Wendyl farewells a feath­ered friend

When one of Wendyl’s beloved chick­ens gets sick, there is only one thing to be done. But will she be able to go through with it?

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - With WENDYL NIS­SEN

“I don’t sup­pose you feel like killing your first chicken?” I asked Paul as he was set­tled com­fort­ably in front of the fire read­ing a book. His look said it all. A def­i­nite “no”. But then I ex­plained that one of our first batch of chick­ens – which I have said in pre­vi­ous col­umns were in an ap­palling state and very old when we res­cued them – was not well.

Her name was Breasty, be­cause she had a huge growth on her front, which when she walked had a mind of its own and would sway to and fro, some­times steer­ing Breasty quite off track. She was a de­light­ful chicken, bossy, bel­liger­ent and al­ways the first one to come up to me for treats.

But I knew that lump was not a good sign and that one day it would be the death of her. I treated her for im­pacted crop, then sour crop, but noth­ing seemed to make any dif­fer­ence, so the time had come. She wasn’t eat­ing, she had di­ar­rhoea, she could barely sum­mon the en­ergy to come out of the hen house, and when I of­fered her the most savoured treat of all – dried meal worms – she showed no in­ter­est. Breasty was dy­ing and I knew that it would prob­a­bly be kind­est to put her out of her mis­ery.

We had dis­cussed this be­fore, be­cause when you keep chick­ens you know that one day you might have to put one out of its mis­ery. But hav­ing dis­cussed did not make it any eas­ier.

Paul’s a nice man and soft of heart, so he reached for his lap­top and googled “how to kill a chicken”.

Wringing the neck was a favourite sug­ges­tion, but it came with the pro­viso that you might do it wrong and un­know­ingly bury a very-alive-but-in-great­pain chicken.

We set­tled on us­ing the sharpest knife we had to cut off her head. In si­lence we both went and got changed. Nei­ther of us sug­gested it, but we just knew there would be blood.

I picked poor old Breasty up and re­alised how skinny she had be­come and how big her lump was. I held her up­side down, which is how you ba­si­cally put a hen to sleep – they go quite limp and do not re­sist.

We took her away from the other hens and I held her against a fence post and be­fore I could change my mind Paul sliced through her neck, killing her in­stantly.

I can’t tell you what hap­pened next be­cause I was run­ning away, dou­bled over, my head in my hands, groan­ing. I felt nau­seous, faint and started cry­ing as I ran.

Mean­while, Paul bun­dled Breasty into a bucket and said quite proudly: “I could do that again.”

Which is great be­cause I will never be in any state to do it again… ever.

I ran to the kitchen and put the jug on – I needed tea with sugar for the shock. I eyed the whisky bot­tle in the pantry for a moment but it was be­fore mid­day and in the coun­try it’s best not to start drink­ing that early, as I have learned to my peril.

While I waited for the jug to boil I watched through the kitchen win­dow as Paul dug a hole in the vege patch and gently lay Breasty in the soil be­fore cov­er­ing her up. At that moment I couldn’t think of a time when I’ve loved him more, which made me a bit an­noyed. Was this some kind of an­cient emo­tion tak­ing place in my brain? Was I suc­cumb­ing to a feel­ing of grat­i­tude for my hus­band be­ing so damned manly?

Was I go­ing to come over all weak and needy? “I’m a fem­i­nist and I can do any­thing,” I thought to my­self be­fore re­al­is­ing that ac­tu­ally I can’t do ev­ery­thing. I can’t, for in­stance, kill a chicken.

Paul came back into the house, hav­ing rinsed out the bucket and taken off his gum­boots, to check on me.

“You okay?” he said. “It’s not that much dif­fer­ent to killing a fish and you do that a lot. And you’re quite happy to take dead pos­sums out of traps and bury them.”

“None of them were my pets,” I cried, bury­ing my­self in his chest, which sud­denly felt a lot more manly.

Af­ter my tea I put on my rub­ber gloves and cleaned the chicken house from top to toe – wor­ried that what­ever got Breasty might be con­ta­gious – and then sat in the sun and played with my re­main­ing nine chick­ens, hop­ing they’d be around for quite some

time yet.

“Ac­tu­ally I can’t do ev­ery­thing. I can’t, for in­stance, kill a chicken.”

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