It was butchering day yesterday for my three remaining rabbits. Two weeks ago a pack of dogs came in the yard in the dead of night through an opened gate to destroy one of my rabbit cages and kill two rabbits. Of the three who were left, one got a stay of execution at the ninth hour. A friend called and offered to trade a rabbit for three non-laying hens. He’s a vegetarian but didn’t want to keep buying chicken feed for three girls who were well past their prime (they were 2-3 years old). He also knows the value of rabbit manure, so he was willing to offer what – to me – was a pretty good trade. He brought over three of the most gorgeous chickens I’ve ever seen. I threw together a pen in the back yard out of pallets I had laying around and put them in while I got to work butchering the boys.
It was dark by the time I got the two rabbits “dispatched”. They ended up at 3.04 and 3.05 lbs each, which is in line with last year’s batch of rabbits. They should be good for stew and as a chicken replacement in casseroles.
Afterwards, we rounded up the three chickens and put them in their pen, along with some water and food. We then covered the pen with a tarp we had been using to cover the rabbit pen. It was going to be 27 degrees, so we wanted to make sure they were well covered.
This morning was still cold, and because it was Sunday, we got up early and headed to church. After worship ended, my wife and I headed home quickly to get Sunday dinner completed before the rest of the family got home. But before I even went in the house, I went to let the chickens out of their crowded cage.
I grabbed a bowl of food, filled up a waterer, and pried open the makeshift pen. I threw the tarp up to find: horror. There was a mass of blood and feathers, bare skin and hard, stiff bodies. The chickens were dead.
I’ve cleaned up the mess, bagged the chickens (kept the feathers for compost), and thought about this event the rest of the afternoon. I’m sad at the waste of life – both the chickens’, and the life they would provide my family through their meat. I’m confused at what happened. All I can think of is that the three went into a pecking frenzy in their cramped cage. Judging by the amount of damage observed on each one, I think that there might have one left standing who then froze without the warmth of her sisters.
I don’t get too disappointed or disgusted by these tragedies any more. Dogs eat rabbits. Chickens peck other chickens, sometimes ruthlessly. It’s who they are. I find, however, that I get a little mad at the waste and my inability to see events like this coming. But shame on me if I don’t learn from the mistakes, huh?
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