Good night, ladies.

One of the Bobs, "Scabby" and a Faverolle

One of the Bobs, “Scabby” and a Faverolles

Dawn on Saturday found Steve rattling by his alma mater with a truckload of sleepy, mildly-protesting chickens, on his way to Marksbury Farm Market’s new Garrard County processing facility. As we neared Gourmandistan’s temporary relocation to Gascony, it was deemed time to retire the flock. We (OK, Steve) had winnowed a few from the flock earlier this year—but after dealing with four in one day, Steve decided he was no match for nineteen.

Michelle was drowsily dragged from her bed at 4:30 a.m., assisting Steve as he grabbed the hens and placed them in a couple of cages. (The rooster went into a old cardboard cat carrier, to spare the hens certain indignities on their final journey). Blankets thrown over the still-snoozing hens, Steve set off in darkness for Lancaster, a small town in central Kentucky.

The processing had been postponed a couple of times, as Marksbury Farm is just beginning operations, and the usual start-up problems occurred. Steve, who (somewhat ashamedly) counts a giant poultry agribusiness as a former client and (in some sort of simultaneous karmic payback) was forced to take the dreaded “factory tour,” has previous experience with processing lines. He was very impressed with Marksbury Farm’s operation, which claims a “commitment to sustainable, humane, and natural production methods.” Everything seemed spotless—which, granted, may have been in part because no chicken had yet gone through the line. But unlike Steve’s Upton Sinclair Jungle-esque experience in Indiana, the workers seemed lively, motivated and excited about their new venture in more humane processing. Since yet another opening day glitch had halted the expected 7:00 a.m. start time, Steve left the chickens in a few crates alongside a few hundred more chickens scheduled for that morning. The hens seemed much calmer than the Marksbury people, who were determinedly talking of circulator pumps and V-chutes as Steve drove off toward home.

As our farmer friend Jim Fiedler says of his pigs and cattle, we feel our flock really only had “one bad day.” Many of these hens spent 4-½ years happily bug-eating, dust-bathing and generally ruining what was once our garden, delighting in daily heaps of Gourmandistan leftovers and leavings. While the younger group of Faverolles and Wyandottes never really bonded with us, “The Bobs,” “Ugly” and “Scabby” may have actually appreciated our treatment. (At least, the one Bob Steve nursed back to health with antibiotics and Band-Aids after an owl attack may have.)

It’s been quite an odd past few days in Gourmandistan. Not hearing any Chewbacca-like noises coming from the chicken yard. Seeing a larger-than-usual kitchen compost pile now that apple cores and watermelon rinds are no longer easily disposed of. And having the strange realization that nothing, absolutely nothing, is making us get up at the break of dawn, and be home by shortly after dark. This oddness won’t last. We’ve already arranged for some laying hens to keep us in a few eggs this Winter, and plan to start a new flock from baby chicks in early Spring. But for now, Gourmandistan is poultry-free—until some new birds arrive to run our lives, enjoy running our grounds, and eventually have that one bad day.

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  1. Ozarkhomesteader

    I still don’t know if I could do it. I know; I’m a hypocrite, because I let someone else do it.

    On a brighter note, when do you get back your chi– uh, dinner?

  2. I still have a bit of difficulty with it in my gut, though my logical brain says otherwise. These hens are far too old for eating, but will make good stock. And, somehow, that is easier.

    • Ozarkhomesteader

      I understand. Stock is good. I haven’t looked around your blog yet to know if you have dogs and cats, but if you do, they’d enjoy it too.

      (Speaking of my being a hypocrite, I’ve got a chicken thawing in the refrigerator now.)

      • Ozarkhomesteader

        The cats will really appreciate the chickens’ new form.

        Hmmmm. Are you telling me you safely kept chickens without a dog? That’s been another concern for us. Our cats have cleared out the foxes, but they don’t want to tangle with the coons and coyotes (for good reason).

  3. Libby Bacon

    Oh me…this day you spent didn’t make my day look so bad…Wonder what they were thinking???Wonder if they liked the ride???

  4. Debbi B

    I’m particularly impressed with your photography, which looks so professionally done! I am determined to have chickens on my small lot by the ocean in Santa Cruz, and have recently learned that the County ordinance allows 1 per thousand square feet. That would be ten for me. I’ll be happy with fewer, at least for a while. They will fit nicely with my permaculture. Keep writing.

    • Thanks, Deb. It’s (mostly) my photography and (mostly) Steve’s words around here. I have to say, though, that Steve took several of my favorites pics included in this post–including the Sussex in the the Fall leaves, which I hadn’t seen before last night. Good luck with your chickens!

  5. Jean Turner

    The Henny Penny saga comes full circle….job well done; I can attest to their good fortune in living near gourmandistan province.

  6. Steve, the prolific children’s book writer and illustrator Jan Brett has a LOT of Polish chickens and drives around with them in her car. They also come into her house. Her art is really lush and beautiful, but, really.

    Gosh, diapers. No way. Ever.

  7. Pingback: Stock & eggs—the circle of life is complete. « Gourmandistan

  8. Pingback: Puff pastry meat pies and a mountain of lamb | Gourmandistan

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