Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

those chickens can be eaten

Ah, life on the farm.

So I landed here two and a half weeks ago now. The family farm produces crops (currently canola, I think), chickens, and cattle. Chickens are raised in 80x200 feet barns which are temperature controlled and all the feed & watering is automatic. Every day, my sister's father-in-law walks through each barn and "picks out the deads". These chickens are all the same breed and same age, so have no way to establish a natural pecking order. As such, they have unnatural behaviours and sometimes stampede each other when startled, especially in an artificial environment. Some die. With livestock, you must remove the dead ones right away, especially in the summer, because of the smell and to prevent disease.

I had never given any thought to what happens to the dead ones when he removes them from the barn. I guess I imagined that he put them somewhere.

One day, early in my visit this time around, I saw a few of the farm cats, some magpies, and the three-legged coyote eating chicks just outside the barn. I was alarmed! I walked over to investigate (not at all threatened by the three-legged coyote). Coyote took off as soon as he saw me coming. Some of the chicks were dead, some were lame and some deformed. Gasp! What should we do?

My six-year-old niece came up behind me. "Oh, those chickens can be eaten." Right. These chicks would not make the grade of the commercial processor that buys these birds when they are mature.

I think it was the next day that my sister & the kids came back from town to see her father-in-law waiting in his truck in the driveway, rifle sticking out the window. He was waiting for the skunk to come out of hiding so he could shoot it.

At any given moment, there are about a dozen cats around the farm. Lately this usually includes at least one litter of kittens. One kitten from each litter usually survives, as they often get killed or eaten by the farm's dogs, coyotes, or by getting stuck in vehicles.

Farm dogs get run over if they get in the way of a moving vehicle. Seldom do they see a vet to get repaired.

If an animal is unable to recover from an injury, the solution is usually just to shoot it.

It is a hard thing to come here as an animal lover and see how this happens, this casual way of dealing with animals as expendable. My niece has seen an awful lot of death in her few years and she misses every animal that dies or goes missing. My sister doesn't like it either but she has also gotten used to the idea, having lived on this farm for something like ten years now. She said the could feed all the kitties and easily spend $300 a month on cat food, but these cats would all end up dead anyway. One cat lasted 10 years (she was a house cat), and that was an extremely long life for a farm cat; most that survive past age one usually only make it to two or three years.

There is a batch of kittens here now that are six or seven weeks old. Several times a day we all do a kitten count. Six. Three grey, three calico. Where is Runt? Runt has blue eyes. She's my favourite.

The other day I borrowed father-in-law's recip saw to go and prune trees. When I was doing the apple trees, the cows became interested. The three main apple trees line the fence that borders the pasture. I threw the branches with apples on them (not ripe yet, but cows don't care, apparently) over to the cows and they munched happily for hours. There was also a lot of mooing. I wondered what all that mooing was about. Were they saying "O thank you kind human for giving us all these delicious unripe crab apples that will give each of us nine stomachaches later"?

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