OK. Let me start with a point of clarity about the title of this post. I didn’t literally kill one of my chickens. In reality, one of our chickens died on Monday. I found her in the coop face down in the dirt. No marks from a predator. No signs of a struggle. Just a dead chicken.
What in the world happened?
The Truth About ‘Deadstock’
When we got started with chickens, I received a valuable piece of wisdom. A friend told me “if you have livestock, you’ll have ‘deadstock’ at some point.” At the time, I thought that sounded morbid, but I kind of got the idea. You will lose chickens at some point. And we have. We lost three chickens in our first year (significant since we only have nine at the time).
Clearly, you don’t want these animals to die at the hands of a predator or through some other, unexpected means. You get to know these birds. They produce eggs eaten by your family. They recognize you when you bring them their food in the morning. They are important.
Dealing with Loss on the Homestead
When we moved to our homestead from the suburbs, we wanted to live differently (read more about us). We wanted our children to see and experience real life. And part of that means letting them be exposed to death. When they are exposed to death, they develop a healthy appreciation for life and the full cycle that God created. I realize there is a world of difference between the life of a chicken and the life of a person, but if a child can see a chicken soon after it is born, watch it grow and see it in death, they will have a better understanding of just how fragile life is. And hopefully they will develop a stronger appreciation for life. This is a lesson that many, including more than a few adults, likely need to learn.
Death is Just a Part of Life
Back in the mid 90’s there was a popular film released called Forrest Gump. In the film. Forrest visits his mother as she lay dying in her bed when she offered this little nugget of wisdom: “death is just a part of life.”
One of the things I’ve learned during these past couple of years on our homestead is that even in death, there is life. One of my favorite YouTube vloggers is Justin Rhodes (aka “The Chicken Ninja”) of Abundant Permaculture. This guy really knows his stuff! In one of his videos this summer he showed how he “disposed” of the carcass of one of his dead cornish cross hens:
My takeaway from this lesson is that even in death, you can take that dead animal and let nature got to work. Flies, maggots and other creatures will break down the carcass. What’s left can be put into the compost pile, which will produce rich soil. And that rich soil can be used to grow new produce. It really is a full circle. And in the spirit of homesteading, you let nothing go to waste.
Look, it really sinks to have a chicken die. Especially when it was just starting to produce eggs. And with a family of seven, we need all the eggs we can get! But homesteading is about learning to work with nature. I don’t know why the chicken died. But I do know that I will not put this lesson to waste.