**Vegan advisory: this entry contains graphic references to chicken death and butchering**
I had a hard time coming up with a title for this blog entry.
‘The Joshua Tree chicken massacre’
‘The tragic tale of two young chicken farmers in love’
‘Why I’m glad I’m not a pioneer’
‘Desert dogs are not my friends’
Ok, If you are like me, you need the punch-line before the tedious details. So here it is: all of our chickens were killed by a dog on Thursday morning.
The whole story:
Damian has been building the chicken accommodations in phases. First he built the coop itself; a beautiful A-frame complete with secure floor (so nothing can burrow under), sturdy human sized door and an adorable locking chicken door. We painted it peach. Next he got to work on the yard. A nice big yard with a tree shading it, fenced on all sides and screened on top to keep hawks and owls out. He dug a trench a couple feet down for the fence to go in before filling it in so no dogs, coyotes or bobcats could dig under the fence. The final step was to install the gate that leads into our garden (the garden is also fenced, but it’s a waist-high fence) in this spot, this 3 foot section in the garden, the only security was the garden fence. We had taken to letting the chickens out into their yard during the day while we are home so they could get fresh air, sunshine and exercise even during construction.
On Thursday morning I let the chickens out at 5:45am before I headed to work.
Damian was still sleeping.
I left for work. (insert cheesy horror film soundtrack here)
Sometime between 5:45 and 7:45am a dog hopped the fence into the garden, then hopped the fence again into the chicken yard and proceeded to brutally murder every single one of our twelve beautiful hens and our one rare Egyptian rooster.
Poor Damian got up that morning to find eleven dead chickens splayed in the dirt (one chicken was missing, and one was half-eaten)
Here’s where the story starts getting hopeful again. I’ve got nothing but love for that husband of mine… after about a minute of shock and horror, Damian broke out The Encyclopedia of Country Living and started the mighty task of cutting off heads, bleeding, scalding, plucking, gutting and cleaning the birds. All this as quickly as possible since it was already about 90 degrees outside and the birds were all lying in the sun.
I was still at work but found out what I could online about our situation (food safety concerns, mostly) and Darlene came over to lend a hand (thank you, thank you Darlene!)
By the time I got home Damian was working on the last stubborn feathers of the last three birds and there were pots of –meat- soaking in grapefruit seed extract solution on Darlene’s kitchen counter. The soaking is to kill any potentially harmful bacteria that may have entered the chicken from the dog’s mouth. This step is unnecessary in most home butchering circumstances.
I helped with the last little bit of processing, drying, bagging and freezing. Now we have a freezer full of chicken.
On Thursday I had a chance to be reacquainted with the five stages of grief. I don’t think I’ve ever felt them all in such quick succession! First was denial: “no! are you joking? All of them? No…” then blame “I shouldn’t have let them out, it’s my fault! I’m a terrible person…) then anger “I’m gonna find the dog that did it and get him, and his owner too!” depression: “we’ve failed, it’s all over…” then acceptance “hmm I bet that meat will taste really good… when we get new chickens I’m gonna get some auracanas so we can have green eggs”
But y’know, after all the dust settles, it’s really not so bad. We’ll get more chickens. We’ll get that pen fully secure. We’ll trap the dog that did it and send him off to the humane society. We give thanks for the gift of the chickens. We thank those sweet chicks for brightening our life for the time that they did, and give thanks that now they will nourish our bodies with theirs. I’m sorry for not providing a longer life for them, but I think it was a good life, while it lasted.
We also give thanks for the abundance of food all around us. We have the good privilege where we live to buy food from grocery stores and farmers markets. We need not go eggless for lack of our own chickens. As I write I’m looking out on big patches of green tomatoes, peppers, sprouting cucumbers and okra, plenty of leafy greens, string beans, onions, garlic and amaranth. I don’t think the dogs will get those.
One final note, Dave, if you read this, I’m really sorry roger got eaten after all. He was a good little rooster. I really wanted to be a good home for him.