True to the goal of this blog, the following is somewhat disturbing and gruesome. However, it happened and it is part of our experience. We write so that others may learn from our mistakes, to educate and talk about the ills of the industrial food compex. I never wanted to get into the animal side of farming because I have always been squeamish about mortality. It did not matter the cause or the reason, I did not want to be part of dealing with mortality.
As I have documented here this is one of those things that growing up in rural America would have helped me. Nevertheless, I grew up in the city and it was not commonplace to process or need to dispose of an animal.
We started meat birds this year. In order for them to be organic, you must take possession of them by their second day of life. Covered in fur they are the cutest things. No feathers on them, maybe a little wing tip showing but predominately furry. Then there is all the time spent with them to get them past the Coccidiosis stage.
We decided because of last year’s BMSB losses that broilers had to be incorporated into our farm model. It was not a decision that was taken lightly and not without an amount of anguish.
We are into our ninth week of raising fifty broilers. Well we started with fifty. At my own hands, I accidentally drug the pen over top of some of the birds killing them. I cannot describe the feelings, thoughts and utter dismay that I caused. All I can say is at the point that I saw the damage; I did not have the proper perspective to feel anything other than raw emotional pain and revoltion. I got sick to my stomach, failure blares out and then guilt for what the birds went through. I know they only have two more weeks to live but at that instant, it does not matter. This is just another one of those no mercy times.
There was no mercy for the chickens and no mercy for it was at my own hands. I can live with my failures; I have made enough of them such that I am comfortable. However, these kinds of mistakes have a different affect on me then most others. This one has caused a lot of angst and anger; I am supposed to be their protector, until they are processed. Yes, they are raised to be processed I understand the paradox. It bothers me but I have to make mysef understand.
I want so very much to succeed at this, not only because I am goal driven, but I love working the soil, growing fruits and vegetables, creating a complete meal from things I have grown and knowing that what we do benefits others, future generations and the environment. I put my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into this place and I want to remain humane. I do not want to become desensitized to the lives of animals on our farm. You can say all you want about it being business and not taking it personal but those thoughts are not our motivations.
I put all the dead chickens in the compost pile and thanked them for being a part of our lives. I told them that we were returning them to the soil that once helped nourish them. I know it sounds utterly crazy but it was a way for me to make peace with the mistake I made and to acknowledge their sacrifice. It was a way for me to remind myself that we are humane.
That weekend I explained to the staff what had happened and what the new rules were for moving the chicken pens. In the mean time, fifty are in the barn ready to go out on pasture and fifty peeps are in the brooder.
So, we continue. I wish sometimes that the learning curve were just not so steep and emotionally draining.
BUY LOCAL: There are people out there, like us, who need your support.