The chickens now have a coop. Hubby busted his hump this and last weekend to create the coop, and it is FANTASTIC. (Hubby can do anything, so I really shouldn't be surprised, but the truth of the matter is, he had no plan to go from, no instructions, no help; he just googled and started building.) The thing is 16 square feet in size, completely disassemblable, (is that a word? disassemble-able? Eh. You get what I'm saying.) for cleaning, and has four nesting boxes (for eggs in about 5 months) and a roosting bar about 6" off the floor...plus a couple cute little ramps heading up to the nesting boxes.
To my great dismay, the chickens spent their first night outdoors last night. It's been windy here the last few days - we're talking WIND - and so hubby installed the heat lamp in the coop for the birds' sake. The chickens survived the night none the worse for wear. (I half expected to find chicksicles when I checked on them this morning, but they're good to go!)
So here's the thing. I think this is probably the most boring blog entry yet to you, my wonderful readers, but it's hard to convey my Chicken Joy via the internet. Truly, I am thrilled. And after a good four or five days in that coop, the chickens will be allowed to "free range" in our back yard, which is, to me, the ultimate. This is exciting stuff, folks! These little critters who have never seen the outdoors will be running, jumping, hopping, playing, and fluttering around a giant back yard eating bugs and taking dust baths and returning home at dusk to roost. How seriously cool is that?! SOOOOOO COOL! I provide them a happy chicken life, they provide me yummy chicken eggs, and eventually yummy chicken. And yummy chicken stock.
That said, my Chicken Joy was quelled just a little last night when hubby asked how I'm going to handle slitting Red Beak's throat a couple years from now...the same Red Beak (my own name for Oreo) I raised from a 10 day-old chicken, ate hundreds of eggs from, and cared for. I confess I choked up - just a little - and then shrugged.
It's a CHICKEN. Yes, some people have them as pets, but as my dear friend Tara enjoys laughing at, they are our employees. I give them a happy chicken life in exchange for their chicken-ness, and eventually eat them. Yes, I eat my employees. It's just like Big Business these days; work yourself into the ground to feed the Master, and then, when you're no longer useful, you're devoured. Such is life.
Anyway, Red Beak will one day be dinner, and a tasty meal, at that...but she will also be a meal I appreciate more than I've ever appreciated a meal in my life. How much do you really appreciate that $5 roaster in your freezer? Know where it came from? How it lived? How long it lived? How often it got to play outside? Whether or not it ever pecked at a bug or took a dust bath? No, no, no, nope, no, and, uh, no. And I can give you the answers, if you wanted to know: You don't appreciate it. It was a hunk of meat in the freezer section that came from a chicken farm with row upon row upon row of chickens without enough room to spread its wings, and it lived for 6 - 8 weeks. It never went outside - probably never even SAW outside - and it never saw a bug or anything resembling dirt. It did not live like a chicken. It was a food product in a food product factory...even though it was a living animal with chicken instincts. In other words its life was miserable, but blessedly short. Red Beak, on the other hand, came from a hatchery and is a New Hampshire Red, will have lived a happy life free-ranged in a coop with very comfortable accommodations and a friend, playing outside in the dirt every day and pecking away at bugs, weeds, and swallowing grit to aid in the digestions of its normal healthy chicken diet. And it will live for a good 3 years or so. Again, how cool is that?
Who will I invite to that meal? Who will I want to enjoy a meal of Red Beak with me? Hubby, certainly, and my munchkins, but who else merits a meal 3 years in the making? And what a way to think of your food.
Yes, when it comes time I will dispatch, pluck, and eviscerate Red Beak, probably with tears in my eyes, but most certainly giving thanks for Red Beak's life and generosity. And you can bet I'll be sure to use Red Beak's carcass to make good chicken stock for soup, and that I'll be picking every last scrap of chicken off that carcass. And I will remember fondly Red Beak's tiny peeps when she came home from the store, and all of the eggs she provided. And I will again experience Chicken Joy, just like I am now. So let me know if you're interested in raising chickens. What an awesome feeling, Chicken Joy. I'd love to share it with you.