This morning an era ended at Mucky Boots. This morning we loaded Red Toe, Fluffy Butt and No Name into a crate and took them to Island Farms, the local chicken slaughterhouse.
We said goodbye and thanked them for being good roosters (overlooking Red Toe's persistent attacks on our feet). Then we climbed back in the truck and drove home for breakfast. This afternoon we'll return to the slaughterhouse, hand over $12, and pick up three gutted, plucked and bagged chickens.
It was busy at Island Farms this morning - it must be the time of year people slaughter the meat birds they've been raising all summer. Trucks pulled in and out of the parking lot in the early morning fog, leaving their crates of birds in the orderly configurations dictated by the employees, each crate carefully tagged with the owner's information. A white-coated and hard-hatted inspector cruised through the stacks with her clipboard, looking for signs of illness among the chickens. When we told her it was our first time she smiled and asked how it was going so far.
Some people brought a single crate, like us. Others brought flats and flats of birds. Once their birds were unloaded and tagged people stood around the parking lot with their Tim Horton's coffee cups and chatted - just another day. But for us it felt anything but regular. Kim was a bit teary. I was trying to be philosophical. But there's only so far philosophical can take you.
This is where the rubber hits the road. All those chickens I've eaten in my life have been their own little creatures. Most raised in less than humane conditions. But all I've seen are the neat rows of wings in the styrofoam trays. Later today I'll hold a butchered chicken in a plastic bag and it won't be an anonymous bird. It will be the one who pecked me bloody more than once, or the one whose fluffy tail feathers shook when he stomped his feet in a little chicken dance, or the one who minded his own business so successfully he didn't even get a name. How can I possibly put that bird in the oven for dinner?
Growing carrots is one thing. I am learning that raising chickens for meat is a completely different matter.