The total lack of health and safety
As the chicken flock dwindled it became evident that not only was my heart not in it anymore but the housing for the chickens was woefully inadequate. Whilst the Portuguese seem quite happy to leave their foul in concrete bunkers, and to an extent it works for them, they don’t lose birds to predators etc. I was not happy about keeping birds like that, but given that other things have taken priority (like building a house for us) I was just putting up with it and making the best of a bad situation. A few months ago we had three chickens left, two from an original batch of 5 that the broody hen hatched and one inherited from a friend, three was good, we had eggs, they had space, it was manageable. Then one got sick and died, then another, which left me with one.
She was 4 and didn’t lay anymore but seemed happy enough, so I got her a mate. Things were ok for a while and then the pecking started. At first it was mild, letting them out sorted it for a bit, then as the winter months and freezing temperatures continued the pecking got worse. Without the facilities to isolate them from each other I had to let them try and sort it out between themselves, they didn’t.
The poor 4 year old chicken was not defending herself and was constantly bleeding, the young chicken had a got a taste for blood and wasn’t going to stop so, with my imminent departure from here looming and knowing that husband wouldn’t have the time to let them out and get them back at the end of the day, I had to make a decision. We put the older one out of her misery.
It was a sad moment but she’d had a good life and it felt that it was the right thing to do. 5 weeks later and I was back, asking people to take the remaining chicken in, hoping that she had sated her blood lust and wouldn’t create havoc in the next home, but no-one wanted her. So I was letting her out everyday when I was on the farm and she would follow me or woody everywhere, I’d grown mildly fond of her, still couldn’t forgive her for what she had done, but our routine was working.
Then something terrible happened. Some friends came to visit with their dogs and whilst they were chatting in our house one of their dogs had discovered the chicken and although she was locked in her house their naughty dog managed to enter the other side of the coop where the generator lives, found a weak point in the partitioning fence, broke it down and killed the chicken.
So that was that, I think that maybe that was her karma, it’s not a nice way to go however and this is the first time since we have been here that we haven’t had any chickens, the first time, upon arrival at the farm that we are not greeted with the excited sounds of hens………
I have had a total of 12 chickens since living here in Portugal, slowly, slowly, they have either died or had to be culled for various reasons. This is the one I have left.
and has got very big, I reckon she weighs about 2 kilos….anyway, a strange thing has happened, she has started crowing………..
she started a while ago after the penultimate hen died….she stopped for a bit whilst the last hen was dying…….I got her a mate on Sunday, she’s started again this morning. I’ve looked into it and apparently it can happen, if their grain has got damp or mouldy it can change the hen’s hormones……..as long as she continues to lay I’m not that bothered, and as long as she doesn’t try and hump the new hen. I would introduce more but am concerned that the sex-change chicken may well have contracted whatever the last hen died of and I don’t want to invest time and money in a new flock only to loose them all……we’ll see how we get on with the new one and the old one
some time ago, infact last year I made some figs in lemon syrup.
I never wanted to just dip in to them they seemed too precious, now that we’ve finished smoking the hams and bacon,
it seemed only fitting to bake a ham off
and serve the lemony syrupy figs (re-heated with coriander seeds, chilli and mustard seeds). Courtesey of HFW, his inspirational approach to cooking has turned out yet another feast. I also served creamy mash, made with new potatoes, carrots and peas tossed in mustard seeds and fresh spring greens with butter and caraway seeds. For pudding we had the first rhubarb of the year, cooked with a little orange zest and brown sugar, then chilled and served with greek yogurt. Who said the poor are under-nourished this isn’t just food for the tummy it’s food for the soul, reared and grown with soul and cooked with soul, and shared with new friends.
Now that the pigs have finally gone, we’ve taken all the fencing down, re-instated the gate at the far end to keep the wild boar out and had the whole meadow rotavated. The plan is to plant soya at one end and milho (maize) at the other and sunflowers everywhere all this will go towards next years chicken feed supply.
This meadow one day will become the chicken field, for breeding chickens to eat with a proper secure house and a run, but that day is a long way off so I’ve planted about 15 peach tree runners to create some shade for the future.
We did jokingly think that the meadow would also make a great football pitch, tennis court, croquet lawn or even a skate board park, but joking aside it’s a great space but needs some more work. The little stream that runs for some of the year needs some repair work to the edges, the pigs pulled all the rocks out, the grape vines are looking a bit worn from the pigs constantly rubbing up against them. But for now my work is done here, just waiting for some rain so I can scatter some seed around and plant some food.
Thanks to all the feedback I got from the previous entry I was able to eat our own pork. I’ve decided that it is ok to love your livestock, surely thats got to be better than abusing it or not caring at all, also that it is ok that I don’t kill it, chickens and smaller things I can cope with, killing a pig is a big job and not always very pleasant, whatever your method. It’s not completely necessary to do the whole thing, the rearing bit I can do, some of the butchering and then the eating. Thats fine with me
When we moved to Portugal we came with a lot of ideas about how we wanted to live, most of them are quite do-able and with a little bit of patience (well quite a lot actually), alot of stamina and a huge amount of spirit, not to mention tools and skills we’ve pretty much put in to practice most of our original ideas. Some have been successful, some not. But we keep plugging away, old ideas get replaced by slightly more realistic ones but the main principal hasn’t changed.
When we got our pigs the idea was to fatten them up on a large meadow which they would rotavate and fertilise and at the end of it we would also have meat. The reality of that wasn’t quite as simple. First of all they never really rooted around just lay around, they did fertilise but only in one place, they procreated alot which left us with unwanted piglets and lots of dead ones too (see previous piggy posts). The male was despatched last year and went towards supplying us with meat. The two females were despatched this morning, a little late as they were past their best and it’s already quite warm, but it was complicated.
I had been left in charge of the pigs whilst Rick got on with building the house, which is fair enough, but what I wasn’t expecting was my total inability to deal with getting rid of them and then eating them. I never ate any of the male (I didn’t like the taste) and I doubt very much I’ll be able to eat the females. It’s pathetic really, having always been a firm believer in “if you can’t kill it, you shouldn’t eat it” theory, well the truth is I got too attached. I’ve spoken to lots of people about this and am assured that it gets easier, but it still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak, should I really be eating meat if I can’t kill? is it OK to be sentimental? is it OK to have got attached? will i ever get over it?