Chicken Chronicles Returns, part 4
AUGUST 1, 2012
This afternoon I watered the lemon trees, and as usual the chickens gathered to drink the run off. I was on the garden side of the fence observing them, looking for any sign of remorse. It was business as usual. I don’t think they even remember that just two days ago they killed one of their own.
I had to say something. I crept closer and called them every adjective I could recall: malicious and cold-blooded, bloodthirsty and vindictive, cruel and fiendish, homicidal and hostile, savage and wicked, callous and sadistic, heartless, evil and nasty. Totally unfazed, Big Red strutted in my direction and glanced at me. I swear she rolled her eyes. She made some short chicken-esq comment, and returned to the water hole forming under the tree. The others ignored me completely. They couldn’t care less.
Now that Floppy is gone, Bantam Babe and Buttless are neck-in-neck for bottom rung. Both are pretty quiet, keep to themselves and have pretty much figured out how to maneuver around the Reds without being attacked. I have a feeling all that is about to change.
By the way, the garden is doing great. As long as we keep the fence hole covered with bricks the ladies cannot get on the garden side. This does not mean they aren’t looking for a way. The hens leer lustfully at the growing tomatoes and potato plants which are the closest to the fence. On occasion, I catch them running up and down its length, butting their heads up, down and against it trying their luck. They don’t seem to remember where the hole is, even though, at least twice a week they watch us remove the barriers to thread the water hose through it in order to fill up their water pail. Thank God they’re kind of dumb.
AUGUST 15, 2012
Muhammad collected the rent which is also his time to “exercise” the chickens (code for rushing at and scaring the compost out of them). One of the reds startled but did not scatter with the rest. After gathering the eggs, he ‘exercised’ them again. The same hen tried, painfully, but couldn’t move. When Muhammad picked her up to see what was wrong, he saw maggots all around and coming out of her ‘vent.’
*Note: Hens (all birds) do not have a separate opening for ‘birthing’ like us mammals. Instead they have a cloaca, the gateway for both eggs and feces.
Turns out, Ms. Hen was egg bound, a kind of obstructed labor. And it can be fatal, especially if the egg breaks inside.
One method to help deliver the egg is to take a greased gloved hand and massage oil around the top of the egg and then insert a finger to help ease it out, all without breaking said egg.
Firstly, there was no egg in sight and I could see me–still never having picked a hen up–trying to calmly hold one—head down/butt up–while gently playing the part of an obstetrician-proctologist. And although Muhammad is a chicken handling pro, they fear him. Besides, he is about as gentle as a bull.
The kinder, gentler method, the one that we decide to try, is to simply sit the hen in warm/hot water. It can help her relax and ease the egg out. Given I’ve done this before with birthing human women, it was a no brainer.
As the water warmed, I looked for something big enough to accommodate a chicken. Muhammad went out to check on ‘mama’ but ran right back inside. We were too late, she lay on her side barely breathing, dying. In hindsight, the egg had probably broken inside her days ago–why else would there be maggots? We decided we didn’t want her to suffer anymore, so the husband sharpened his 10” fish boning knife to halal her out of her misery. When we got there, however, it was obvious she was a just few breaths away from returning to God.
And then there were 15.
She was buried beside the garden on top of the chicken that died a few months earlier. At this rate, by next spring my soil will be some of the richest in the neighborhood.
I’ve also made up my mind about whether to let the chickens live out their lives, or halal them early. They die horrible ‘natural’ deaths. Whether or not it’s true that zabihahed animals go to a ‘special place,’ halaling them early may be a win-win situation for all concerned: a humane dignified end for them, and a means to train our young men how to properly slaughter.
The question, of course, is, “When?”
Asiila Imani is a doula/midwife middle aged mama of two mainly homeschooled boys. She is also my auntie:-)