Saturday, April 26, 2014
Red's Near-Death Experience
The thing about animals is that they live totally in the present, meaning what happened to them today, yesterday, or what's going to happen to them tomorrow is of no concern for them. A few days ago, Red, our Rhode Island Red hen (and my best layer) went too far with me, and it nearly cost her her life.
She's always been prone to attacking Big Ag, Groceries and myself, rooster-style, meaning she gets all puffy and indignant and strikes out at us as we're passing by. She has drawn blood on shins, ankles, bare toes and arms. She is truly one of the most miserable creatures I've ever met, and for no apparent reason. She was held and treated gently as a chick the same as our other chicks were, but whereas they ended up docile and sweet, she's ended up possessed.
But the other day I brought in the two new chicks, Cleo and Chloe, to introduce them slowly to the flock. While my Buff Orpingtons provided warning pecks when the two little ones got too curious, Red actually made one of her rooster-style runs at Chloe, our sweet and very docile new Barred Rock.
She did this right before I was going into the winery, and so I put the little hens back into their separate enclosure, drove to work and immediately had a heart-to-heart talk with our chef Ben, who is also a homesteader and butcher.
The verdict was unanimous. Red would meet her end via Ben at the end of the day. There would be a chicken killing and dressing, followed by some wine and fellowship. I would be sad to see Red's life end, but be happy that she couldn't threaten Chloe's since aggressive hens have been known to kill young chickens, and Red is the very definition of an aggressive hen.
Red's day had come. Or so I thought.
As we were discussing it, Ben said something that bothered me. When I mentioned she was my best layer, he explained to me that she would probably have an egg inside her, which we would find after butchering her. And that bothered me. Because although Red is a despicable creature, she is a very good producer of eggs. And I hate to put a good food source out of business.
So I "hatched" another plan. When the owner of the winery came in, I asked him if he'd be willing to try her out in his flock. There's very little human interaction there, and with the distraction of many more hens than we have, I thought Red might be better suited alive and laying, but with the other winery chickens instead of ours. She has never shown aggressions towards other grown hens, so I know his flock is safe. And I even think that without so much human interaction, she will settle down a bit.
But if she doesn't, Ben and his ax will be waiting. Red lives in the present, so she doesn't know this. She also doesn't know that the people she's been attacking have been willing to go to a Plan B to save her life, nor that she will be moving to a new home as a last ditch effort to keep her in this world.
I don't expect a thank you from her, or even a reprieve from her terrible behavior over her very narrowly missed appointment with death. That would be asking too much from a chicken.
But if she could just behave herself in her new home, I'd consider us even-steven.