I awoke this morning to feed and water my hens, only to find two of them mangled by an unknown assassin. Both heads were missing. There was no sign of forced entry. Somehow the third had managed to escape; I found her frantically hopping around near the alleyway behind my house, and it looked like she was missing some tail feathers.
The two barred rock hens were great egg-layers, quasi-pets, and cheap entertainment, providing plenty of smiles while watching them take dust baths, dig for worms, and squawk for no apparent reason. As for the third hen, pictured above, my wife and I will find her a new home. Chickens are social creatures and prefer to be part of a group.
As a gardener, hunter, and keeper of chickens, there is no end to learning, epiphanies, and opportunities for reflection.
I’ve learned which sections of my small yard seem to have the best soil for growing a variety of crops. I’ve learned blackberries can grow anywhere. I’ve learned to heavily prune fruit trees in the winter, that catnip tea makes a great natural sleep aid, and that green beans are amazingly prolific, as long as you keep picking them. And I’ve had to reevaluate why and how I eat animals. The list goes on and on.
Over the years, I’ve also had similar insights as fellow blogger Issac, who eloquently reflects on Michael Pollan’s book Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education in this post. He writes, “The gardener accepts contingency, his/her own and nature’s: He/she focuses on the task at hand, acknowledges and learns from the past, but does not lament or philosophizes too much about why things happen.”
I’m saddened by the death of the chickens, but it’s over and done with. By keeping the hens, I accepted dealing with their life cycles, whether predators, disease, providing meat, or old age leads to death–you shouldn’t romanticize the life of a chicken, although I suspect it is happening a lot now that backyard coops are gaining popularity.
I’ll undoubtedly face more challenges with future chickens, plants infested with slugs, lost deer trails, and droughts in the brutal Kentucky heat. But these hobbies enrich my life in meaningful ways, and I can’t imagine dropping them for more sedentary activities that do nothing to bring me closer to life cycles, the soil, and the balmy air on a June morning in Louisville.