The Very Bad Farmgirl (and does anyone want goats?)

I research everything that I do, I just don’t always fully prepare.  While reading about what happens to meat chickens when you let them live past their designated eight weeks, I learned that they can just drop dead, have heart attacks, and their own legs can break under their immense weight.  “Oh, that sounds terrible,” I said.

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I think Bob broke his leg.  Maybe it’s his toes.  Either way, his giant body is hobbling slow and painfully.  He looks like an old pirate with a peg leg.  He waits for me in the coop so that I will carry him to the water.

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This is a very docile, sweet breed, so it is hard not to get attached.  I know I am not being very humane right now.  I could splint his leg (I once made a neck brace for a very injured chicken and I have healed broken legs in my work as an herbalist in the past.) but I am unsure as to what is actually broken.  Vets aren’t really trained in chicken care and I don’t have hundreds of dollars to see one anyway.  I could load them all up and take them to be slaughtered, which would honestly be the sensitive and sensible thing to do.  But I just can’t.  Nor can I wield an ax and do it myself.

This makes me a very poor farmgirl.  Or maybe a very bad rancher.  Either way, I lack that certain spirit of nonchalance and steel that would make Bob’s pain be swiftly dealt with.

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Does anyone want goats?

I was asked yesterday via text if I knew anyone who wanted the goats.  I am in the city, so I know I can’t.  I actually am not sure if I do know anyone that is at a place to take four (maybe more) goats.  “Why?” I responded.  Because they are going to grow hemp and they don’t want the goats eating it.  Profit.  Farm finance.  The trend.  Goats are out.

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“We will just process them if we can’t sell them.”

Besides the fact that I doubt five year old goat tastes very good, this really zinged me because I hand raised those goats.  Bottle fed them every two hours.  Ran a veritable goat nursery while they had their house built.  Those were my goats.

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This makes me a very bad farmgirl.  A fact that makes my living in the city seem reasonable even though we want to get back on a farm.  We are not good at trimming hooves, or dealing with death, or causing the death.  We are also not good at being 100% vegan, which then makes us hypocritical and yet, I somehow do not have that filter to be a proper farmgirl.  Maybe because I was raised in the city.  Maybe because I was never around the in’s and out’s of a farm growing up.

But I will need to make a decision regarding Bob.

The Life of Cornish Cross Chickens (on our farm)

I think my husband thought I was crazy as we stood outside in our pajamas, me with a walking stick, at 2:00 am.  This morning, I even googled the sound a raccoon makes just to make sure I wasn’t actually hearing a cat fight.  But I have lived in the country, I know what raccoons sound like and they were definitely outside my window.  But they were long gone by the time we adrenaline rushed it outside, thanks to Gandalf.

The raccoons surely heard about the amazing buffet we were putting on.  I don’t bother closing the chicken door at night because Gandalf is outside.  But, he is not in the chicken yard so the raccoons could have braved up and had quite a feast.  The Cornish girls and their Basset hound-sized boyfriend can’t get up on to the shelves so they are just sitting there in a clump waiting to be chicken a’ la gross.

Last week I went out to the coop and found Dixie.  She was the smallest of the Cornish cross chickens we rescued.  She had somehow died on her back.  Bob (the rooster) sat sweetly next to her.  She had no trauma, she was just dead.  Her vent was clogged, so she probably died of toxicity.  There was no rigor mortis yet, but I still was barely able to pull her from under the shelf because of how heavy she was.  Her legs wouldn’t touch, so I couldn’t use them to help me move her into a bag.  The glamour of a farm wife, I tell you.

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Cornish Cross chickens were developed to be broilers.  At five to eight weeks old, they are processed and become the adorable Cornish hens one might find in the grocery store.  I seem to have imagined that Cornish hens were some type of miniature breed.  Well, now the chickens are five months old.  They are grossly huge.  Their legs are splayed so when they run, they wobble.  They can’t reach their backsides to preen, so we may lose others in the vent-clogged battle.  They don’t seem to have any natural chicken behaviors, like scratching, dust bathing, or running.  I have moved their water thirty feet from the coop to encourage walking.  They are a sad lot.  It is terrible that we humans have done this to a really cool species.

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Bob is a handsome fellow.  His chest is body builder ginormous and shaped like a heart.  He tries to chase the ladies but he can’t catch them.  My hen (honest to God) was crowing one morning trying to teach the young lad but alas, he only croaks and seems to be too tired to crow.

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I am astounded at the difference between my laying hens and the meat chickens.  Perhaps it wasn’t kind to keep them alive after all, but they do enjoy the sunshine and they got a pass.  Living as one of my chickens isn’t too bad of a life.  They bark like dogs and are the size of turkeys.  They have very sweet temperaments.

I will probably stick to the petite laying hens from here forward.  It’s too sad to see these giants trying to be chickens.  But there is still nothing better than sitting out in a lawn chair on a warm evening with a drink watching the comedy show.  Chickens are nothing if not hilarious.