December 13, 2009

the downside of having laying hens.

Something else happened this week that added to the intensity and I've been conflicted as to whether or not I should blog about it. For seasoned farmers, it will sound like "blah, blah, been there, done that. Toughen up already." And to the average person it will sound cruel as hell. But this is the reality of farming and honestly, I need to talk about it. This blog is mostly about chronicling our journey and I want to remember all of it. Even the sucky parts.
We had to butcher our older flock of laying hens this week and man, I think it was the hardest thing we've had to do so far. Really. These were our first hens and we were very attached to them. They taught us a lot. See, a hen really only has 2 seasons of good laying in her and ours had pretty much stopped. We could have taken a loss and foolishly kept them anyway if only for better circumstances. We hope to be moving somewhere soon and just can't realistically move 2 flocks of hens nor could we easily house them for winter. If inside for a spell, hens need more space than they would if allowed to range outside. There's also the expense of feeding them without getting any return. Oh how I wish there was a 'spent hen sanctuary' somewhere that could house all of the old layers of the world. Unfortunately, that would have to be run by a very wealthy person because they're very expensive to feed.
We knew we would be doing this someday but needless to say, it was a very emotional day. We thanked them for all they've taught us and given us and did what we had to do. They have gone on to fulfill another purpose...the most healthy, flavorful and golden soup ever. We process and sell them as stewing hens and people love them. Most older folks know what amazing stock, chicken noodle soup and 'chicken and dumplings' old hens make since that's what our grandmother's used.
So, we're hurting a bit here. We miss them a ton and keep wondering if we made the right decision, even though we know we did. We're appreciating and loving our younger girls a little more these days and holding the memories of our very first girls close. Oh, and we might have let our two favorites escape....on purpose.

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