Blame it on my childhood and my past, but I have too many old hens running around. Happy, fat, alive old hens, that have no purpose but to look pretty scratching a pile of hay...
...or looking pretty in the new spring grass and daffodils.
Catch that? I said alive! Yep, alive with their heads on and their feathers! I can not bring myself to get rid of old hens because in my childhood I had had, to many headless chickens running after me as my mother butchered.
Then there was the research farm. I was the herdsman on the dairy research division. The poultry division calls one day and bribed me, with money, to leave my safe, happy place milling about the herds of Holsteins on green pastures, to help on a project on the poultry farm. Soon I find myself in the stinky, dark confines of a 104 degree chicken house, with no air moving at all, to oversee the butchering of hundreds of chickens. Chickens who were dieing only to weigh their neatly trimmed breast meat, to determine if an additive was producing heavier meating in fowl. Halfway through my three days in that sweltering cave of a hell hole of rotting chickens (yes, rotting because they left the already butchered birds sit in 50 gallon barrels and did not empty them for the 3 days) I lost my cool in more ways then one. The man killing and butchering the hapless birds asked me, in all sincerity, if I wanted for him to save some of the breast meat, for taking home to eat. I looked up from weighing meat, in surprise of such a disgusting suggestion, only to find that he had grown bored waiting for my answer and had started to torture the chickens that where hanging in a long row before us. One by one he tortured the helpless birds with the electric knife he used for killing them! I ordered him to stop. He laugh and tortured another. Something inside of me snapped. I leaped out from behind my stainless steal table and scales and bellowed like a drill instructor, shaking a pen at my former friend (oddly enough he became former at that very moment) and threatened to end his life, if I ever saw him torture one more chicken. I ranted on crazily to the wide eyed man and kicked at the door (blocked by a oil drum of discarded chicken, so I had to kick it to get out) and stormed out to sunshine and semi-fresh air and buzzing flies, vowing to never eat chicken again, never to kill chicken again and never to leave my happy cows and green pastures again.
Oh no! There I go ranting again and after all these years, but a long story short, I did not eat chicken for three years and I have to many, very old, spent hens with no heart to butcher them .This leads me to a new problem. My bucket o' chicken.
A four year old hen who needs to go. She is old! She is a pecker head! (eats eggs) and she does not lay anymore...till now! She heard me talking about her one day, saying that she needed to be butchered and that was just how it was going to be! So what does she do the very next day? She hurried down to our front porch in the morning and climbed into the egg bucket I had left there after washing the previous days eggs. She squeezed herself into the bucket and laid an egg. Yeah, an egg! And she has done this everyday for a week. Then she stands up tall and starts cackling, not the usual short cackle of a hen that just says "..hey, if anyone cares... I laid an egg... and now I'm done talking... and I'm going to go eat..."
What she says is "...I LAID AN EGG! DO YOU HEAR ME? I LAID AN EGG AND NOW I WILL SCREAM IT OUT AGAIN, I LAID AN EGG, I LAID AN EGG, I LAID AN EGG..." and she says it, Oh, I mean cackles it and cackles and cackles and won't stop for at least 30 minutes, just outside our door.
She won't stop, till every living thing on the mountain is very clear that ...
"I LAID AN EGG!
DO YOU HEAR ME HERDS WOMAN? I LAID AN EGG, SO YOU CAN'T BUTCHER ME!
So what am I to do? Butcher her? I don't think so! She did lay an egg and I still have my bucket O'Chicken!