Letter Re: Feeding Farm Animals

Thank you for the article on kids feeding farm animals. It certainly can be dangerous around the farm or ranch. It can even be deadly. But your comments on acclimating kids to handle these chores is spot on. I am 68. When I was 10 or 11, I was tormented by three geese at a neighboring farm. My older brother kept a horse there, and so I was there frequently to help care for it. I had to figure out on my own how to handle those geese. I had to do so out of sight of the owner, who believed those birds to be her babies. Eventually, I hustled up some nerve and kept them at bay with a long stick in the one place that the lady of the farm couldn’t see me. I did not strike the geese, but the stick kept them at bay, and they finally gave up trying to nip me. I never had any trouble with them again, once I showed them I would stand my ground. The reason I mention this is because this was a life-changing moment for me. In reality, the experience became a basis for getting me through the tough spots in life. You have to be cautious and clever in working around animals. In any farm chore you have to figure out the best way of doing things in order to achieve the most worthwhile result. I know people who have been maimed or killed on a farm or ranch, but I know a lot more folks who have died out on the highway. There are many rewards of working on a farm. Incidentally, our parents sold the horse because the horse kept nipping at my brother and would step on his toes at every opportunity. The horse had tried those same tricks with me. However, I slapped the horse in the mouth about twice and it stopped biting at me. When it was trying to stand on my feet, I just pushed it away. By the time he was sent away, the horse and I were pals. As you can imagine, I thought it was unfair. Hey, that’s life. S in KS

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Dear HJL,

I enjoyed, for the most part, the article on kids earning their keep, and the question was asked on how to deal with kids and butchering livestock/poultry. My young niece usually stays the summer with us on the farm. We raised chickens for meat and eggs this year, and she was involved in every step of the process. She helped pick out the day old chicks at the feed store, and she had to read up on chicken care. She cleaned cages and watered the birds every day. It was explained from the first day that the meat birds would be butchered while she was at the farm and they would be dinner. She decided to give them names like “Dumpling”, “The Colonel” (as in Colonel Sanders), “Tender”, and “Nugget”. When it was close to slaughter time, I explained again the birds’ purpose and we rounded them up and put them in a separate pen. On the day of the deed, we watched a few videos on youtube, so she would be familiar with the process. Reading about it is different than actually seeing it, and it helped that the videos were straight forward about the process. After we set up the processing station, I asked if she thought she had done a good job taking care of the birds. She said she had. I asked if they had had a good life for a chicken. She said, “Yes.” I told her she was an excellent “Chicken Girl” and now it was time to say goodbye and let the chickens take care of us by providing delicious meals for our family. I told it her was okay to cry a little because we were taking a life, but the life we took was to help us live. A few sniffles later, she caught a bird and helped hold it while I ran the axe. She turned out to be a really good plucker, but she wasn’t much for evisceration. I was very proud of her. She was a great help. She wants more meat birds next year, and she likes fresh, fried chicken livers.

I hope this helps someone else out, and good luck. – Sven