Inglorious death

Warning: This post is not suitable for vegetarians. It does deal with some very unappealing aspects of animal death.

Today we continued with the chook slaughter. Last week Favourite Handyman killed chook #1. The biggest learning point from that was that they do have better eyesight than he'd thought. The remaining four chooks weren't going anywhere near him. This morning we organised the children in front of the computer and I coaxed one chook out with some grain. I caught her and spoke to her gently as I carried her round to the side of the house, where FH broke her neck. I repeated this performance once, before the final two chooks decided they didn't trust me and refused to be bribed.

The two dead chooks were in a sack waiting for me and FH took the children to the local swimming pool. Then - and I warn you again, this is not a pretty post - I went to start the skinning and gutting and, upon opening the sack, saw that one chook was still breathing. I didn't handle it well. I took out the dead chook and froze at the sight of the recently alive body on the table outside. Despite having skinned a couple of chooks before and gutted half a dozen, all confidence and sense of skill deserted me. I still felt both sick about the not-dead chook and sicker still that I didn't have the inner strength to kill it myself.

So I severed the feet of the dead chook, carefully washed and froze them, and buried the rest of the chook in the garden. There was quite a weight to the chook as I buried it and I was keenly aware that I wasn't making the best use of this resource. Twice I went back and checked on the not-dead chook, each time finding myself unable to act decisively. The second time I did see that it wasn't in visible distress, just quietly sitting in the sack, it's head turned to look at me. So at least it didn't appear to be dying a slow and tortured death.

When FH came home, I was reminded again why he is such a great husband. He was clear that he would have to kill it again and this time add the step of placing his booted foot on the neck and ensuring it was dead. Very calmly, he also talked me through the need to overcome fears, not to let them own me, and that we would get better at this, learn to kill them as humanely as possible, and this is all part of having chooks. I should add that this is just as new to FH as it is to me, and he certainly does not enjoy killing the chooks. So he killed the undead chook. It seems that the first time the chook just went unconscious and the neck was not severed. Then I skinned and gutted it.

The story gets more gory. As I gutted it, I wondered what huge hard thing I was pulling out. Duh! The chook was about to start laying, probably tomorrow judging by the location of the egg. As I gutted, I saw that we have culled too early. Next time, we will wait three years before culling. I had thought that efficent use of feed meant now was the time to cull and start again, i.e. after two years, but an inspection of the insides of the dead chook suggests otherwise.

The skinned, gutted chook and it's cleaned feet are now in the slow cooker, together with chopped onions, carrots, bay leaves, water and a little apple cider vinegar. The remaining two chooks are locked into the coop (thanks to the help of Fionn, who is the right size for chimney sweep sized jobs) rather than free reigning through the run, and will be killed in the morning.

I tell the story of today's learning not to make anyone feel ill. I am absolutely serious in suggesting that this is not a post suitable for all readers. But in a blog scene where urban homesteading is often glorified, all beauty and sunshine and love and little or no pain, rain, drought or disaster, I think it is important to tell my truth.


Sharonnz said…
I recently purchased a homesteading book that left me wide-eyed in the "killing your chooks" chapter. Good to read about the whole cycle of chook keeping!
applepip said…
Oh Sandra, you do inspire me with admiration, and not only for your honesty. We have read and read about doing the deed too, but at the end of the day neither M or I can bring ourselves to do it. Yet. I know we should be able to face up to it, but oh my, so hard! I did read many times that a broom over the neck with a foot on either side helps, although wouldn't swear to it?! At the moment we are still on the 'lose all economic gain as you feed 'em till they cark it' plan, which is kinda silly.
Corrine said…
Oh Dear. I know exactly what you went through. I've been there too. We have roosters and so get baby chicks all summer, but 1/2 those chicks grow into roosters and need to be culled. I hate it, and let DH do the nasty deed. We don't tend to cull the older hens as long as they are still laying. As they free range, very often the falcon does our culling for us.
Frances said…
I'm vegetarian but I read your post anyway, LOL! But honestly, I love these sorts of posts - they are honest and tell how things really are. I do get annoyed with people who eat meat but refuse to acknowledge that animals died to provide that meat.
Ruth said…
I admire your courage in killing your chooks, and in telling us the whole truth about it.
Sandra said…
Thank you for your comments Sharon, Pippa, Corrine, Frances and Ruth. I do appreciate them.

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