Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bow Chick(en) Bow Wow

So...I kinda sorta introduced the girls to Internet porn the other day.

But don't was only animal porn.

Wait, that didn't sound any better. Lemme 'splain.

A few weeks ago I was discussing the status of the chicken flock (roosters crowing!) with my country-wise co-worker and how, in another month, the hens would start laying eggs. My co-worker made the very good point that, since the chickens were approaching sexual maturity, we should review the dynamics of chicken mating with the girls.

You see, chicken sex involves a lot of climbing and pinching and grabbing and squawking, and more than one child has been concerned that the rooster was "being mean" to the hens in the process.

So being a good homesteading mother, I had "the birds and the bees...and the chickens" talk with the girls one night. I explained how the rooster climbs on to the back of the hen, and then uses his beak to grab either her neck and/or comb. The hen squawks, the rooster pulls down his rear can figure out the rest. The whole thing last roughly 10 seconds.

But seeing how kids have active imaginations and a thirst for knowledge, they wanted to know more. How does the rooster balance on the hen? Does the hen just sit there? Does he just hop off when done?

Naturally, I went to YouTube.

I can't decide if the plethora of chicken sex videos available are for educational purposes (as was our intent) or something...more...disturbing. Either way, the girls got their questions answered and I somehow managed to stay clear of any videos that might not be suitable for young viewers.

The timing of our conversation and video viewing was perfect, because about a week later we were the audience to one of Dockers' earliest couplings with a hen.

"Sexy rooster in da hizzle!"

And wouldn't you know, it looked just like what we saw on YouTube.

--Rational Mama

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crazy Honest Chicken

I've always been one of those people that prefer the truth, no matter how unpretty, to falsehoods.

Tell me the truth and I will deal with it; force rose-colored glasses on me and I'm totally unprepared to deal with the world once the spectacles are ripped away. I so very very much hate that feeling of the carpet pulling out from underneath you; when you are left viewing the world from a much different perspective after a violent readjustment.

I believe that living wide awake and facing the grotesque with the beauty is an honest, just way to live.

So when the big factory farms try to sell me packages of meat with images of happy farms and chickens living their lives in sunshine and glorious fields of green I get very pissy. The real reality includes enclosed, crowded chicken houses that require the chickens to wade through inches of fecal waste to get to automated food troughs. And then the insane assembly line at the slaughter houses,'s absolutely horrifying.

I don't want to support that reality. I don't want my money to tell the proprietors that this is all okay.

"You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, friends, a few weeks ago - for the first time - we slaughtered a chicken.

It was the first time in my life that I willing chose to end of the life of anything bigger than a spider (that squirrel on 10th Avenue three years ago sooooo doesn't count - I swear it was a kamikaze squirrel).

The deed had been on the radar for several weeks but we were, well...chicken. Choosing to take knife in hand and kill an animal you've raised since its early days is not an easy thing. The animal knows you, knows that you are a provider. And there's a reluctance, because the burden of making it an ethical, humane kill is solely on your shoulders.

It wasn't technically a spontaneous act, but one Sunday a few weeks ago TMOTH and I screwed up our courage enough to proceed with plans. And once the decision was made we got down to business quickly.

There are plenty of websites out there, dear reader, that go into the nitty-gritty details of how to slaughter and butcher a chicken, so I won't bother sharing the technical processes.

I will, however, tell you it was a wide-awake experience, with sounds and smells which are etched in the surfaces of our memories. The girls were present during the entire activity and participated when appropriate (mostly when it was time to pluck). It was a very quiet time, but there were no tears.

In the end, we had a seven-pound (dressed weight) chicken. Since Rock Star was a meat bird, she had met her market weight of three to four pounds at around six to eight weeks of age. Because we had been dragging our feet about the slaughter, she had managed another six weeks of growth beyond that. She was big.

When folks who were in the know later asked, "How did she taste?" my reply was always, "Honest." Crazy honest. There was no trickery or deception in that chicken meal.

Rock Star had a good life. She always had access to food and water and friends. She was often given treats and and had a clean coop. She was never fed the remnants of other animals, and she was never injected or fed antibiotics while in our care. Her slaughter was swift and done out-of-sight of her coop-mates. Her carcass wasn't injected with solutions of sodium nastiness.

She was an honest chicken.

Thank you, Rock Star.

--Rational Mama

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Solar Powered Cat

Since we moved in to the new home, Fat Cat has pretty much been glued to the sofa.

It's a new sofa (bought specifically for the new house), and apparently the texture is perfect for napping The backrests are wonderful,cushiony pillows - which make the perfect kitty-shaped hammock. And it just so happens that the sofa sits in front of a window that gets direct sunlight during the late afternoon and evening hours. He basks for hours at a time in the warm sunshine.

I bet that if you ask him, Fat Cat thinks that the reason we moved was to give him this little bit of perfection.

Kitty paradise.

--Rational Mama

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ode to a Rock Star

Oh, Rock Star.

You are a chicken loaded with personality.

You make happy little gulping noises every time you see us headed to the coop, hoping that we're bringing some yummy treat your way. And if we take the food dish away to clean it or refill it you pace around, making nervous little squeaks until we return.

You don't care for grass, but you like oats, corn and mulberries. Especially mulberries! Anyone who thinks that a Cornish Rock can't haul ass has never seen you move when we drop fresh mulberries into the chicken yard. It takes effort to lift yourself up and run, but you do it without hesitation for mulberries.

You like to be petted on the tail feathers, but not on the back or head.

You hate being separated from the other hens, but often don't have the physical ability to get yourself to where they are. Your girth has become a hindrance...I'm afraid that is the curse of the Cornish Rock meat chicken that you are. If you were a person I'm sure you'd be eligible to receive a free mobility scooter, just like they advertise on television.

Since you are not physically able to get up on the roosts, you're favorite leisure spot is the natural perch formed by the threshold of the coop yard door. Of course, this means you're blocking the entrance/exit for all the other chickens. Luckily, you're easy-going enough to let them just walk over you.

According to all the chicken manuals, you reached market weight sometime between six and eight weeks of age.

You are now 12 weeks of age. You have mobility issues. And you eat a lot of grain.

A lot.

It is time, Rock Star.

It is time.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Home, At Last


After a year of planning and doing...

After nine months on the market...

The old Rational Living house has sold.

The past six weeks or so have been a blur of painting and hailstorms and roofers and van loads of all those things we didn't bring over earlier in the name of "staging." You know, "Let's keep those dozen boxes of non-important things in the basement so that potential buyers can get a feel for what it will look like when they live here." Or, "The artificial Christmas tree is still up in the attic so that potential buyers will be like, 'Whoa! Finally, a place to put our Christmas tree when it's not December! I'm so amazingly thrilled that I want to buy this place right now!'"

Last Friday all the papers were signed and keys were handed over.

It feels so good to have that weight lifted. Now we can better plan our finances. Now we can have enough time for the new Rational Living house and land (which, friends, I affectionately call The Shire).

Now I can have enough time to write here more frequently.

Welcome home, friends.

--Rational Mama