In advance of writing this, I beg forgiveness of the length of it... the BYC arena has been a treasure for me, and this evening I'm finding that I need to lean on this population that understands... if only to hear may be enough. I'm a Wyoming girl. I'm pragmatic. I have ridden through blizzards driving cattle down for the winter, and wrestled calves to be branded... I have trained and sold some of the top horses in the racing world... I have hunted doves and ducks and geese, trained dogs, been part and privy to farms and ranches all of my life. I have been in on the butchering of Elk since I was 6. I get it. I get the circle of life, the responsibility, the management, and our role in it all. Intellectually, I get it. I also get the spark of life, and the mysterious reverence of it - the balance of it all. I respect small farmers more than I have words to write it... (and I'm a writer by trade). It's the one thing I long to be. I want to be responsible and balanced in my world, I want to inspire my friends and family with the idea that if I can do it... certainly they can. I'm a better than average gardener though I can't really tell you why - probably has to do with my Grandmother and her incredible green prowess. So when my Husband and I bought the house and 2.5 acres where I grew up in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, naturally I set to work on gardens and with the help of this site and my Husband's lifelong experience ... chickens. (goats, horses, dairy cows... etc.... but we focused on chickens) Before this, I had, years ago, researched and found a wonderful Dutch Brown Bantam breeder in Montana and bought a 'pet' Rooster for my D.H. for his birthday - wonderful pet... we adored him - but that was the extent of my exposure to it). Read Read reserach research.. You know where I'm going. We turned my Dad's old training kennels into a fantastic coop - predator proof, sunny. Perfect. I wanted to send the double decker Jackson Hole doghouse transformation to Poultry Palace in for the coop contest, but our plans for a new one have begged us to hold off. Four hours on the road to Bozeman MT, brought us to the place where we can buy a small number of hens. We choose Columbian Wyandottes, and I have always wanted a Jersey Giant.. so hey, what's another $1.89... then on the way to the checkout, D.H. notices there is a Buff Rock all by herself in that big bin... so we got her too. 8 chicks - heaven. Gathering eggs on summer mornings then enjoying the garden companions scratching while I weeded filled my heart. I was right. Two of my Columbian Wyandotte hens turned out to be roosters, one of which had a curious case of narcolepsy. An upscale B&B with loads of 'pet farm animals' for children loved the idea of him, so off he went, along with the Buff Rock, who started a picking epidemic in my little flock. A fox stole two of my sweetest CW hens, and so we faced the winter with a CW Rooster who had become agressive, a CW hen with a picking problem, and a Jersey Giant... also with a questionable picking problem which I have tried everything in the book to overcome... including every Rooster Booster product and supplement ever made, blinders, absolutely everything short of de-beaking, which I simply won't ever do. With a new batch of Jersey Giant pullets that just went outside, and life that necessitates our being out of town for a week. Today was the day for tough decisions. The hen I named Flora - my best layer and sweetest hen who absolutely couldn't be broken of her taste for feathers, and Hansel, the rooster who as a chick, slept on my lap as I wrote, but who picked my Jersey Giant nearly bald, and was aggressive to children and my Dad, and my little JRT Pieta... today was their day. The trouble is, with all of that Wyoming Pragmatism... I had never been in 4H. Instead I had images in my mind similar to the goat Lady in Cold Mountain. Quiet moment, lights out. D.H., a farmer and hunter, pleaded that he should take care of it for me so to spare me the imagery. Nope. This is important. Has to do with the respect I have for farmers, and for my role in all of this. So Hansel and I took a quiet walk behind the proverbial woodpile. He was calm. It found the saddest purchase in my heart. D.H. was so kind to understand it in what way he could, and knew that he had to carry on with the sweet hen with me around the corner. He didn't protest or express concern that they had so little meat on them that it was of little circumstance to go to the trouble of dressing them, (which I did skill-lessly bumbling through until the butchering part... which brought an interesting balance of thought. I have cut up for barbecuing and roasting, likely hundreds of chickens... fairly mindlessly. Never again mindless, I finished under beautiful mountain final light). He understood that it was about respect. I wouldn't be human if I wasn't broken-hearted.. or rather, I wouldn't be the sort of human I would care to know. As it is, my respect for small farmers has increased, when I didn't think that was possible. My truth with this endeavor has broadened, and all things considered, by morning, I'm sure I will find my pragmatism with it. Even so... Never again will "Chicken" merely be an ingredient. Though expensive - never again will I buy a frozen Tyson chicken - for all the reasons one who has made it this far in my diatribe will understand. Anyway. I know here of all places, such an epistle will find empathy of sorts. So. Thank you.