This is one of those stories that I thought about not sharing here.
But you know…. there's a lot of us trying our hand at this backyard homestead thing and I think it's good to share our travels on this journey. Perhaps especially when it just plain sucks.
I come from a long line of farmers, and this story would probably make them chuckle and shake their head. But for me, and maybe you…. it's a first.
(as a warning…. it involves animal death…. feel free to come back another day when I'm talking about sewing or making jam…)
When our chicks arrived, one was obviously not well. She couldn't stand. She didn't peck at the water. She kept arching her back and flopping over. Peeping and peeping. I helped her drink water. I checked on her the first night. After 24 hours she made not a tiny speck of improvement. She was dying. Eventually, if we left her, she would starve or get dehydrated.
We can't let her suffer, Joe said.
I know, I told him. I'll take care of her.
We discussed the plan and decided the quickest way was a meat cleaver and a wood block by the shed. He offered to do it. I almost let him. And then I thought… I wanted these chickens. I ordered them. I'm the pushing force behind this backyard homestead we're planning. I need to take care of the hard stuff too…. 'cause it isn't always full of cute peeping and fluff.
We explained to the kids that we had a responsibility to not let our animal suffer, that this was the right thing to do. They took the entire thing so much better than I thought. It goes to show I worry too much sometimes. Luke asked if he could watch, I said no. I didn't want anyone to watch me.
Joe sharpened the cleaver and handed it to me. I can do it, he said again. I know, I told him.
I carried the chick in her box and the cleaver out to the woods behind the house. I laid her on the wood block, said a little prayer for a quick death and end to suffering….. and a heap of confidence for my trembling hands. I told her I was sorry. And then I did it. One swoop of the cleaver and it was over. I was worried I'd mess it up, but I didn't. It was over so quickly. I turned the wood block over and wrapped her up in a little rag I'd brought from the house. We buried her at the end of our property…. just beyond the edge of the invisible fence so no curious dog would unearth her. Aside from fish, this is the first animal I have ever killed. It was hard. My eyes welled up with tears…. but I felt more confident as the keeper of this flock knowing I could do it. That if something happens I would be able to follow through, end suffering of my animal, that I wouldn't have to wait for Joe to come home.
I was somber walking back into the house. My little chicken man asked me right away, Mama, are you okay?
Yes, I said.
Good, he said, hugging me. But it musta been hard, right Mama?
It was, I told him.
He patted my arm, and then he was off.