The Magnificient Mr Mary
NOT FOR SENSITIVE READERS!
I decided to do this post after the harrowing experience of deciding to process our over-abundance of roosters.
Let me start at the beginning.
We started out with a few hens who would become broody every now and then, and sit patiently and persistently on their infertile eggs. One day I received some very small, fertilizer farm eggs and decided to put a couple under my broody hen, to give her a chance to be a mom. And out popped ‘Mr Mary’. ‘Mary’ because we name all our chicks with female names in the hope of raising hens and not roosters, and he was born on Christmas Day! And ‘Mr’, well, understandably that had to be added later. Quite a miracle too since these eggs were so small, about the size of quail eggs, as they were from the farm hens first layings.
Anyway Mr Mary grew in statue, and along with his crowing, so did his progeny. Normally 50% of hatched chicks are males. So we gained some and lost some to predators, but we eventually found ourselves in the position of having 13 hens and 10 roosters! Ten rooster crowing all through the night (no, they do not only crow at the crack of dawn) and ten roosters trying their utmost to spread their sperm! The poor hens were taking major strain, and I had to eventually segregate the hens permanently. Which meant that the roosters free-ranged, while the poor hens were isolated to the chicken run and hutch. Not my or their idea of fun. Decisions needed to be made!
Option 1: Live like that forever. Not an option. The hens needed and wanted to get out. That’s what free-range is all about, plus to permanently feed locked up hens costs a fortune.
Option 2: To send the roosters off to the local bird park to be fed to the raptors. I guess a great gesture and good cause? Not a financially wise choice though.
Option 3: To send them off to our local informal settlement, to a known demise, but an unknown treatment and procedure. Once again, a nice gesture, but not a choice.
Option 4: To do the deed ourselves. To own the responsiblity of farm to fork meat, and to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of our labour and live the self-sustaining dream.
Now being meat eaters, I only buying free-range. And trying to farm our small holding as best we can to be as self-sufficient as possible, Option 4 seemed to be the only choice. Either do the deed, take responsibility for where our meat comes from or turn vegan.
So being an animal lover, I decided to post a ‘Help’ request on our local Facebook forum. I knew as I pressed post that I would get some flack, but just how much I was not prepared for. From wanting to report me to the SPCA, saying that their is no such thing as ‘humane slaughter’, comments like ‘Just now we will be eating our cats and dogs’ and many others, their were also the many very real and kind people who told these ‘well doers’ to ‘get a life’ and ‘where do they think their store bought chickens comes from’? I am pretty sure that not every nasty comment was from a vegan, who are possibly the only ones who have put their money where their mouths are. I had offers of help to take the roosters. Some of those offers never responded to my reply and others I felt would very soon be in my position anyway. I had a few offers of help with the slaughtering and thankfully through that post, a friend who grew up on a farm came down for the morning, and helped us to do the deed in the best possible way. He even brought his 3 young children to wistness firsthand the realilty of where their meat come from, or should for that matter. To honour the chickens life by learning how to not stress them unnecessarily, to learn how to clean them well (quite an art) so that the meat does not get contaminated, and between the many hands that helped, no usable part was wasted.
It was not an easy thing to do, but I made a decision that either we learn to do this the best possible way, with no unneccesary transport or suffering, or we stop keeping chickens. BTW all our hens live out their full lives free-raging, well after they have stopped laying. I feel that they deserve that after providing us with many beautiful fresh eggs. My son-in-law actually said that slaughtering is not something we ever want to become too used to. It should never be easy to take a life, even that of a chicken.
Found this interesting blog, Richsoil, on raising chickens. By far the best blog I have read, and believe me I have googled more than my fair share.
You may never riase your own chickens and have to make the ‘slauthering’ choice, but I do hope that you will think carefully on the eggs or meat that you buy, the food you put on your plate, and where it came from, how it was raised. Ignorance is not innocence.
I hope to hear from you, whether you agree with me or not. Have an opinion at least. Until next time, choose wisely.