Tim and I decided when we got our first group of Cornish Rock chicks back in March, we would butcher them around the end of April, beginning of May. It is best to butcher this particular breed between 8-10 weeks.
We had planned to butcher our chickens on Saturday, but my grandfather's passing meant that Saturday was family time, so it was decided that we would do it Sunday. Tim and I were running some errands that afternoon (picking up some baby items from a friend- thanks, Carol!), so I thought we weren't going to do it until Tim asked me if we were going to go ahead and butcher when we got home.
I immediately felt a bit lightheaded. I have been a purchaser of humanely raised/butchered meats with the feeling all along that I should probably be doing it myself. Personally, I feel that if you cannot get neck deep in the process of raising and killing an animal, you should probably not eat an animal. Lettuce doesn't feel pain when it's chopped for a salad. I knew that this was going to be the moment of truth for me. Could I actually go through with killing a chicken that I held in my hand when it was a week old, fed and watered daily, scratched it's neck while it sat on my lap in the sun?
The answer is yes. I can. And I did. But it was hard and a day later, I am still feeling a bit shaken up, but I think that is a positive sign. When I can take a life without being at least slightly disturbed by it, I will have lost a part of my humanity, so the goal is to become more human, more feeling, throughout this process.
This is a brief overview of how things happened. I'm not going to go too far into detail, but be fairly warned that there are some pictures that some might be sensitive to some below.
First, we decided which chickens were going to be butchered. We decided to start out with one, just to see how things went and maybe do another if it went well.. We put her in a box along with a couple of the chickens she was raised with to help her feel calm.
The box was given to us when we purchased the grown Araucana chickens about a month ago.
You see Jackson in the picture and he was home (and awake) when we did this. We set him up to where he couldn't see the process but we could see him- with some of our newer chicks to play with and he had a great time, never a clue what we were doing.
This is not a chicken that was butchered. She's alive and happy, but this is what our meat chickens look like at butchering age.
In all, we butchered two chickens yesterday.
The first, we used a chopping block and I really didn't like it.
I know that the chicken was instantly killed and that it didn't suffer, but it felt a bit barbaric to me.
The second chicken, we used a method that I was interested in trying after being a bit startled by using a chopping block. For chicken #2, I broke her neck cleanly to kill her and then proceeded to go through the process of removing the blood from the carcass and getting the meat to a useable state.
Instead of plucking the feathers, we chose to use a popular method and skin the chicken. We don't cook chicken with the skin on, anyway, so why not just remove it before freezing or cooking?
It was fairly simple, to my surprise!
The above photo is me skinning the chicken that I killed. From killing her to putting the ready to eat or preserve parts in an ice bath took about 20 minutes.
Here are the parts of chicken #1.
Chicken #2 was left whole after the entrails had been removed.
Here is chicken #2, my chicken, dressed and baked with potatoes and onions.
Here is chicken #1, packaged to be frozen for later use. The parts you can see here are leg quarters.
Now, I have mixed feelings about this whole process.
I adore my chickens, but we do eat chicken.
I'm not going to have the capabilities and resources to raise my own animals for food and NOT do it, but continue to eat animal products-
even though it was difficult for me.
Removing ourselves from the process of raising and killing animals is what has caused the incredibly sick growth of the factory farming industry.
We want someone to do it for us.
We want boneless and skinless delivered to us, wrapping in pleasant packaging.
We want clean hands.
I no longer have clean hands.
I raised and butchered my own animals for meat.
Like I said before, I have mixed feelings about it.
I will do it again- butcher.
I will do it again- purchase animals for the sole purpose of becoming food for my family.
That being said, I am feeling no grief over it, no guilt. I raised these chickens from fluffy butt chicks that were less than a week old. They were loved on, well cared for, treated with as much dignity and respect as any of the other 32 chickens we have living in our backyard. There is no difference between the way our pet dogs are treated and our pet chickens are treated and our meat chickens are treated.
My mixed feelings come from my own personal thoughts about being an omnivore.
I have had SO many people tell me that what I have done is disgusting.
And it was none of those things.
It was clean, humane, and done with respect.
And the people criticizing me are people that would never consider eating farm fresh food, because knowing where the animals come from is too close for comfort. Factory farms are preferrable to them over what we do here at our home.
To each his or her own. I am not passing judgement on another person's convictions and/or eating habits. We all must live as we feel we must, but this is part of my growing process, part of our home becoming a homestead- a place that can sustain us.
And I hope that sharing this part of my journey with you didn't offend.
I tried to provide fair warning from the beginning.
But if you were offended, I'm sorry. It wasn't my intention to shock or disturb, but merely to share my experience and educate.