Killing chooks, the other side of things. When your meat doesn’t come from the supermarket.

by Veronica on July 27, 2010

Warning, this post talks about things that some readers may find distasteful. Please don’t read it if you can’t get your head around animals being slaughtered for food.

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There is a feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you kill an animal. It’s that sinking feeling as you hit a wallaby in your car, that drop when you have to kill something for it’s own good.

These are the things I thought about as I held a flapping dead chook in my hand this afternoon.

3 hours previously:

Walking to collect the eggs, I entered the shed with the laying boxes and spooked one of my hens – she wasn’t laying, but she bolted when she saw me.

Another hen was laying at the time, curled up in her nesting box as I went down the row, collecting duck eggs and a chook egg.

Only…

Is that a peck hole? In my egg shell? Fuck.

It was, a suspicious peck in an egg – done recently as there was no dirt or grit around the entrance. As recently as me walking into the chook shed.

Fuck it.

Some chooks, they eat eggs. Something happens and they discover what is inside an egg and they start pecking all the eggs to pieces. If left, they’ll teach the other hens how to eat eggs and it will end up terribly. No eggs = no baby chickens = no reason for keeping chooks.

There is only one cure for an egg eating hen, and that is a quick death.

A few days ago, I’d found a duck egg broken in the bottom of the nest. I thought it odd at the time, knowing how tough the shells on my eggs are and I wasn’t sure a duck standing on the egg would have broken it.

I didn’t clean it up at the time, planning to come back and clean the straw and broken mess out of the bottom of the nest when I got a chance. So this morning when I found the pecked egg, I remembered the broken duck egg and went over to clean the nest.

Only to find the entire egg was gone, shell and all.

An egg eater, for sure. A possum or rat, well, they would have taken eggs from the other nests as well and made a right mess.

At this point, I was fairly sure that the chook I’d seen disappear when I walked into the chook shed was my culprit. She didn’t make an alarm call of ‘I was laying and PREDATOR’ or act like the other hens, quietly clucking at me in distaste when I bothered them.

AND she was standing leaning into the nest with the pecked egg.

So, we did what you do with an egg eater.

We caught her and killed her, humanely and fast. One chop and she went from upside down and relaxed in my hand, to dead. It was fast and it was painless for her, over in less than a moment. Slightly more traumatic for me, as my stomach dropped and I felt the feelings that come with slaughtering something.

But this is how it works when you’re making an effort to live more sustainably and only wanting to eat happy, ethical chickens. No one likes killing, (no one normal anyway), but it’s a fact of life.

Once she stopped flapping the death flaps and relaxed, we strung her up by a leg and did what you do – skinning, gutting, cleaning. It took a little while, as it was the first chook I’d done myself. I watched plenty of times as a child, but the actual act of doing, well, slow and steady and all that. There are things I’d never asked my father, like ‘how do you get the lungs out?’ and ‘how do you make sure you’ve got all the unborn eggs and kidneys out?’ but no matter, I worked it out myself. Me and my sharp knife and Nathan chatting to me while I worked. It was okay once I started, less like killing and more like processing meat. No different to gutting and filleting fish – a regular part of my growing up.

And then I brought the meat inside and chopped it into pieces for soup – which is bubbling nicely at the moment.

Tonight when we eat, I will silently thank the chook for living a good life and enabling me to eat ethical meat my way and I will know that this chook, she had the best life possible before she died and that her death wasn’t traumatic, for anyone other than Nat and I. Amy walked outside just after we’d chopped the hen’s head off and we talked about it.

That this is where meat comes from. We don’t get meat from the supermarket, meat comes from animals and our job is to give animals a happy life and ethical humane death.

Half way through skinning a chicken

Note the yellow fat? Proper free range healthy chooks have yellow fat and skin. Supermarket chooks have generally been bleached to make them more ‘attractive’. Personally, I’ll take bright yellow over covered in bleach any day.

This is once I’d broken it down and was browning in olive oil.

Recipe for chicken and potato soup:

Take your chicken, make sure it’s free range and break it down into it’s various elements. Take off the breasts, chop the legs down close to the carcass and remove them from the body. Brown everything in olive oil, including the carcass.

When everything is well browned, add 5 roughly chopped onions and a leek. Let them colour a little. Don’t burn anything!

Deglaze the pot with some white wine if you’re organised, or if you’re me, deglaze with warm water.

Cover the chicken pieces with water and bring to a simmer.

Add 4 large potatoes, chopped.

Cook until the meat falls from the bones and the potato falls apart.

Season with salt and pepper.

{ 11 comments }

Fiona July 27, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Hey that’s cool to know about the fat colour!

frogpondsrock July 27, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Good girl, this is a good post. Good for your readers to see the darkness of a proper chook’s meat as well.

Well done you!!

nathan July 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Ahhh, yum, you’re the best sweetheart

sharon July 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I couldn’t do it myself but applaud your commitment. If it was up to me to kill and dress my own meat I’d be a vegetarian. And yes, free range chooks do have yellow fat and much darker, tastier meat.

Veronica July 27, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Sharon – the meat is A LOT tastier and denser, as well as darker. The soup was delicious.

Trish July 27, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I didn’t know that about chicken fat either …learn something new every day.
I wouldn’t know the first thing about killing humanely but maybe I’ll need to learn if I want to raise chickens / have free range eggs.
I just can’t imagine it …doing it myself.

Veronica July 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Trish – we laid the chook over the chopping block and patted her head while she relaxed, she didn’t flap and wasn’t agitated. Then Nathan held her head and used a hatchet to chop it off. A single moment and he was through her spinal cord and spine and she was completely dead. Always chop through the back of the neck! Of course, once she was dead her nerves set in and she flapped an awful lot and covered us both with blood, but that’s normal.

I wasn’t sure how I’d do with my first chook and sure, it’s never going to be my favourite job, but I know I can do it. With the skinning and gutting, once I had part of the skin off around the leg, it just turned into a job and I wasn’t squicky about it – it was just like taking the skin off a supermarket bird.

Brenda July 27, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Yellow?! I didn’t know that!

I’m with Trish, I don’t think I could do the slaughtering myself. But good for you and Nathan for living such a sustainable life.

Frogpondsrock July 27, 2010 at 9:02 pm

I called your father over to the computer and he sat down and read this whole post. He is very proud of you. Well done pumpkin.

Barbara July 28, 2010 at 5:38 am

Coo-er, I knew about yellow fat but not that the meat is so dark. Well done you, I bet that was the tastiest chicken soup you’ve had.

Andrew August 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I recently had to kill my first chicken in similar circumstances and although I had seen many done for the table as a child I did not remember that fat being so yellow. Thanks for the great article.

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