We've had 'The Gladys' - our collection of six chickens for over three years now and they've reached the point of sparse egg laying. For some time I'd been thinking about 'rubbing' one or two out but the actual deed was beyond me, and certainly beyond Mark - very occasional meat-eater.
Then Chris, a brilliantly-practical Workaway came to stay for a few weeks.
After learning that he had been brought up on a farm in Cumbria. I nonchalantly asked him how he would feel about 'doing in' a hen or two. He shrugged as if I'd asked whether he could wash couple of windows and said, 'Sure. No Problem.'
The days passed and today was deemed the day.
We prepared a 'plucking area' and I hid while he did the actual thing. I did witness one of the demises and actually its was very, very quick. One minute, chicken in the pen waiting for the next load of scraps, next minute, gone - a bit of flapping, which I was assured was just the nerves continuing to operate, and then it was over. Two warm and easy (ish) to pluck birds. Freezing morning, so we did it as quickly as possible and then took them in to wash and remove any last feathers.
Oddly, I didn't feel very sorrowful, probably less than I do when glancing at a supermarket fridge full of poor water-bloated birds that have lived a miserable existence for a few months, never having scratched in real soil, foraged or lay in the sun airing their wings. Our flock have done all of that and been fed endless delicious scraps.
We don't eat much meat or fish. Probably two small pieces a week - a little bit of organic steak, a mackerel, maybe, but I was keen to involve myself in the process of 'coop to table'. I feel we - who do eat meat - should understand and appreciate the life and death of an animal, not just be prepared to unwrap a chuck of pink sterile flesh from a polystyrene tray and think nothing of it.
Mark wasn't having any of it and went to play the piano, and our son, who said he would help stubbornly snored on upstairs after a late night.
Anyway, it was fine, Chris cleaned them and I boiled them up before roasting as they were indeed tough old birds. One of the chickens, sub-named Barp, due to the noise it uttered most of the time, had developed over the years a huge wobbling 'front area' which I had assumed was a big juicy breast - it was in fact the 'crop' where the the food gets broken down. The wobbling area was actually a mass of semi-digested grass and small stones. Nice.
Barp without her masses of soft feathers was actually really quite tiny - the difference between egg-laying foul and those produced for meat.
A couple of hours later we all sat out in the winter sunshine and ate roast chicken and it felt oddly okay. A lot more okay than not knowing where the two birds had come from and whether they had experienced any real chicken time.