When feelings get in the way

Spring processing is finally done and in the books.

In the days leading up to the chickens’ trip to Freezer Camp, I always watch the weather forecast with earnest hoping for cooler but not cold temperatures and no rain. The thought of these chickens, which I have raised, fed and protected as babies, having to tolerate less than hospitable conditions on their journey just bothers me.

Now, granted, the end destination is still the same. It is a one-way ticket with no frequent flier miles and no beverage service, but I can feel good about how they were treated up until the end.

This was my sixth time taking chickens to the processing facility in Cambridge City, and all of the other times, I’ve been fortunate to avoid rain and get all to the processor without much to do. That all changed on this day.

I woke at 3:30 a.m., fed the dogs and the cats, dressed and proceeded to drive my father’s Ford Ranger pickup truck down to the area of the farm where the chickens were in their mobile coop tractor. Moving quietly but quickly, I was able to load all into a transport poultry crate with the exception of one tiny bird and two others that were huddled next to her.

Sometimes in farming, my compassionate side wins out and I end up doing something crazy, which is what happened on this particular morning.

As I watched this tiny bird, I knew to process her would not be financially beneficial. I would actually end up eating the cost of what it had been to raise the chicken. Plus, the way she was huddled between the two other meat chickens, well, let’s just say I decided to have a change of heart.

I pulled out of the driveway at 4:45 a.m. without the tiny bird and her two friends, which had settled back down to return to their sleep. Yup, chalk it up to a farming failure due to feelings.

It’s the first time I’ve balked at loading everything onto the truck, and I knew I would regret it later, but caught in the moment, I just simply couldn’t do it.

The rest of the day was pretty normal with the exception of a downpour that started around 6 a.m. in Greensburg and didn’t let up for the rest of the trip to the processor.

When we arrived at the Amish facility, I’m sure the lady thought this English woman had gone and taken the birds for an early morning swim. So much for having avoided rain all these years.

I retrieved the birds from the processor around 1 p.m. and then headed home in a downpour to begin the process of getting meat to those who had ordered. Usually at this point, I also would have returned the chicken coop tractor back to its spot in the barn, but because I had spared three, I now had a tiny meat bird with two others that really should have been processed still in the coop. Darn birds.

There are no plans right now if or when to process these birds, and I might just see if I can integrate them into the regular flock eventually. Perhaps I can create a new chicken breed while I’m at it. Ugh, having feelings when farming can really mess things up.

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected].