As I write this, my husband is in the backyard, in the evening on a Friday, trying to figure out the best way to humanely put down our Red Star chicken, Mrs. Farquar. I poured him a big glass of bourbon and after much deliberation, decided that I didn’t want to be part of the process.
I knew that this was going to be part of the whole raising animals experience, but this was awfully soon after we got her home. In hindsight, she ended up with us in the backseat on the Belt Parkway because we were able to just walk up to her and pick her up off the ground – no net required. Chances are, whatever was wrong started long before she came here to roost.
It was strangly comforting to care for her though, as she waned from life. Last night, I sat in the run with her, as I thought she was expiring as I rubbed her ears and told her that everything was all right. I sat there for about an hour as her breathing slowed, heartbeat all but vanished and I thought, ok, that’s it. In the morning, I’ll have to handle her Earthly remains while Mark is at work, as chicken doesn’t count as a death in the family.
But she was still hanging on this morning when Mark left for the day. But when he came back in the afternoon, she was all but dead.
Last week, I got to go and teach a group of high school kids who are part of a garden and cooking club in the Bronx. I had brought eggs from my girls and pictures and we talked all about where food comes from and while I had food and farming in mind, the kids wanted answers to life’s most primal mysteries: sex and death.
Where to eggs come from?
Do chickens get their period?
How does an egg get made?
Are you going to eat them when they die?
On Monday, I hadn’t noticed anything amiss with Mrs. Farquar and I spoke very cavalierly about them as whole animals and providing a whole food organism.
Today, I’m sad and miss my pet. The other three have the right attitude: Scratch on.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Farquar. My you find a happy home in the great coop in the sky.