I knew it was coming, but that didn’t change the fact that I wasn’t really ready for it. It all seemed so innocent when the kids brought home chicks from the kindergarten. We played with them for a little while but have some friends who lost some chickens to foxes so made the offer to pass them on; an offer which they gladly accepted. But there’s a catch with chicks. It turns out that telling the difference between boy chickens and girl chickens is really hard and involves not only knowledge and skill but also about a fair amount of luck. In the absence of any skill to speak of and only the knowledge gleaned from snippets of internet chat I found myself staring at the underside of a small bundle of soft yellow feather having to admit that I had no clue about what gender these chicks were.
So off they went to their new home and lived happily for a some months until the differences became blatantly and noisily obvious. We had given our friends the gift of one hen and two roosters which were now happily crowing and disturbing neighbours. Our council has fairly clear rules on this and despite some suggestions to the roosters they didn’t seem keen to take our advice and shut the hell up so there was only one solution, and it wasn’t going to be fun.
What came next was a number of fairly disturbing evenings spent watching what I can only describe as poultry splatter youtubes in an effort to find out how to most humanely dispatch these chickens. It turns out that there are a cast of thousands willing to video themselves offing chickens and likewise more techniques than you would imaging involving straps, cones, buckets, axes and even a slightly over-enthusiastic women with an over-arm action and a block of wood that had me reaching for the stop button half way through. I should also add that I am a complete wuss and generally not great with blood, mine or others. But the truth is that despite efforts to cut down and even phase out meat we have not succeeded and so it seems only right that if I am willing to eat meat I should be willing to kill it.
So we prepared. Tools were fetched, a plan was hatched, the children were taken to the park by a willing third party as we began our process. Initially we had planned to use a milk carton to restrain the chook after reading all sorts of horror stories about chickens getting their feet into a cone and launching themselves backward in a chaotic bloody last bid for freedom. This was a complete wash out though as the chicken (probably fairly sensibly) didn’t seem keen to cooperate and tucked itself up into the bottle like some sort of odd plastic coated feather pillow. Plan b was to suspend the chicken upside down which calms them down and do the deed that way. I’ll skip the main bits involving some words of thanks to the chicken and a knife though will add that whilst there seems to be no end of videos showing confident people cutting chickens throats it’s a very different story when you have to do it yourself. Once that bit was done, and with prior agreement Nikki was up to process the chicken which included some very interesting anatomy lessons.
End result, well we ended with two processed chickens that look just like you buy from the shops and we were fairly happy that we did it in a way that didn’t distress the chickens too much. We did cook the chicken as soup though I must say that they meat was, even at this young age, very stringy which makes you wonder what’s in the chickens that you normally buy. The kids asked what we’d done and we told them trying to sound as matter of fact as we could and they accepted it without a second thought. Turns out that for them it seemed like a fairly logical thing, which I guess it completely is, but it’s funny how you can become so removed from the food that you eat that you think that killing something and eating it is unusual or somehow ‘icky’! Did I enjoy it, hell no! Did it affect me as much as I thought it might, no not really either. I’d still like to give up meat but in our current reality we eat meat, so better to know that the chicken that we are eating has been cared for and given space to roam, scratch and live than buy a sterile cling-wrapped bird that magically appears without history or provenance.