Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dealing with prolapse - an update

So thanks to you amazing readers, I figured what I had to do. I knew before but I needed that extra push, someone telling me, "It's okay... you can do this."

Well I can't.

Not yet at least. And I tried. I got everything ready -- the block, the hatchet AND an axe, just in case. I got the hen, who had since nested down in a corner under the sink in the barn and brought her her final place. As I laid her down, I apologized, explained that this was for the best and I thanked her for her eggs and her contribution to our farm.

I raised the hatchet, took a deep breath in.... and she started freaking out, squawking and flapping at me. So I of course panicked and let go. She stood up, pooped all over the block (that was thankfully covered in newspaper) and jumped down with the hideous prolapse hanging like a pendulum behind her. She then proceeded to walk, albeit slowly, over to the remains of the rhubarb, sit herself down and stare back at me as if to say, "Well that didn't go very well. What are you going to do now?"

The only thing I can: I just called in my own reinforcements. Lucas said he'd help as soon as he got home.

I don't know what feels worse - the fact that I have to do this or the fact that I can't.

Now I'm wondering if I can't see them through their entire life cycle, should I even be keeping chickens?

For the back story, go here.

UPDATE ON MY UPDATE: It's done. Lucas took the hatchet to her. I told him I wanted to be there but he did it when I was getting the kids from the bus. It was his first time too and he wanted to do it without an audience. I get that, except it does feel like I'm still stuck in the same mental spot. That said, I know we'll have to do another dispatch sooner or later. Hopefully, I'll be more ready then.


Erin said...

As hard as it is, watch while your reinforcement does it. I am sure nobody was overjoyed the first time they had to do this, it's a learned skill, just like anything else. That metal cone the other reader was invented for the specific purpose of preventing the struggle. Have hubs look it up on you tube later, there is a good demo of how to build one, they are cheap and easy, you can permanently hang it on a tree trunk or building out of sight of the other birds. My husband did one for his "survivalist group" and we don't even have chickens yet! Stand tall girl, you just have to learn and go through the mental process, you can do it!

Fiona said...

As I mentioned in my update, it's done. Although I asked to be there, hubby did it when I was getting the kids from the bus. It was his first time too and he didn't want the audience in case it went horribly wrong. I get that. Maybe we'll look into the cone so we can be "ready" for the next time. Thanks for the support :)

Mama Pea said...

Don't feel badly at all. You did just fine. Gadzooks, it's not something any of us LIKE to do, but occasionally it does need to be done, especially if we're going to utilize the meat from layers past their prime or raise chickens for meat. (We personally feel there's no reason not to put the old hens - and roosters - in the stew pot as where could we get meat that we knew was raised any better?!)

I totally understand why Lucas didn't want an audience the first time around, but I know if you do end up using your chickens as nutritionally raised meat for your table, even the kids (when you feel they're ready) should be exposed to the whole process.

A while back a fellow blogger wrote a post about taking her two oldest (8 and 10?) on a "field trip" to a meat processing plant where the best in humane skills were used. She had prepared them for it before hand and felt they needed to see this as part of realizing where the food on their table came from. Both kids came away feeling it was a very interesting and good experience.

Showing our kids right at home on the homestead this part of the life cycle (in their own, safe environment) falls right in with all the other wonderful experiences you and Lucas are providing for your kids.

Again, I (and I'm sure most of your other followers) feel you did a fantastic job with this whole experience. I know the next time around you will feel better and it will be an easier situation to work through.

It's all a learning experience, isn't it? As we often say, "Just another quiet day on the homestead, eh?"

Fiona said...

Thanks, Mama Pea. Wise words indeed. I do take comfort in the fact that my kids will make these farm to plate connections much earlier than I ever did. I think it's harder as an adult to process some of these experiences because we bring our own fears and conditioning with us. I explained to the kids what happened in very straightforward terms -- what exactly happened to the hen and what we decided to do about it and they were sad but not shocked or scared. That's a good thing. They're learning compassion and the realities of the full life cycle.
Anyway, as always, thanks for your help. Both Lucas and I appreciate it.

