty little babies who aren't any use to me because they don't pop out an egg a day anymore. Reading ads like that I think how out of touch and irresponsible some people are, trying to transfer an issue to someone else while avoiding some abstract self imposed guilt. A pet is a companion you love and cherish for as long as your blessed to be together, not just until they aren't able to provide breakfast.
That sounds pretty judgmental and it is! The judgement falls on myself also. While I haven't had to deal with over the hill layers yet, when incubating eggs you ain't gonna get all hens! Hatching out fluffy butts is something I truly enjoy and last years hatching activity left me with 11 roosters that I didn't need or particularly want. Rather than do the responsible thing and process (butcher) them for my families use I took the easy way out and sold them to the feed store for $5 a piece. What are they going to do with them? well they seemed pretty interested in the two big mean bastards with the honkin spurs!
So where does this leave me? I'm committing to myself that come late spring I will be prepared and will butcher my excess roos. And when the time comes to cull my laying flock I'm gonna learn how to make chicken and dumplings (Karen always pines for her Granny's chicken and dumplings). When the time comes I'll document the process' here, both of butchering and of becoming a responsible practitioner of animal husbandry.