My thoughts about dead chickens mostly revolve around whether I want their deep-fried corpses from Bojangles or Chick-fil-a. Ages ago, we learned that butchering your own chickens is for the birds, so to speak. It would take us hours to skin and pluck a single rooster, and the carcass was usually so stringy that it tasted more like my grandmother’s cross-stitch than her fried chicken.
After a few feeble attempts at self-reliance in the early years, we soon gave up and ceded control of our dietary poultry intake back to the fast food professionals. That was terrible news for my cholesterol, but really good news for the chickens on our farm, many of whom would live long and prosper in our pastures until a fox, hawk, or owl brought their prosperity to a quick and often violent end.
But this past week we actually had a chicken die of old age. It was about as graceful and peaceful of a death as I can possibly imagine for a chicken. The chicken just became less and less mobile over a course of a couple months, but it never seemed to be in much pain. Mostly, it would just sit around and watch the other chickens coming and going, and strangely the other chickens didn’t bother it either (chickens can usually be quite cruel to other chickens that are showing weakness). Everyday, it would grow a little weaker until it finally stopped eating and drinking early this week. The eight-year-old hen just sat and watched, surrounded by her flock, until she finally closed her eyes and breathed her last. It reminded me a lot of the Dowager Countess’s death in Downton Abbey, a Hollywood ending for a humble chicken. In the end it got me thinking there are a lot worse ways to die than being at home surrounded by family, especially for a chicken.