Every now and then for whatever reason a chicken will “fall off the roost” if you will. It’s been a while since I’ve walked up to the coop in the morning with my buckets of water and it smelled like death. I’m not talking disgusting, rotting corpse death, just death. We were just out there the night before so there was no time for rot. There is no good way to describe it. Just death.
The chickens were out pecking and scratching as usual, the roosters crowing and yet, I just new there was a dead one somewhere. Sure enough, one of the grey cochin ladies didn’t make it. I’m not sure why; aside from dead, she looked healthy. I don’t know what it is but almost every time there is a dead chicken in the coop I can tell before I even get the door open. Those are the mornings that I start humming “Go rest high on the mountain”. I know it’s a chicken but it is a life none the less.
Now I’m sure there is some scientist somewhere that has came up with some experiment that explains this. Something about pheromones or hormones or whatever it is. All I know is it smells like death, not to be confused with that of hot feathers ready for plucking.
A few weeks ago it was once again time to butcher chickens for the year. With a lot of help from family we were able to process 84 birds in 4 hours. That’s pretty good as far as I’m concerned.
I take the little boy with me to do chores every morning that he is awake early enough to go out. He has seen dead chickens before. “Dead buck-buck.” But we didn’t think that having him run around while we were butchering was the best thing for him to see at such a young age. Not that he doesn’t seem to know he’s eating chicken; he proclaims “buck-buck” every time I bring one up from the freezer for supper or pull out a roasting pan. But if you have had the privilege of raising and butchering your own, you know things can get a little messy.
Luckily my in-laws were able to come visit for the weekend and able to watch the kids for us. For the most part they stayed around the house and we were set up between the barn and coop. They came to see how things were going and of course, the little boy scrambled out of the stroller as fast as he could. He checked everything out and then began pointing at the chickens in each stage of the process,
“Yes, dead buck-buck”
Then he got to the cleaning table, where my Grandma, mom, brother and our neighbor were cleaning the plucked birds.
“Gate Gamma dead buck-buck.”
“Nana dead buck-buck.”
“Mark dead buck-buck.”
“Uncle dead buck-buck.”
It didn’t seem to phase him at all. Which is good. I’d hate to traumatize my kid.
Although it may have been a bit early, it is a part of life and the fact that he already understands where his meat is coming from, well, he knows more than some people my age these day. That’s sad. He is out there almost every day learning to feed our animals, helping to clean the pens, mending the occasional hurt bird and putting some to rest. At such a young age he is already gaining a foundation that will help him to make a difference in the future.