Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Big Dog and the chickens

A few days ago Big Dog was outside with me while I was taking care of the chickens. While I put the locks on their chicken house and coop door, he was feeding them long blades of grass. This has become a favorite activity of his lately. The chickens greedily grab the greens and gobble them down as quickly as he can poke them through the mesh of the coop. It's really cute how he calls to them, "come get your burritos!" and explains to me, "I want them to think it's better than just grass."

After a while, he looks at me and tells me, "I want them all fat and chicken-y!" He returns to feeding and chatting with the chickens he has raised in the house from tiny balls of chick fluff. Once again he turns to me and says, "They're going to be chicken-y. And when they quit laying eggs we're going to roast them!" with a devilish glint in his eye.

"Really?" I asked, somewhat stunned that my gentle and sensitive boy is now talking about dining on the flesh of his pets.
"Yes," he continues, "we'll roast them up and eat them!"
"I don't think so." I say, because honestly these are laying hens. They are productive pets who will give us eggs and shit copious quantities of poo we will compost and use in the garden. These are not for eating. These are...cute.
"Yes, we'll roast them and I'll eat their drumsticks!" he insists.
"No, I don't think so," I persist. "Do you really want to eat your chickens?"
"Yes!" then he pauses. "Does that mean they'll have to be dead?"
"Well yes, you can't eat a living chicken."
"But I don't want them to die. I want them to be alive. I don't want them to ever die," and he was suddenly sad.
I reassured him the chickens were going to be alive for a long time. I said we have years of eggs ahead of us, that the chicks are still really young and healthy. We don't need to worry about them dying for a long time.

Since then we've been having many conversations about death. I don't think the chickens conversation put the idea in his head. I think he'd been thinking about death before, but I do think it created a tether to his real life that he didn't have before. As much as I love watching his understanding of the world develop and grow, I do not like having to discuss death with this sweet young boy. But I do. Because I am the mommy, and it is my job.


geekymummy said...

Lovely post. I think having animals, especially edible ones like livestock really helps kids get that ancient human connection between life, food, and death.

Anonymous said...

That was so cute! I went to my son's graduation today and I remembered him on his big wheel and reading your blog just really made me happy and I think I'll pass it on to my friends. Your son is very thoughtful and funny. Eating their drumsticks, that was funny. I'm laughing now.

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