Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Tragedy of 5 Chickens Told in 4 Parts

This past spring, my husband made the following proposal to me:

Husband: “I think we should try and raise some chickens this year.”
Me (voice laced with hesitancy): “Ya think? I dunno know…Sounds like a lot of work.”
Husband: “What do you mean? You feed ‘em and that’s it.”
Me: “Yeah, but what if they die on us?”
Husband: “Who cares? Then we’re out the $10 it costs to buy them and that’s it.”
Me: “But I hate failing at stuff…”
Husband: “Mai, they’re chickens. Not. A. Big. Deal.”


I gave in. We were scheduled to get the chickens in the end of May. Two days before their arrival, my husband informed me that our little baby chicks would have to live indoors WITH US until they got old enough to live outside.

Me: “Ha, ha. Very funny, babe.”
Husband: “No, I’m being serious.”
Me: “What?!!!!!!!”

At this point, I washed my hands of the whole business. I informed him that feeding and keeping the cages clean for our own children (just kidding about the cages) was quite enough for me to handle so he’d have to carry the load for our new arrivals. Cheerily, he agreed.

The chicks arrived two days later. I survived cohabitating with them for the required 4 weeks. Sure, they pooped on my kitchen floor EVERY time the kids took them out of their cage to play and they chirped a lot and one of them died in the night (my fears becoming reality) with its tiny little bird legs sticking straight up in the air in surrender, but the whole affair worked out well.


In late June we moved them out to their new chicken coop in the backyard: 4 laying hens, 5 to fatten up and kill, and 2 guinea fowl, which are cute as pie when they’re babies but are ugly as sin as they get older.

In the beginning of August we pronounced the death penalty over the 5 fatties who were squawking around our yard and bullying the other 6 ladies. I think they knew from the get-go that their days were numbered so they were hell bent on terrorizing those who would outlive them.

My husband and his dad manned up and butchered our feathered friends with the much-needed assistance of an Amish friend. I didn’t attend the execution.

But I did cook their remains.


It sounds awful. I often wonder about myself, as I’m seasoning up their deep pink and yellow breasts on my kitchen counter. “I didn’t love those birds; I didn’t even like them. But they were living, and we took their lives so we could have a little variety in our diets? Doesn’t seem right…” Those thoughts cross my mind, evaporate, and then I get back to cooking.

I had every intention of sharing my chicken noodle soup recipe with you today, but I’m suddenly feeling rather melancholy about the old girls and think I’ll postpone it for another day…and contemplate the virtues of vegetarianism.


  1. Oh, I feel your pain on all counts. My rooommate at Messiah raised chicks in our campus apartment. I cannot tell you how awful that was, especially the dying part and the smell, oh that smell.
    But yes, cooking those guys redeems them in some say, but it is so hard. I understand. Thanks for sharing, Maile.

  2. Hey Maile,
    We're going to butcher 6 roosters I hatched myself and 9 18 month-old laying hens in four weeks. We also help "process" about 200 meat birds a year as well with the help of family. You get over the melancholy because the food tastes so good and you know they had the best life they're going to have. Chicken soup in February is a good thing. Excited to see your blog. Can't believe you have 4 kids!

  3. Wow, Ann, those are some seriously impressive numbers. I cannot ever hope to top those, but I certainly agree with you on the taste of fresh chicken and I do oh-so-love knowing exactly how my chicken was raised. Very good points, so I think the scale could be tipping towards doing this little venture again next spring. If I haven't gone vegetarian by then.
    So glad you stopped by,'s been far too long my friend!!!