This summer the general insanity of life includes raising 6 chickens, critters leftover from a kindergarten science unit on oviparous animals. The chicks were hatched and “studied” in Jie-jie’s kindergarten. We fetched them when they were one week old and have been tandem parenting with our neighbors. Cutie, Bossy, Blackie, Henny, Pretty Biddy and Scaredy are good company. They are always happy to see you coming and love to follow folks around. Jie-jie and her neighbor/classmate, Max, have a great time getting them out of their lawn tractor and helping them scout for bugs and slugs. They have been a bit of work to tend but I think that is because their temporary housing, a homemade adolescent chicken tractor that I refer to as “the dorm,” is less than ideal. Anyway, we’ve mostly been having fun and are looking forward to the day when we are getting our own eggs.
If you followed this blog when we received our pets in China (here and here), you will know that I have a tendency to take my pet ownership very seriously. This did not serve me well in China, a place where kids entertain themselves with a parade of mildly disposable pet fish, turtles, ducklings, chicks and bunnies. The chickens are my first foray into the world of working animals or, in our case, pets with jobs. I am undertaking my responsibilities as mother hen in characteristic fashion – that is, with much more attentiveness than necessary.
But here’s the thing. If you order your chicks at the “farm and yard” shop, you will get hens. If you pluck them out of a box of kindergarten leftovers, it’s the luck of the draw. The birds are now about 8 weeks old and it appears that we have 3 roosters. We will not keep the roosters. They can be aggressive and loud. We do not want fertilized eggs. So, I find myself in the position of having to figure out how to dispatch 3 young chickens.
Jie-jie’s kindergarten teacher actually raises “meat birds” and she had someone coming to do a slaughter in a couple of weeks. We are welcome to bring the roosters out to her place so they can be slaughtered, too. When I first heard that, I was grateful for the option. But now, I imagine the day. I walk outside and my 3 roosters coming running to greet me. I betray their trust by picking them up and sticking them in a dark cardboard box, which I put in the car and drive 20 minutes to a strange place loaded with strange birds. Then my already frightened and confused roosters get to stand around observing other birds getting slaughtered and waiting their turn. If I dwell on it too much, I feel absolutely sick. I feel like I just cannot put them through that.
Jason has suggested that he can figure out how to do it. Perhaps that is a good solution but it is high risk – what if he botches it?
Pathetic, I know. But this is why I am a vegetarian. While I expected we would eat our layers in a couple of years when their production declines, I am beginning to suspect that I am wrong about that.