A friend once told me that farming meant we would accidentally do cruel things. So, I felt only slight guilt when I relished the death of the caterpillar that I found on a newly leafless little pear sapling. I've tried to make chicken slaughtering as panic-free as possible. I've tried to make any animals that depend on us as comfortable as possible to make up for whatever mistake we were bound to make.
And yesterday morning, we made our first cruel error.
The month old chicks are in a chicken tractor that's about 8 feet long. We move it one to three times per day because they love to eat the bugs and grass seeds they find. They quickly learned to walk along with it when we slide it forward. One would occasionally squawk, but we'd stop and check and everyone would be fine. However, yesterday morning when we scooted it along, there was a squawk, and it was not alright.
For some reason Soup did not scoot along with the tractor and his leg was very broken. At first we thought he might be fine and just watched to see what he would do. I should mention here that Soup had been shaping into a confident, friendly rooster. He was first at the door when we changed food or water and he never ran away from us. He never fought with the other roosters, and he never was attacked and did not attack chicken or human. We assumed it was because every other chicken understood he was the boss.
There he was, top rooster, wounded in the coop, and the chickens did what chickens do. They attacked him. As soon as that started, we hopped into the coop and got him out. That's when we discovered that one of his legs was actually dangling. Oh, how we wanted to just walk away and act like nothing happened. But we didn't. Before 6:30 yesterday morning, we had killed our best rooster.
Then, when I was tending meat birds, I discovered a limping chick. I'm not sure how injured this chick is, but there is no way it can compete for food in a group of meat birds. I was ready to euthanize another chick, but Phaedra stepped in and wants to nurse it back to health. I really wanted to say no; I was really clear with her that this bird has no chance of becoming a pet. Yet, I remembered a friend who apparently tended animals all through childhood, and her mother supported her and I knew the chick could get no worse a deal with Phaedra than it would get with me. So I relented. Even if the chick dies under Phaedra's care, no one has lost anything more.
I figure these animals are still getting better care than almost any other animal I've ever consumed. That knowledge is not exactly assuaging my guilt and grief.