Many people think of farming in a magical, dreamy way. How wonderful it would be picking your veggies from your perfectly weeded garden, herbs by the back door. Going out in the morning to throw some feed to your flock of chickens then gathering their still warm eggs to make your breakfast omelet. Now that the snow is going or gone and the weather is warming it’s easy to think about how wonderful it would be to live such a bucolic life. Sometimes I dream about that while sitting at my computer at work listening to the air and vehicle traffic that surrounds me.
The reality of farming slapped me in the face yesterday when sister Sue called, crying, to ask me to come down and kill two injured hens. Some predator had killed half of her flock while she was running a road race. Let’s preface this by saying other than mosquitoes I have never killed a thing in my life – ever. I got off of the phone, told Bill who just looked at me with a look that said “absolutely NO way”. Bill handed me my gun case and I drove the quarter mile it is to my sister’s saying a little prayer to give me strength to do this. When I got there dead bodies were everywhere it seemed. Poor Sue cried and cried, she loves her “ladies”. She said the two wounded were in the coop (they had been placed there by two well meaning neighbors). I told her to just go in the house and I would take care of it. I was relieved to see Big Jim, her rooster had made it through the attack although he obviously was missing some feathers. He also tried to attack me as I approached the wounded hens. I brought them outdoors, closed the coop door and shot the two of them (I honestly don’t think they would have lasted the rest of the afternoon, but no animal should suffer like that). I put their bodies over the stonewall, down the bank. Then I went up on the hill to pick up another dead hen so Sue wouldn’t have to do it. This was sad, sad, sad. I went back into the coop to take inventory of who was left – of 26 hens she had 13 left plus the rooster.
I went into the house and said I needed a cup of tea. Sue was telling me that the chickens were scattered all over the place. In trees, down in the center of town, for all we knew there were still some out there. The back of her house has a bank of windows that overlook a large field, a road and another large field. We looked out the windows and down by the road a lone Buff Orpington was wandering about. Sue put on her boots and went down and caught her. That’s a picture I think I may always remember, my sister walking up the hill with that hen under her arm.
Once the hen was safely with her flock we talked about how the rest of the hens just go about living their little lives like nothing had happened. We were wishing that we could do the same.