Every time I come back here after a long absence I say the same thing - I miss blogging but I'm too busy to do it. Mostly that is true, but the other reason I leave is that I keep getting caught up in what the blog SHOULD be instead of what I WANT it to be. I want to just talk about the stuff I want to talk about, so that is what I am going to try to do.
Here is what I want to chronical today:
I killed my first chicken last week. Here is the story:
We started out with 26 baby chicks about 13 weeks ago, and before I killed one last week we had 21 (5 losses due to predators or chicks dying in the first 2 days). Having my own flock was a dream I had entertained for a couple of years, and when we moved out to the country back in December one of the first things I wanted to do was get chickens. It amazes me that of all the neighbors around us that we can see, we appear to be the only one with chickens! There are cattle across the street, horses two houses down, and bees across the street at another house. That's it! All that other land is being mowed as pasture or lawns and isn't used at all. What a waste!
Anyway, we got the chickens and I immediately started preparing myself to cull the excess roosters when they got old enough (you don't need any roosters to have laying hens and we bought a "straight run" of chicks because it's cheaper than all girls). I told my kids they could each have one "pet" chicken that was immune from being killed as long as it was a girl, and two of them took me up on it so we have two chickens with immunity - Fat Dum Dum and Necromancer:
Fat Dum Dum is bossy and mean but so pretty:
Necromancer is much smaller and timid, so I couldn't get a good picture of her. She is the darker bird hiding under the bushes:
I had no experience raising or killing chickens but I knew I would never get any if I didn't just suck it up and DO IT. For the culling, I decided that I would try the killing cone method, which involves holding the chicken upside down (usually in a cone but I didn't have one so I held it in my lap), slitting it's throat and letting it bleed out. No suffering, less mess than chopping it's head off and less technical ( I thought) than trying to break it's neck. At 12 weeks, I picked the rooster who seemed the biggest and who also happened to be pretty mean and noisy. I chose a day that Andrew wasn't home so I could just deal with my own feelings and do the deed without being watched. I talked to Andrew on the phone right before I started but I could barely talk as I was on the verge of tears and had been a nervous wreck all morning.
I was upset but that was part of the process for me. I firmly believe that we SHOULD have to face the reality of killing an animal to eat it. It's easy to not face that reality when we buy boneless, skinless chicken breast wrapped in plastic. But those chickens have to live a miserable life (and die a miserable death) to give us the comfort of ignorance. I didn't want to participate in that anymore, so killing my own chickens became a life-enriching goal for me. I felt, and still do feel, that it would make me a stronger, wiser person to do this.
I know what that chicken ate, where it liked to hang out (wherever it pleased because they were truly free-range), etc. I know it didn't live in a cage, it didn't have it's beak cut off, it wasn't electrocuted. I know it lived it's life as a chicken!
Back to the killing part: it didn't go too well but I learned a lot. I freaked out because I
didn't feel like I slit it's throat enough, but in hindsight I think I
did and I just expected there to be more blood. The small amount of
blood made me feel like I didn't do it right, so I broke
it's neck for good measure and then chopped it's head off. So in the end I got practice killing a chicken three different ways! Now I know
that the slit in the throat is enough and to not freak out. It's embarrassing to admit that the chicken could have had a better death because I was solely responsible for the way it lived AND the way it died. But I can't be perfect at something the first time I do it, and I had to start somewhere. Next time I will be better.
After the killing part was done, it was easier for me to disengage emotionally and see the bird as meat. I plucked it and then slowly gutted it while referring to my book of choice (Harvey Ussery's Small Scale Poultry Flock).
We ate the chicken and it tasted like chicken but more chickeny, if that makes sense. The dark meat was tougher than a store-bought chicken because a free-range chicken actually uses it's muscles instead of being confined to a cage. After we ate it I made a broth from it and fed the scraps to the dog. We won't be killing the other roosters for a bit longer since this one only turned out to be 2.5 pounds and was already a bit tough at 13 weeks. Since they are apparently already past the age where their meat is very tender, it doesn't seem to matter very much whether we kill them now or in another month or two. The next ones will go in the slow cooker instead of being roasted.
Now we continue to wait for the girls to start laying eggs!