Land Poor

Life on 80 Acres

Land Poor

Land Poor
A small crossroads, Ontario, Canada
December 31
I live in a (dilapidated, leaky, infested) trailer with no electricity, no plumbing and no permit, parked on the 80 acres of land DH and I purchased last summer. We are trying to start a farm from the ground up, with very little money. This blog is about the trials, tribulations and joys we encounter in our everyday lives.


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JULY 19, 2011 11:42AM

Former vegetarian, now I'm a killer

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White rock chickens (the chicken designed for industrial meat production) in their portable cage which is moved to a new patch of grass twice a day


  Sometimes, for various reasons, you have to kill things.

Yesterday we came home to find more of our meat chickens dead inside their moveable cage. We have been hit hard by Coccidiosis, a deadly disease exacerbated by damp conditions. The birds contract Coccidiosis and then their weakened systems become susceptible to respiratory infections. Some end up suffocating to death. (Aside, to those of you who buy meat from us: This disease does not infect humans and all our birds our inspected at the abattoir. The ones who make it to the abattoir are the ones that haven't gotten sick).

Up until yesterday, if we found a dying bird we would just let it pass away on its own. Even if it was clearly suffering. Even though leaving a sick bird with the healthy ones puts the healthy ones at risk.

Yesterday, I had had enough. Five birds had died during the workday, while both of us were away from home. Three more were acting strange. They were suffocating. One had the pattern of symptoms we've come to recognize: pale, no energy to stand, head wilting forward, panting hard. The other two had good colour but their heads were whipping around, they could not stand and they were also breathing much too hard- sucking in great, wheezing gasps.

DH stormed off in anger, kicking the ground. He yelled, “I'm not dealing with this anymore.”

I thought, “Fine, if he's out, that means I'm in and I'm dealing with this my way.” I knew the sick birds should be killed rather than allowed to suffocate to death, for their own good and the good of the flock. Knowing did not make it any easier.

I swallowed hard, looking down at a young rooster. The rooster stared wildly, trying to hang on to life. It was terribly hot to the touch. I wrapped my hands around his neck, visualized what I would do, braced myself, then wrenched his neck in two different directions.

It didn't work. The chicken, it's head at a crooked angle to its body, continued to pant. Sickness overtook me and I burst into tears. I felt unbelievable guilt.

DH came to my rescue with the chopping block and an axe. He tried to comfort me and reassure me that I had done the right thing. We despatched them quickly, me chopping and DH holding.

Once finished, we carried on with the chores- bringing food and water to the various animals. You can't stop just because you feel frustrated, tired, or like a failure or like a monster. You have to keep going because if you don't, animals will suffer and die.

DH's mom sometimes mentions that her mother would drown kittens. My mom has told me that when city folks came and dropped of a dog at their farm, my grandfather would have to take the dog out behind the barn and shoot it, right between it's big brown eyes.

I don't know if we did the right thing. In retrospect, the chickens with good colouring may have been suffering from heatstroke and there is a chance their conditions might have been reversible. I doubt it, but they may have been. What I know with conviction is that I acted as my conscience dictated. Despite the emotional discomfort, I was clear about what I had to do and I did it.

I want to take that degree of coherence and apply it to the rest of my life.


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Don't ever think that an act of mercy is the wrong thing to do. You know, somewhere in the back of your mind, that those chickens were suffering and you took the steps to end their suffering ... sometimes, in life, we need to make very difficult decisions but, after the fact, you can feel better knowing that you stopped an animal from suffering.

Allow yourself time to grieve over the deaths of your chickens, but don't think for a moment that you did something wrong.
i did this for some coyotes and foxes that i was caring for when it got too hot. I dug down about two feet. threw a piece if junk plywood over it then covered that with a foot of dirt and brush to shade it. that created a cave that was much cooler and didn't cost a cent.

do they have lots of water. a way to get wet and use evaporation to cool themselves?

roses around the pen will create a classic briar that will not only shade the birds, guard the birds, but create another cash crop for the flower market (with it's own set of troubles) Rasberries work too.

ain't farmin grand? not! fail!
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You did it out of compassion. I don't think you have anything to be sorry for.
This is horrible. Another reason why, in the 21st century, we shouldn't be enslaving animals and creating all sorts of excuses as to why we need them. We don't. And if they had a voice (which they do, but many choose to ignore them), they would scream at the top of their lungs to be left alone. Forks over Knives. Ahimsa over violence.
I think I can say I almost know how you feel -- tho I've never lived on a farm (I suspect I haven't got it in me) I feel guilty sometimes swatting at insects, I trap and release mice rather than kill them even knowing they and whatever diseases they might be carrying will probably come back.

Regardless of the issue of whether or not animals should be in our care rather than on their own, when they are in our care we have to do what we judge best for them -- the same as we do with each other -- and sometimes it is heartbreaking.