Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's Quieter On Little Creek Farm

I'm writing about the actual slaughtering of the chickens. It will be graphic, and I apologize to those who may be offended. If you think you may be, skip this entry.

I got up this morning, had a cup of coffee and went to the chicken house. I had been steeling myself for this moment since Wednesday. There was no snow in the forecast, no rain, no sleet. Today was the day. This morning, cloudy and still, was the morning. I caught the Barred Rock rooster first. It was easy. I put him in the dog crate on the back porch. Then I went back to catch the Dominique rooster. He was more difficult. He had a premonition perhaps, or maybe he was just a lot less tame. I trapped him in the chicken house and went in after him. He had flown to a roost, then straight at me hitting me with a claw below my right eye. "I deserve that", I thought.

Once both roosters were caught I went inside for more coffee. I gathered everything I needed - bucket, work gloves, rope, twine, filet knife (very sharp), a tub for feathers, and my courage. I set water on the stove to warm and went back outside.

I took the Dominique first. I had strung a rope between two trees near the creek. I trussled up the legs and tied the rooster upside down to the rope. Quickly, before I could lose what nerve I had mustered, I slit his throat. I looked down and realized I had forgotten to place the bucket underneath to catch the blood. There wasn't as much blood as I thought there would be. I went back and got the bucket. When I returned the rooster was still. I then noticed the blood on my gloves. I filled the bucket with water from the creek and flushed the blood off the leaf-littered ground. I didn't want the dogs wallowing in it. There was still blood on the tree trunk. I left it.

Next came the plucking. I moved the water off the stove and outside. I dunked the bird in the water and loosened the feathers. I began pulling the feathers. They came out easily. Big Daddy came out and helped finish the plucking and I went to get the second bird. I went through the motions again. I had hit mechanical mode. Big Daddy did the gutting. That part was easy for him. I think we've drawn the line on our labor roles.

It wasn't easy , nor was it as difficult as I had anticipated. I had been calling it the "deed" for a while - not quite able to say "slaughter". A life is not to be taken lightly and I said a little prayer for each bird. I have more respect for my chickens. Before they just laid eggs for my family. Now they have given their lives so I may eat. Not everyone is comfortable with that. I can't get all mystical about it - my role, their role. My thoughts are this - if I am going to raise a livestock animal, and I am going to eat meat, then I must be willing to do the "deed" myself.

I've also learned a lesson. If the birds are destined for the table, I can't get close. While the two roosters had no names, I knew them intimately. I knew their habits. I will undoubtedly have more roosters with the hatching and the next shipment. I think the key is to do the slaughter early, before I know them so well (and they are more tender). I like to know where my food comes from. I know exactly where the chicken, now chilling in my fridge, came from. I know what it ate. I know that it was healthy. I know that it got to run, chase bugs, eat my black-eyed peas before I could harvest them, flap it's wings and crow. If chickens can be happy, these birds were happy.

By the way, Mooney, the Silver Spangled Hamburg, received a stay of execution. I will have more hens by the spring, so two roosters won't be so bad. Monkey loves the "Hamburgler" and he's kind of funny. Besides, Hamburgs are a really light breed and what we'd get wouldn't be worth the effort. I'm a sentimental pragmatist.


  1. If you hit mechanical mode with two, you should have seen us after two dozen... we were nearly zombies.

    I feel the same way that you do about "the deed". It's so important to not leave all the dirty work to other people, and to complete the process of raising birds.

    Let me know what you think about the amount of meat on the Barred Rock. I'm very intrigued by them.

  2. The Barred Rock will be posted in his new incarnation later... He did have about twice as much meat on him as the Dominique after cleaning.

  3. Good to hear that about the Barred Rock having a lot of meat on him. I had heard that they are an excellent all-purpose chicken, and that's why I ordered some!

    Slaughter is rough. I definitely had a hard time with it. But it's worth it, many times over, because you have that continuity with your food. And you know it was done right and that the chicken didn't live in, as Larry McMurtry once wrote, a chicken gulag. So bravo to you, Maggie!