losing the house hens.

An emotional day.

As I was feeding the cats and old hens (that I no longer call laying hens because they don’t lay), I noticed a hen following me. When I headed back to the house, I noticed two hens under the apple tree. For a total of one too many free ranging hens, which meant one of them was a new laying hen, and that it had broken out of the enclosure. I grabbed the wagon to plop my youngest in (to avoid crawling under severely unpruned apple trees with him on my back in a carrier), grab one of the hens and return her to the enclosure. I follow the other one to the barn and when the old hen sees her, she pecks. I realize my mistake. I had just put the second old hen in with the new layers in the enclosure.

I feel more distress here than I care to admit to. I’ve thought long and hard about whether it made sense to put the two old hens in with the new layers. While it certainly saves on feeding and coop care time to have all the hens bunk together, I decided that I wanted them to live out their lives free ranging on the farm, these two old gals. Joining me in the garden, following the kids in the wagons, pecking at the spilled grain in the shop and leftovers in the compost. I love having those two free hens around, they make this place feel like a quaint farm. And here I had just scooped one up and doomed her to a life of pecking orders and not hanging out on the stoop with us ever again.

I went into the 50 laying hens’ enclosure, trying to see if I could spot her. I thought I had, so I run to unhook the electric fence to grab her, but I notice that another hen just made a run for it, under the fence (which can’t have been very electrified).

In that moment, as I’m trying to tear out massive weeds that are keeping the fencing from being effective, with an unhappy and slightly ill 22 pound 1 year old on my back, I wonder why oh why did I get into the livestock (albeit very small livestock) business? These things wouldn’t happen on radish farm.

It doesn’t make sense to keep one out of the enclosure as I imagine she’ll be lonely and she’d freeze solo in the winter.

I’m really sad I’ve lost these house hen pals. Et notre bonne entente.

 

Here they were last year, eating insects during the great potato harvest.

IMG_5233

 

I haven’t seen Olga, the (newly sterilized!) barn cat, in two days. I have, however, seen about half a dozen new kittens. It’s very disheartening.

 

P. spent his day trying to get the two 250lb boars separated and into a pen to be taken to slaughter tomorrow. He managed to get one in a crate and the animal jumped four feet into the air, over a plywood wall, into the unknown and to freedom. P. proceeded to (re)bruise his rib by tackling it to get it back into a fenced area. (I am flabberghasted at how worlds apart our instincts are).

 

Meanwhile, it’s starting to wear on me that I can’t finish most tasks (given kid(s) in tow). I finish cleaning up from the day and washing eggs at 9:30pm, exhausted and not wanting to keep preserving for fear of waking up kids, the littlest of which has been feverish and sleeping poorly these past few nights. I know that all gardeners are faced with too much being ripe and ready for harvest at once. That the season is exhausting if you’re canning and blanching and freezing your year’s worth of food. But seeing so much of it slip into overdone, for a third year, just makes me angry.

 

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