Writing

Deciding Whether or Not to Kill the Chicken

Bok Bok Chicken was suffering and neither the boys, nor my husband Jeff would put her out of her misery. She was egg bound and the other hens had pecked at her crown until it was bloody. The sweet/sour smell of flesh rot infused our garage where she convalesced in a large Rubbermaid container filled with straw. For the past three days all she did was sleep, while intermittently puffing up her feathers, shivering, and tucking her jerky head under her wing. 

Jeff likes to let things happen. He doesn’t make decisions if they can be made for him even if it is as simple as “What do you want for dinner?” That afternoon I Googled ‘how to humanely kill a chicken’ because I felt I had to take matters into my own hands.

Wringing a chicken’s neck is apparently the most humane way to kill it. But it means feeling the delicate neck bones snap in your palm. It means holding her while she flaps her wings on autopilot for a moment even though she’s dead, done, crossed her last road. It means feeling the life drain out of her by your own hand.

I felt complicit in her suffering, yet remained hopeful she would get better. We put a heat lamp on her, it dipped into negative temperatures, and the way she softly growled when I pet her made me think she was content. When she drank water and ate cornmeal out of my hand I inferred she was bouncing back and that I would find her clucking around the warm garage the next morning. 

I didn’t want to hurt her and I didn’t want her to be hurting, but I didn’t want to have to kill her myself even though I knew it was what needed to be done. So, who was the real chicken here?

It was Saturday morning and Jeff and the boys went to check on her. She was in the same position, curled up with her head half under her wing. 

 “See, she’s perking up,” said my husband.

 “Dad, she’s dead,” said Jesse. “Her eyes are white. She’s not moving.”

 Sam poked her to be sure she was dead, then went inside to get a plastic trash bag. 

Originally published in Danse Macabre

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