One of my girls has turned into a boy.
I’m talking hens: or rather, in this case, cockerels. This spring I had a slightly chaotic little spate of broody hens and just sort of left two of them on a couple of clutches of eggs. This turned out to be a very bad idea, as hens, it seems, get very jealous of each other when they’re sitting on eggs. It was when I turned up at the henhouse to find one broody sitting plumb on top of the other one in an attempt to hatch out her eggs as well that I realised I probably should have shut them both into separate broody cages.
Well, you live and you learn: unsurprisingly hardly any of the eggs hatched as the moment the hens got a chick they wandered off and abandoned the rest of the clutch. But I did get two precious little chicks, one for each broody, from my haphazard and rather traumatic experiment.
I did think that both were female and was quietly congratulating myself: chickens are notorious for producing clutches which are 99% male therefore forcing you to have to dispose of a lot of unwanted cockerels.
However now, coming up for a year later, it is rather obvious that one of my ‘she’s’ is in fact a ‘he’.
This is a bit of a blow. And it brings me up short against my stated desire to be self-sufficient in as many kinds of meat as I can manage (save beef: I just don’t have the access to enough land, or the right body clock, to keep cows).
I have so far managed pork, lamb and pheasant without once killing anything with my bare hands. But chickens are a different matter: unless you raise a lot, enough to justify taking them to the local slaughterhouse, it’s definitely DIY.
I hold the opinion that if you aren’t prepared to face up to the realities of killing animals, you should be vegetarian. So this is my test. If I can’t kill my chicken myself, it’s lentils all the way.
One of the things that’s holding me back is simple fear of doing the animal harm and killing it inhumanely through my own ignorance. So since I know a friend who is an old hand at wringing chickens’ necks I think I’m going to co-opt her and get her to oversee my efforts, and advise the least painful way to do it (preferably without the chicken knowing a thing about it, which is what I always strive for).
I’ve got to get on with it soon as Clive (Big Kahuna cockerel and baby-cockerel’s dad) is starting to notice there’s a young pretender in the flock and there is more squabbling than I’m happy with. And that can only get worse.
At least there will be roast chicken for tea at the end of all this. Wish me luck…