Things that make us human


Most of our chickens don’t have a name because we can’t tell them apart anyway. The ones that Boy two likes are the exception.  There was Tail-less, now there is Queenie and Obsidian. Spontaneously, I started calling our dying chicken on the porch, Frieda.

Frieda took so long to die that I began to think she would live. Why she died is still a question. Best available wisdom suggests a raccoon injury, cancer, or that she became egg bound.  Last year, when paranoia about microbial invasions on the farm overwhelmed me, we had a post mortem done on a chicken. For $60, I learned that the alive but ailing chicken I delivered had a bad case of arthritis in her knees and would have suited the dinner table just fine. I calmed myself by pretending we were intentionally seeking education rather than paying money to contaminate our chicken so that we could no longer eat it. Whatever Frieda died of, I don’t think it was contagious, so no post mortem for her, and no pricey education for me.

Waiting for Frieda to die stressed me. She didn’t seem miserable. When I expected her dead in the morning, she woke up hungry. By that night though she wanted neither food or water. The smell of death and bowel dysfunction made the air a bit thicker than I like it. I put her out in the grass the next day to get rid of the smell, and because if I was going to die soon, a patch of lawn in the sunshine would be just about right.

There is a whole field of psychology devoted to the  notion that the further we distance ourselves from nature, the more unhealthy we become. I know everybody can’t have a farm, or even a pet, but I do believe we innately crave connection with living things. That we need to be reminded of real things. I didn’t kill Frieda myself because I didn’t know if she was suffering and because head removal is our method of chicken dispensing. Although I’ve done it many times, every time it surprises me a bit what a physical act it is.

I like that my kids have seem things die. Not because I want them sad, but because I want them to know that nothing dies for free. I obviously take no issue with eating meat, but I care a lot about quality of life, basic consideration and avoiding needless loss.

As living things ourselves, the strand of spider’s web we hang by is fragile. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I guess I hope that a little kindness for a dying chicken teaches my kids a few things that don’t have to be spelled out. Like, be compassionate, even if someone really, really stinks. Do what you can to make them comfortable and say a few kind words. It might not change the world, but it might make us just a little bit more human.

3 Comments to Things that make us human

  1. Esther J Cann says:

    Well said, Dear. We could do with a whole lot more of that kind of compassion in our world.

  2. Rachel Bushnell says:

    priceless lessons – thank you for living them and sharing them.

  3. Sadly dying is part of our world and showing compassion to the dying even when they stink or smell bad is the way of God’s love. It reminds me of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta and her care of the dying people who stunk and was really disgusting. She could see Jesus in them! Thank you for showing your children what compassion is. Blessings