This isn’t the history
of how the chicken
gets on the plate
for most of us
(that story is much worse)
but today is the day
three roosters
will be prepared
for our dinner table.
We raise chickens
primarily for eggs
and for eating insects
and aereating the soil.
Too, we very much enjoy their company.
But when there are too many roosters
or the roosters are too aggressive,
they have to go.
We never know whether
a rooster or hen
will come out of the incubator.
We now have three grown roosters
and three teenaged roosters.
The teenaged roosters and hens
live in a smaller outer pen
and coop
and we want to give them more space—
free run of the big barn
this winter.
We’ve tried to let the teenaged
hens and roosters
in the barn with the mature chickens,
but the mature roosters
chase the younger hens
who aren’t big enough yet
to come away unscathed.
Six roosters become problematic,
so yesterday
Ann caught the three older ones
and isolated them in an outer pen,
next to where the teenagers live.
Today, she and Frank
will butcher them
(with as little trauma to the rooster
as possible. Placed upside down in a cone,
their necks will be quickly slit.)

A fourth grown rooster—
the oldest, the most beautiful; the one
with his flock of three hens,
one guinea and a cat—
disappeared a week or so ago.
They were all still free-ranging
around the farm then
and he must have ventured
far enough
to catch the eye of a hawk,
or coyote—both of which
are coming closer
these autumn days,
when their food
is more scarce.

It’s good to know these things.
It’s good to keep the food chain
in mind;
it’s good to know
who our food is.