We lost our first chicken today.
I knew it would happen eventually. Poor little Susie was an outcast for months. We worked pretty hard to reintegrate her, and as of late, we were having good luck.
I don't know how it happened, but it somehow, they turned on her, like chickens do. We found her this morning, the coop looking like a crime scene on TV.
Oh, but she was alive. My scrappy little chicken who had survived worms and attacks and isolation and some health problems had made it again.
I got her in the sink and cleaned her up and realized there was no hope for her. I couldn't save her. There was no chance. Even if I got her put back together somehow, she'd probably die of infection, or lonliness since putting her back with the rest was no longer an option.
So. I panicked.
I've always said there's no way I'd kill my own chickens. I'll let them retire gracefully when they stop laying, I'll probably never face it anyway, since harsh winters and predators were sure to get them before they ever reached that age.
But I wasn't expecting the need to do it today.
There was no way she'd survive. But I've also learned enough about chicken-keeping to know it could take days for her to pass naturally.
And the truth was, letting her go slowly was cruel.
One of the reasons we keep chickens is because the depravity and disgusting behaviors that exist in the poultry industry. Raising our own laying birds and buying hand, farm raised chickens from the farm down the street for meat is an excellent way to healthfully, ethically feed my family. I can not fathom cruelty when it comes to my animals. It's not an option.
I knew the only answer was to let her go as quickly as possible.
Googling "Cull a chicken humanely" was helpful, but the reality was I didn't know what I was doing. I was an emotional mess, and I was positive our axe wasn't sharp enough. I was NOT going to take this step unless I was sure I could be 100% quickly successful.
So I prayed, and I prayed. I prayed that God would just take her quickly, NOW! Please!
And that didn't work. Instead, realizing I was ill-equipped and unprepared (which made me feel even worse, really), I sent a text to a dear friend and neighbor who I know keeps chickens. Within minutes, my neighbor had contacted HER neighbor who raises and processes her own meat birds.
"She promises her a nice final resting place," My friend told me as I bawled on the phone to her. "Take her right over." She gave me the address, and so I loaded up my five kids and a chicken and went straight over.
I apologized upon meeting her for crying over a stupid chicken. But she was lovely and kind, and assured me they'd cried over a few too. "We lost one just this morning, we'd been trying to help."
My new friend looked poor Susie over and assurred me, as I already knew, that there was no hope.
"We'll take care of her right away. My husband has to leave soon, he'll do it before he goes."
So I cried some more, and bid my sweet chicken girl good bye.
We went and met Derek for lunch to try and quell our sadness, and discussed the reality that is keeping poultry.
But I am so grateful for Susie's little life. She mattered to us. I'm grateful for that little yellow fluff ball, turned big white chicken. She taught us about food, about caring for life smaller and more helpless than ourselves. She taught us a lesson about death.
And I'm grateful for a loving Father, who's eye is not only on the sparrow, but the little chickens of the world, and the little children, and heartbroken mama who love them too.