These are the faces of a husband and wife who have vowed not to raise broilers again until they have children old enough and in need of chores.
I know you've all been waiting with baited breath, perched on the edges of your seats, to hear how the Tale of Trying to Raise Chickens ended.
Let me tell you.
We decided to find someone to process our birds for us because (1) We had no clue what we were doing, (2) We felt guilty asking friends to drive four hours to teach us, (3) We didn't have all the proper, uhhhh, accoutrements necessary for such a task and (4) Chris is trying to manage a dairy and frankly just doesn't have the time.
And I sure as heck wasn't capable of leading this charge.
The only thing I know about birds is that you pull a little baggie of goodies out of turkey cavities before sticking them in the oven at Thanksgiving.
So . . . pretty much nothing.
We found a gal who has a small business processing poultry, and we rejoiced. She asked us to arrive between 6:30-7:30 a.m., which I was used to from my childhood chicken-raising days.
Back then, we'd get up when it was still dark and the chickens were half-asleep. Dad would hold four birds at a time and put them in chicken crates in the back of his pick-up. I was in charge of opening and closing the chicken crate door. You know, official business.
This time around, Chris said he'd be up by 5:30, load the chickens and I'd be on my way in his truck.
Except that he got really sick the night before.
I mean, really, really sick.
As in, I-couldn't-in-good-conscience-even-ask-him-to-get-up-to-help-me-load-the-chickens sick.
Then I learned that somewhere between being 10 years old and being 30 years old, my memories of chickens changed a lot. Opening and closing a door to a crate was no big deal. Chasing eight-pound birds around a coop as an adult was very different.
I stood in the door of the coop, suddenly wondering how my dad could hold four birds at a time when I was struggling to get my hands to even grab one.
I gave myself a pep talk. I psyched myself up. And then I reached for the largest rooster, attempting to hold him kind of like a winged, flapping football.
My theory was that because he was the fattest, he'd be the slowest and the laziest.
I was wrong. Turns out he was the meanest and the fighting-est.
Reeeeeeally slow going.
I'd pick up one chicken, leave the coop, climb over the fence, haul myself up in the back of the pick-up to the roomy crate, get back off the pick-up bed, climb back over the fence, crawl back into the coop.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
I was pretty convinced, after about the third bird, that I would still be holding chickens like footballs when I was 40 at this rate.
Then my dear farmer, with only an ounce of Gatorade left in him, dragged himself outside to help load the last few. A neighbor stopped by on his way down the road to say hello in the darkness of morning, but he moved on quickly. He could probably tell we were a hot mess: me looking traumatized and Chris looking, well, let's just say, pale.
I hit the road around 6:00 a.m. and made it to the processor's place. I hit up the nearby McDonalds to eat some breakfast and send some emails. An hour and a half later, the birds were done.
It was finished.
"These are some gorgeous birds," the woman told me as we loaded them into the truck. "Most of the birds we get are between 3-4 pounds. Yours were 5-6."
Great. Chubby chicken raisers. That's us.
Yep. We're the ones that raise the chunkers.
But you know what? We also learned that chicks can come in the mail, how to raise broilers, the cycle of life and death that is seen so keenly on a farm, a sense of humor and what's it like to drive a bunch of chickens down the interstate.
And I gained a renewed sense of respect for my dad and my husband who work with animals, around manure and in this sort of environment every day . . . and all without pep talks!
Will we raise chickens again? Yes. We still are. We have six layers (remember Horace? Yeah. She's definitely Doris.), and we're anxious to see when they start doing their egg-laying thing.
In the meantime, our freezer is full of meat that we raised ourselves, and we have a great story to recount when we share that bird in a meal with friends.
You know, now that I think about it, that almost makes holding chickens like footballs worth it.