Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No running around with its head cut off

Bruce is cutting the neck of a rooster while Denali is holding it still so the blood can drain into the can below. The birds squirmed for one to two minutes after the cut. One of them crowed and moved for what seemed like three minutes.

I took a turn cutting a head off two birds I have raised since June. I thanked them for their lives, took a deep breath and cut as fast and hard as I could with the sharpest knife.
I'll remember that moment of killing to eat for a long time. I'm usually so far removed from the source of my food.

Butchering in a group shared the workload and expertise. It was easier to do it together and learn by doing. Now I know how. I could do it in my backyard. We had a feast at the end of the day. The meat was tougher than I anticipated. Denali shared organic potatoes, beets, carrots and cucumbers from her garden and her homemade bread. It was delicious. I provided homemade peach and apple crisp with fruit from a nearby orchard. YUM!

Denali said chickens bred for meat are more tender. I'll cook the birds I brought home in a crock pot all day to soften them up.

To cut the neck of those chickens, I connected to a deep primal instinct to kill another living creature for survival. My birds had a much more humane life than chickens raised in commercial feeding operations. Someone else does my killing for me when I buy chicken in a store. It was a bit messy, but not as bloody as I anticipated.

Tomorrow-- de-feathering and gutting them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Not one to follow the crowd

I'm not usually the one to be "the first" to do anything, unless it's counter to everyone else.

I had a baby and stayed home while most of my peers were dressing for success, climbing the career ladder and avoiding pregnancy and marriage.

When everyone else got perms in the 1980s, I kept my prairie grass -- straight and flaxen.

Now I have chickens and it seems it's the thing to do. Shocking! My urban friends out-and-out laugh at the idea and think I'm a bit odd. I used to think people who kept chickens were a bit odd.

People aware of the cutting edge, nod carefully and say, "A lot of people I know are getting chickens."

Chickens require regular attention -- less than keeping children, men and a dog, but more than fish, a car or growing a garden. (In the photo above, Denali, Mike & Bruce are defeathering a newly killed rooster during "processing."

One of my roosters, Houdini, takes after me -- avant-garde. When Bob opened up the crate to take him to get beheaded at butchering party at Denali's yesterday, he took off into the woods and disappeared. Houdini refused to follow the crowd and go docilely to his death.

Houdini survived the night probably by roosting high lup in a tree to avoid predators, and showed up at her hen house this morning.

"We tried chasing him with the dog and couldn't catch him. We're leaving for Maine in a few minutes," Denali said.

"Why doesn't he fly over the fence?" I said. Her run has no containment over the top.

"I don't know, Susan," Denali said patiently. "He wants to get in and is crowing like mad."

"Oh well. I don't want to come over. It's only a rooster. We were going to kill him anyway. I have other worries -- my car won't start. Just let him be. Would you put out some water for him?" I hung up.

Bob said, "We could go over and try and catch him."

"Emphasis on 'try.' There's no guarantee. And it will take at least an hour. He's not worth it," I said. I'm not one to put animals at the top of my priority list.

Denali left a message a few minutes later. "We caught him and he's in our pen. Call me later."

Roger allowed Denali and Bruce to catch Houdini. So much for independent thinking. Now what do I do with him? It's too much trouble to butcher just one rooster.

I guess I'll keep him for a few weeks, when I get around to picking him up, if he hasn't escaped from Denali's run in the meantime. Houdini likes to fly over the fence. Chickens are not the brightest birds.

Houdini was contrite when Bob opened the box to let him out into our run, the opposite of his dash to freedom the day before. In less than a minute, he re-established himself in the pecking order by going after Big Red.