Monday, April 9, 2007

My Name is Tracy and I am a Chicken Killer

Two of a Kind, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

It's true. I killed one of my chickens. One of the chickens whose beak I dipped in water to show her how to drink when she was just two days old. One that I have worried about, checking in the middle of the night to make sure there was enough warmth, saved from a cold night outside when the little hen house door accidentally slammed shut, leaving the flock outside, blinded in the dark. After climbing over a 10 foot snowbank twice a day for almost a month, often in subzero weather to make sure she and the others had enough food and thawed water, not to mention doing a number of things in order to save two of her sisters which included making a chicken regurgitate the contents of its crop and bringing another one indoors for almost a week.

Last week I noticed that another chicken had the same symptoms of the one that died in a cage in our laundry room about a month ago. I knew I had to remove her from the flock and resigned myself to setting her up either in the garage or in the laundry room. But I also knew she would die, no matter what I did to help her, just like the other one did. So I started to consider euthanasia. Not uncommon at all on a farm of course, but not something I wanted to do either. I am sure that there is no way in hell that I could snap its neck, like a neighbor suggested. Nor did I want to hit it with a shovel like my very mild mannered friend did to her rooster when it attacked her one too many times, beating it to death. Although, I have to add here that our Number One Rooster In Charge is getting closer to a meeting with a shovel every time he attacks me. Anyway, I decided to slip it into a Tidy Cat cat litter bucket (which are the handiest things ever when it comes to chickens-I use them to carry fresh water out to the coop each day, to carry out scratch or feed. I would like to kiss whoever invented them), snap the lid shut, and leave it outside. I felt horrible after making the decision, but when I put the chicken in and she didn't squawk, fight or even react, I knew that this was the best way.

So five days later the bucket is still sitting outside, next to the garage. I assume she either suffocated or froze to death (we are having a cold snap) within a few hours, maybe less, given how sick she was. Not particularly humane I suppose, but maybe not so bad either. Anyway, seeing it every day makes me feel awful. On Wednesday I will put the whole thing inside a garbage bag and put it out for the garbage man to collect. I admit that the perversely curious side of me is considering opening it up to see what's doing in there. However if I do that, I'll have that picture in my mind, along with the picture of her going in still alive, giving me the eye. Not sure if I need both.

Coincidentally, I took one of our cats in to the vet on Friday and described the symptoms of both chickens. He said that it sounded like a nutritional deficiency, despite the fact that what I feed the flock is an appropriate diet. It could have been a deficiency particular to a certain breed (both chickens were the same breed) however. So I felt a bit better, knowing that it doesn't seem to be a flock problem, although I will have watch the others closely.

So much for taking a break from writing on the blog this week, but I just had to confess.


meno said...

I'm sorry about this. I have the same problem with injured rodents that the cats bring me. I can't just bash them on the head, but i don't want them to suffer any more. I wonder if chloroform is legal?

Casey Klahn said...

You always make me chuckle, Tracy. As a family that lives on a farm in Eastern Washington, we deal with everything from Moose, to Coyotes, to Cougar and Bear. That's what guns are best for.
Don't make me link you the pictures of our Turkey hunt!
Actually, I find it painful to "do" domestic animals that are already in pain, too. It takes some stiff constitution, but when you think of the animal already in pain...
BTW, out here the wives make their husbands do this chore, if they lack the stomach for it. Probably the pioneer women sometimes did it, but I also imagine some didn't have the constitution for it, either.db

Tracy Helgeson said...

Meno, yeah those are tough ones. Our dog has a habit of bringing us newborn rabbits in the spring. She is proud of herself for not killing them and eating them, like she does to the adult rabbits, but still they will die. We have handled this in a variety of ways, none of which I like. Chloroform would be handy.

Casey. We have a variety of wildlife here too, and plenty of our neighbors have guns to deal with them. However there is no chance of us having a gun around, so some creativity is required.

I sure would prefer to have Doug handle this dead animal stuff but so far he has conveniently been out of time nearly every time that something happens. Usually, I can buck up and handle it, but I don't really like to:)

Lynnea said...

Not to worry about the confession. There is a strict confidence policy involved with blogging...I'm sure I read this somewhere. Nothing can be held against you.

I'm sorry you had to go through that. I think you made the most humane (or chickane? poultane?) decision you could.

gary rith said...


Unknown said...

Tracy, if the art thing doesn't work for out for you, you should definitely consider writing. You are a hoot. I bet you inherited that from your mom.

Regarding animals, I'm such a emotional basket case, that to this day, I haven't seen "Old Yeller." To make things worse, my daughter in GA called this morning crying that her kitty, Elmo, was run over by a car. We were both crying. That cat was the greatest.

Always enjoy your posts!

Tracy Helgeson said...

Maggie, thanks for the reassurance! I actually was a bit worried about admitting to killing a chicken in public. People get in legal trouble for hurting their pets. Luckily for me I don't think anyone reads this blog:)

Gary, um, thanks for the blech;)

Thanks Jayne, ahhhh, a sensitive animal lover. I have never considered myself one until fairly recently. Maybe since I had kids which is when nearly everything began to make me cry. A good song. Dead children, tortured animals, a happy love scene. Having pets has become very difficult. I get very upset when things aren't right. Oh yeah, with the kids too:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tracy: Thanks for visiting my artists blog and getting information overload.
Hey I have a suggestion for you with the freezing water. We had the same problem when we raised our meat chickens and an old indian hunter told of a secret they use on the reservation. Purchase a male and female rowan duck pair to live with the chickens,
they constantly live around water and will sleep by the watering area. The ducks always use water to filter their food and drink, the ducks in theory are always keeping the water moveing thus allowing it not to freeze. We did this and it works and saved a lot of sleepness nights, they are very handy in the winter months around other fowl that rely on no frozen water.J-E