- Oxford: Reduce the population by selective slaughter.
- Merriam-Webster: Something rejected especially as being inferior or worthless.
- Cambridge: If you cull animals or plants, you kill or remove them.
Generally speaking, the decision to cull an animal is never made lightly. It will be based on several factors including:
- Genetic strengths or weaknesses
- Economic impact
- Age and viability
- Herd or flock size
Farmer Tom and I suck at this. As farmers, we like to grow stuff, to create new life. We like to see things flourish and prosper. We are all about that. We keep all of our hens past laying age, until natural death occurs. We have nurtured, even celebrated, an otherly-abled, genetically-challenged, flock member. (You might remember Bob the Chicken?) When we have raised birds for meat, we delay delay delay processing, until the sobering reality of keeping and feeding a coop full of hostile, angry roosters is worse than the discomfort of assigning them an expiration date.
In our chicken breeding program, we have worked to incorporate best traits, but not always best practices. On our farm we have two flocks of birds. Our breeding stock and our culled birds. By keeping and raising our culled birds, we have eliminated (or avoided) the actual cull, or death by selective slaughter. Because in truth, most times the only thing wrong with a "cull" is that they might not have the correct egg color, or feather pattern, or points on their comb. It doesn't mean they aren't physically good and healthy specimens. The hens still lay beautiful eggs that make for a tasty omelet in the morning. They just don't make the cut, as far as Standards of Perfection, defines it. So be it. If it means we have to raise two separate flocks, we're ok with that. We've been doing it for years.
We despise death, it is the antithesis to our work. Either by accident or design, it weighs heavy on our hearts. But even here, where we carry the torch for all life under our care, there is one scenario where a cull is necessary and cannot be responsibly avoided.
Occasionally, we'll find we have an animal that creates such a negative impact on the other herd animals such that they can no longer enjoy a quality of life, and sometimes an animal presents a physical threat to others that cannot be abated nor controlled through reasonable measures. An individual animal cannot threaten or risk the health and well-being of the whole. This is an animal that must be removed. If the temperament issues cannot be resolved by separation and/or relocation, and are imbedded, a hard cull is necessary.
And it is hard. And necessary.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: