I did not grow up on a farm, but I did grow up in a family that hunted wildlife. My family, including my aunts and uncles family, owned a hunting cabin and everyone that was part of it shared the deer that they killed with all the family members. There were many years that wildlife provided the meat for our family or we would have very little. My dad hunted other wildlife and taught me how to hunt when I was young. Hunting and processing are a good skill to learn. As I grew up and moved away, that part of my life went away too. I bought all my food from the store.
Now that we decided to live this farm lifestyle things that tend to come with it is processing your animals. When It first started to really hit home was, I had ordered some chicks from the local farm store, and two of them ended up being roosters. They were starting to get mean, and I just wanted to eat them. I was thinking; I raised them why not. I couldn’t do it, and I found all kinds of excuses of why I couldn’t. I didn’t have a big enough pot, sharp enough knife and I didn’t have a plucker. In reality thou, I knew I was making excuses but why? I have killed animals before why is this so different. The more I thought about, the more I realized that it’s the act of killing an animal with my bare hands. Shooting something with a gun is completely different. The only qualms I had of hunting was I didn’t want to maim an animal I wanted a clean kill or I wouldn’t take the shot. When I use to do that, I practiced a lot, and I was good. My favorite thing to hunt was squirrels, and I would go out on my own to get my limit. I liked eating them; they tasted like quail to me. I could have shot my young roosters but I am not a good shot anymore, and I need to practice. Luckily I found someone looking for the breed of roosters I had, and they went to a good home.
Now we are on our second batch of chickens, and we incubated some eggs I got from a breeder. This time we ended up with too many roosters, and I knew I would have to do the deed this time. Over the course of the year, I was mentally preparing myself for this, I read and watched everything I could find on butchering poultry. Off and on I discussed it with my sister on my findings. She was grossed out when I would talk about the different things I read and watched as I researched this. After all this research the thing that was the most humane other than breaking their neck was slitting the throat. That was really hard for me to come to grips with doing this, as I watched a youtube video where they missed and cut the windpipe. At the time I did not know they messed up. I was like, OMG I’m not sure if I can do this. That was a big setback for me, and it took a while before I found some other people that had described things in a clear, concise way that lead me to look into the biology of the chicken’s neck. I felt better now, but still, I was not confident in this process. I started to order the things I needed for the day I would do this. In the meantime, I was looking on YouTube for someone to show me exactly what I needed to do. I found two videos, one was on processing chickens, and the other was a turkey. The turkey video was very clear and now I am certain I know what to do. I am feeling better about this, and I order the last piece a sharp knife. I chose one that most people use. It was sharp, but I felt like it could have been sharper. I am going to research more and try out some other knives.
The morning came, and I went out very early and got the roosters and put them in a cage. I did not want to let the chickens out until this was over. I just didn’t want them to see or hear anything. I took them to the area and kept them covered with a blanket it until I was ready for each one. I used a killing cone, and I put the first rooster in the cone. I felt uneasy as I got him in the position he needed to be. It took me a few big sighs as I tried to make sure I was in the right area of the neck and no feathers were in my way. He went quietly without any struggle as I held his head until he passed. Once he was ready to be plucked, we put him in the scalder and plucked him. Now it’s time to remove his internals. I kept reading and watching video’s don’t puncture the crop, and most people know not to puncture the intestines. When I first started I reached in there it felt foreign to me, and I said “I don’t know what I am doing” I just couldn’t pull things out like I saw other people do. I tried again and managed to get everything. It was all such a blur as I was thinking, did I see the crop? I didn’t remember seeing, but it wasn’t there when I looked inside after I was done. One rooster down, one more to go. The second one was similar, except he jumped a little more and bruised a wing, but it was a clean kill, and it was also quiet without a struggle. This time, when I had to gut him, it went much faster. I pulled things out and named them; there is one lung, there is the other lung. I saw the crop this time and pointed it out. We did not eat them right away, as we put them in cold water and will eat them later on once they recover from rigor mortis.
I hope by telling my story that I can help someone else find the confidence to process their poultry.