It was our first day home after a wonderful weekend at the Wild Goose Festival. I felt soaked in peace, love, contentment and hope. And all around me everything was beautiful.
We had new kids to enjoy. The gardens had presented us with an abundance of gifts. The presence of our son and his family was bringing us joy.
At dusk, at the close of a glorious day, I went out to the henhouse to shut in the chickens for the night.
And there on the floor was a black snake, eating one of our chicks.
I killed that snake, in anger and rage. And then I beat myself up. I reminded myself that had I come out a few minutes earlier the chick would be alive. I reminded myself that I’d seen that snake around our house many times and had only shooed in away, choosing to let it live–a choice that eventually cost the life of the chick.
The dust settled and I was no longer at peace. I was not in the happy place I had been. That had been quickly swept away in violence and anger.
And later that evening the truth settled in a little deeper. The little black chick, now dead in part because of choices I made, wasn’t yet old enough to reveal its sex. That little chick might have been a hen. If so, she would have likely have lived a long happy life on our farm. But it might have been a rooster. If so, once he got old enough to crow and begin to assert himself with the hens and other roosters, I would have culled him and processed him. That, of course, is a euphemism. It is modern farmspeak. What would have happened is that I would have killed him and eventually eaten him myself. Am I any better than the snake I killed? Have I any right to be angry at the snake?
I take my animal husbandry responsibilities seriously. I have a duty to protect the animals entrusted to my care. Snakes will not eat chicks on this farm if I can help it.
Maybe snakes are merely competing with me for food. Maybe there is no good reason for me to feel animosity toward the snake. Maybe beneath the anger and sadness I felt when I found the snake eating the chick there is nothing but a Darwinian survival mechanism. Maybe.
But I was fond of that chick and I am sorry that it is dead.