One of the girls started wobbling when she walked a few weeks ago, then losing her balance while standing. We started to call her Doofus, because she was the only one of the four that we could distinguish from the others. Then as the other girls' personalities and coloring started differing, they acquired names, and I started calling Doofus 'Lucy', because she was still somewhat comical.
Her lameness continued to progress, and this week I realized that she was no longer able to stand up. I have no idea when the last time was that she was able to get water for herself. We'd talked about culling her previously when we weren't sure how well she'd do outside, but now it was clear it needed to be done sooner rather than later.
So after we returned from buying yet more studs for the coop and run, I set up an area in the garage for her execution. Steve helped me get the other birds into the holding pen, and then Lucy was last. I grabbed a paper towel in case she pooped on me and carried her into the garage. She was trembling. I was reminded of the Buddhist notion that 'all animals tremble before danger, all fear death', and it saddened me. But I had a humane job to do. I set her on her side on the newspaper, holding her down, and placed the paper towel on her head so that she couldn't see what was coming, and then swiftly dealt her a blow with my three pound hammer. It has a large head and is heavy, and I trusted it most to do the job quickly. I smashed her head pretty thoroughly with the first blow, but she was still trembling. I said so.
Steve said, "she'll continue to do that for at least twelve seconds." He had researched the best way to cull a chick for me this morning.
I hit her two more times to just make sure, and in a few moments it was all over. I wrapped her up in the newspaper and placed her in the plastic bag Steve was holding for me, and put her out in the garbage can. She didn't get a burial out in the backyard because the last thing I need is for a raccoon to dig her back up.
|Ethel, front and center, Vivian, and Violet at the back|
Before I'd started this whole ordeal today, I said a quick prayer, thanking God for the chickens, and the lessons they provide, and I asked Him to help me learn what it was He wanted me to learn by giving me Lucy, so that I don't have to repeat the lesson.
What I learned today was that I can dispatch an animal quickly and humanely without remorse if it becomes necessary. I don't feel heartless or maudlin, and now I think when the time comes that I may be able to more easily dispatch an animal with the intention of eating it. I won't know that for sure until the time comes, but I handled today so quickly and purposefully I rather surprised myself. Farmers have to deal with death all the time, and while I don't kid myself by calling myself a farmer, I have to take all the responsibility when I take responsibility for putting food on our table. I haven't replaced all of our grocery shopping, hardly any of it in fact, but that's the intention. My eventual goal is to be able to get most of what we need out of the yard. And someday that will include meat. Someday.
But I still feel bad about poor Lucy, who never had a chance. She gave up everything by her lesson to me, and I'm grateful to her for it.