Amy Lagerquist said...

Wow, this was my dilemma just yesterday, when I returned from work to find that an Easter Egger hen, who was "hospitalized" due to a dislocated hip, had prolapsed. There was no sense trying to treat a prolapse when in reality the hip wouldn't likely heal.

My husband took care of it for me (neck, painless for her, and bloodless). I don't yet have the guts, and have questioned my own chicken rearing ability for that same reason, Fiona.

MaineCelt said...

Fiona-- killing your first chicken is definitely a rite of passage. I'm glad it went alright for Lucas. You'll have an opportunity too, at some point, because--as our dear MamaPea pointed out when we lost a heifer--"where there's livestock, there's gonna be deadstock."

Setting up a humane chicken-butchering area does not need to be time, money, or labour-intensive. Our biggest investment (about $30 U.S.) was a good, sharp knife that was suited to the job and a decent knife-sharpener to keep with it. Then we went to the hardware store and got a section of stovepipe material from which we made our "killing cone." We formed the cone with tinsnips and pliers, then nailed it to a tree at the edge of the woods where the chickens rarely go.
Two other useful items: a pet-carrier (for chicken transport) and a rock big enough and flat enough to accommodate the scalding pot or anything other needed gear. (You can do the scalding indoors, but if you have it right next to the tree with the cone, you can pluck the majority of feathers off outside and minimize the indoor processing mess.)

You may also want to study up on safe composting methods for poultry & poultry "bits." Birds break down very quickly--just a couple of months, if the pile's hot--and the heat can kill all potentially present pathogens if the pile's set up correctly. Some folks get freaked out by this idea, but I think it's a nice way to honour each bird's life and death by ensuring that nothing is wasted.

Fiona said...

Hi Amy -- thanks for your comment. It's really comforting to hear others going through the same thought processes. I considered the neck wringing -- I even tried it once, kind of, but I was a wimp and didn't commit to doing it properly. Sigh.
BTW -- I love the photos of your cattle. They're gorgeous!

MaineCelt -- beautifully and wisely put, as always. Now that I'm thinking about it, setting up an area seems like something I can wrap my head around. Having a prepared space to do this kind of work "normalizes" it a bit, if that makes any sense. It's simply a part of life and I'd better figure out a way to make it okay for me to deal with. I also really like the idea of composting the bits and honouring the entire bird. So thanks.

Susan said...

oh, Fiona, I'm so sorry I missed your post. You were a lot braver than I, who didn't even go through the motions. I have spoken with people who said that, if you can get over that threshhold, the next time you are faced with the situation it's not as frightening. We are all learning about the good, bad and ugly of homesteading on a day-to-day basis.

My Edible Yard said...

Okay. You've given me a major reality check. We just started raising chickens for eggs with the intention of using the past prime layers for meat. I know from your description that it will rip my heart out to dispatch one of my girls, but I hope I can learn to do it as Mama Pea describes.

Maybe it's about the love and appreciation...that relationship of you providing for them, them providing for you.

Major lesson. Thanks for describing it so well.

Fiona said...

Susan -- no worries! I just wanted you to know how much your post helped me. You're right about all the homesteading life lessons...and it's really great to have a blogging community that's along on the ride too!

My Edible Yard -- I'm the same way. I've casually mentioned, "once our layers are done, we'll use them in the soup pot" but have I actually done that yet? No! I've already found there is a big difference between the theory of what you should do and actually doing in. That said, I can also appreciate how these experiences are rites of passage and I have confidence they will get easier, as long as I remain appreciative and maintain my humanity, of course. Thanks for your comment.
And BTW -- the photos of your chicks are adorable!!!

Heather said...

Hi Fiona,

Your blog is wonderful. I hope to be a homesteader in Ontario myself within the next couple of years.

I've created a Facebook page for homesteading and was wondering if I could provide a link to your blog?



Fiona said...

Thanks for the kind words, Heather. Absolutely yes -- please do add a link. I also have a FB page for the farm. Please provide me with your link so i can read about your homesteading adventures!

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