Life and Death on the Homestead

Anyone who raises animals knows that death happens. If that animal happens to be in the livestock category, however small, death often happens on purpose.

Such is the story with some of our hens.

Last fall we were given several Cornish Cross hens. This breed is bred as meat chickens. They are meant to grow quickly and be prepared for the freezer at an early age, usually around 8 weeks old, though some are culled as early as 4 weeks. They are eating machines!!! Anyway, we had a few to die of hear attacks so we began culling (oh, let’s just say it-slaughtering) them so that we could freeze the breasts. Then we stopped. For three reasons, I guess: 1.Sympathy 2. they began laying eggs 3. Christmas and winter sprang upon us.

Last weekend though, we decided it would be more humane to go ahead and finish the job of clearing them out. We deeply appreciate the generosity of my uncle who gave them to us, but they have now lived around ten months longer than they were bred to live and it is obvious. Their obesity made it difficult for them to fly up to the roosting area, so they chose instead to sleep in the nest boxes. Hubs had to go out every night and place them on the roost, otherwise they pooped in the nesting boxes which we obviously don’t want. Also, they were suffering from respiratory problems and kept a cold. They literally waddled like a duck, made stomping sounds when they walked and were losing their feathers without new growth. An ugly sight to behold, and pitiful.

So, while we do not enjoy the process of slaughtering a chicken-especially an egg laying hen-sometimes it just has to be done. We couldn’t let another week go by watching them suffer.

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