Yesterday at home, we had a quiet day. For the first time in weeks I enjoyed a much needed nap with my kids, playtime in the yard, about 28 books shared on the couch in our jammies and some homemade brownies. Oh, and I had a bit of an incident in the chicken coop… as we do not currently have a cat, I am responsible for maintaining/controlling the rodent population around here. Upon opening the coop door as we fed the chickens this morning, I noticed an all too familiar small, quick, dark flash in the corner and decided, enough is enough. Andrew kindly fetched me a small shovel (his blue metal shovel to be exact). I cornered the little squatter, tossed it outside and then exposed it from it’s hiding spot under a roll of chicken wire. One quick whack with the flat of the shovel and it was still. I quickly and unceremoniously flung it into the woods.
“Mom. You made the mouse dead.”
Oops. My kids stood behind me, completely still and quiet (not common), all eyes on me.
“Well, he is safer in the woods**. And its not good for our chickens to share their house. A mouse could poop in their food and then they would eat bad germs that could get in their eggs, that we eat.”
“Ok. Can we give the chickens some more scratch [cracked corn]?”
Phew. Crisis averted, or so I thought. I started thinking about Frederick, whom we read about almost daily, and began to feel a bit guilty. But, rodents in the chicken coop are simply unacceptable and need to be dealt with immediately. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the little critter (probably a she) had created a lovely, thankfully empty, nest of downy feathers in one of the high corners of the coop. Unacceptable.
Later in the afternoon as we were getting ready for a nap, Andrew asked if we could say our bedtime prayers for the mouse that I “made dead” (“kill” isn’t really part of our vocabulary yet). Oh boy. So we prayed that Jesus would bring the mouse to heaven and it would find a wonderful meadow to live in and have lots of delicious things to eat and lots of other mice to play with. Amen. (Oh yes, and please forgive Mommy putting the lives of our hens and her sanity over the life of that poor helpless mouse.)
Thankfully, I haven’t heard of it since and hope that mouse was really a mouse (as opposed to a baby rat… eek!!), and does not have a family that I will soon discover.
I think a cat may be in our near future.
**This is not the first time I have told Andrew something less than truthful regarding animals and death, I am sorry to say. Last winter, in the dead of winter (no pun intended!) we had an old hen that was not well and had been on her way out for several days. I really did not want to put her in my soup pot. When she reached the point that she could no longer stand to eat or drink, I realized that it was her time to go. Andrew and I petted her one last time and thanked her for being a good chicken and laying many eggs for us. Eleanor was bundled in her sled, too small to walk or talk. We brought the hen to the edge of the woods and I collected my axe. I asked Andrew to fetch something inconsequential on the other side of the yard to buy a few minutes so I could take care of business and he returned just as I had placed the lifeless hen in the garbage can. He pondered why I put her in the garbage can and I promptly responded (goodness knows where this came from): “Well to get to chicken heaven you must take a ride on the garbage truck, and in order to get on that truck you need to get in the garbage can first.” Crisis averted, or so I thought. For months, Andrew told friends, family, swim teacher, the librarian, etc. that the way to chicken heaven was on the garbage truck.
In closing, I will say that these two occasions were the only times I was ever responsible for taking the life of another living thing. Neither was an experience I remotely enjoyed, but as the steward of our small flock of hens I am responsible for their well being and sometimes this involves jobs I’d rather not take on. But, its part of the reality of farming and I hope that these small struggles are all I have to deal with, as opposed to sick lambs or something of greater proportions like that.
And in the meantime, I’ll try to get my story straight on chicken and mouse heaven. And, of course, we’ll keep on praying!