I had some misgivings about becoming small scale poultry farmers. My mom kept chickens when we were kids and I recall butchering 80-100 birds in one go.
I have a clear picture of my brother David (who would have been a young teenager) laying the chicken’s head between two nails on a stump and whacking it off. Occasionally one would get loose and make a last, but obviously futile, attempt at escape. This was futile because its body was already separated from its head.
My job was to pluck and gut the chickens. This was a pretty stinky job. To ease the job of removing feathers, you dunk the decapitated bird in boiling water to soften the feathers. Gutting was the goriest of all and I seem to recall that like many things you think you won’t be able to stand, I got used to this, too. It was a great lesson in anatomy; I believe I can still locate and identify a gizzard.
The downside of having experience raising and preparing your own meat is that after processing 100 chickens in a go, my brothers and I would not eat chicken for six months.
So when we talked about getting chicks I was all for getting layers. Currently we buy farm eggs from our neighbours just down the road. We love them. Nothing beats a farm fresh egg. So when we were looking for yet something else to teach the kids self reliance and responsibility, we thought of eggs.
When we talked about meat birds (the price of chicken just went up again) I was fairly adamant that I was not going to have any part of butchering. But like most of my I-put-my-foot-down statements, I usually have a good think about it and revise my conditions.
After all, everyone who eats meat should know where it comes from. It’s pretty easy to only think about your meat from the time you look at it wrapped on a little styrofoam dish and encased in plastic wrap with a neat little sticker on it. When we buy our food like this we very rarely think about what we would do for our meat if we couldn’t buy it from a store. Who these days would be prepared to raise their food, care for it, kill it and then prepare it for the freezer, or the table? Shouldn’t I get back to basics and re-learn what it takes to feed myself?
I’ve concluded that I need to get back in touch with my food supply and even more importantly, the kids do. So I’ve decided to pass the mantle and the kids can learn how to butcher chickens.