Sunday, April 12, 2009

Homestead Chicken Slaughter, Holy Grossness!

I am going to start this somewhat gruesome, tribal & primitive post about killing chickens for food with two warnings... ONE: This is not a how-to because this was a learning experience for all 6 people involved, TWO: This post contains some pretty freaking gross pictures that could make a vegan (and maybe even a redneck) puke, but I want to keep with the reality of what took place during the process of slaughter. All 4 men and 2 women (including myself) had never killed a chicken before, many of us there had done alot of reading on the subject through sustainable farming books, heard stories from farmers, or a drop of wisdom from a great grandparent... but in reality we are from a generation that has lost it's connection to homesteading & making our own food.
The first thing to take place was catching the young roosters to be separated from the rest of the chickens (ya don't want to stress out the other ones who will get to live!)
This is Cody, smiling before knowing really how f-en SICK this was going to get - these chickens are his and he chose to break the neck rather then do the ole' chop-a-roo, for a quick killing. An old farmer told me if you chop off their head they'll run around forever with no head, while squirting blood.
When Cody broke it's neck just like instructed in the sustainable farming book, the rooster shit on him in it's moment of death. Ya heard me right - if you do this method don't point the ass towards yourself! Ok, and here is where it gets kinda nasty...In order to "bleed" the dead chicken you have to chop it's head off. What I don't think anyone expected was how "alive" the chicken's nervous system still is after dieing...there was a moment of panic when one guy in the group was screaming that they were still alive because it looked as though their beaks were opening and closing while blood dripped from it's mouth. But NOTHING prepared me for what came next...When the heads were being lopped off, the wings of the birds began flapping REALLY hard like they were going to fly away headless while the blood was draining NOT barely at all into the bucket placed there to catch it!
Instead there was a horror movie blood bath that I had to turn away from in order not to throw up - blood splattered all over the place as the wings flapped out of control, and I kept saying "oh my gawd this is like fucking Hellraiser!" This was the moment of trauma, reality, and a little demoralizing for some (judging by the looks on people's faces)... the book had not mentioned this. Obviously there are better ways to do it. The porch had to be hosed down, the house had blood on it, and people's clothes were splattered.The more voodoo stages were when I felt more comfortable to join in, which meant the plucking of the feathers was calling me. I have a mind that works like a Native American (maybe cause I am 1/16th Cherokee) and I kept thinking of ways to use all the parts that may seem like waste to us. Feather boa, a comforter, feather pillows, feather headdress, feather bikini... it gets hard when there's so much blood on it though. I stayed pretty calm throughout, except when I was screaming in disgust and making or laughing at terrible chicken jokes. I am kinda shocked at how chill I look while holding the naked & stanky bird in this pic below.Nikki (pictured below) was the only other lady present and was totally working it, but the girl was slowly becoming traumatized by the whole show (she eventually gave the whole project her middle finger from her front porch). Dipping the now dead foul smelling birds into boiling water, having trouble getting the quills out the chicken's skin, puke-ish jokes, bleeding necks, piles of bloody feathers, plus a strange organ full of rocks falling out their severed head. Did I mentioned it smelled more then terrible?
We had to work the feather plucking for way too long, attempting to get all the hard bits out... but never succeeded 100%. There must be a time honored plucking method (like pull with the grain or against the grain, dip in boiling water first, do it on a sunny day , etc...)
Then there was a whole 'nother level of gross... having to cut off the long neck part and pull out the organs. Ya'll this was way worse then I thought it would be.
Miguel (pictured below) was reading from the book while the people at the table attempted to interpret directions such as "cut around the rectum, don't severe the rectum". I don't know about you, but I had never touched a chicken's rectum and didn't want to touch it. The rectum thing seem to put the fear in everyone, some moment of truth when you don't want to make a mistake, you don't want your hands to shake, and you fear you might pull too hard when gutting out the innards. One of the sacks from the neck (the one that is for grinding) accidentally got busted and the smell it released was so freaking putrid it almost ended the whole thing for me right there...to say puking seemed on my horizon is an understatement. But me and Miguel (with book) figured out the whole rectum cutting thing, and it felt like a huge triumph!The intestines were too much for me to handle, I had to throw a rubber glove over it to hide them till it was all pulled out by Brandon (in the pic below). In the end they looked like gag gift rubber chickens thrown off Mardi Gras floats...
Until the feet were chopped off, and suddenly after an eternity of bad smells, screaming, laughing, blood and guts - it looked like a store bought chicken which was whisked away into Cody & Nikki's freezer.
I kept the feet and feathers... possibly a voodoo project is on the horizon... unless anyone wants a chicken foot back scratcher?
XOXO (Don't worry I washed up before giving you these hugs & kisses!)

13 comments:

Rekanize said...

They make (from what I've read) inexpensive plucking devices that make that part of it pretty quick & easy...

We just got a subscription to "Backyard Poultry," no lie. We're starting to raise some chickens for eggs and what not.

http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/ if yer interested.

Anonymous said...

Great post! That was some experience...

Miguel

.·:*¨¨*:·.gm.·:*¨¨*:·. said...

thanks for sharing that experience with me, i know know i will never be a carnivorous homesteader! maybe a pescetarian homesteader....i think i could maybe go fishing and not puke.... as long as someone else did the cleaning. shit, i AM a Babylonian, as a hardcore separatist man once told me...

The Oko Box said...

Hey ReKanize!
That is so cool you are getting chickens too! What kind of area do you live in, are you going to urban farm them? I wonder what people did to pluck the chickens before all these devices were invented... thanks for the link! xo

Miguel - oh yeah...it was. Have you eaten any chicken yet?

GM- fishing is so much easier, it is not nearly as gory as this... this was Nightmare On Elm Street material at some points. Having been vegan till I had to be my medical diet, i still only eat chicken rarely (maybe 3 times a year)- and i think that's about as many times as I could handle doing a slaughter.

Gwynne said...

It gets easier with practice. My first time slaughtering was crazy, though hilarious is a morbid sort of way... I have a sister who is deathly afraid of birds, but was happy to see the chickens killed. Until a headless body started chasing her around the yard. Didn't help that phobia at all. We learned tricks to make it faster and easier. Now that I live in the city, I'm waiting for approval to be able to raise chickens in my backyard. I so miss eating them.

The Oko Box said...

Gwynne - oh my gawd- what a funny story! I was totllly opposed to chopping the head off and seeing it run, it's too nightmarish for me! I am glad it gets easier and I am glad i don't really eat chicken all that often.
I hope you get approval, can't imagine why people would be refused to raise their own food during economic crisis.

Meg said...

I remember my Grandmother telling me she refused to eat any chicken for several years after seeing one slaughtered. Although her mother was irritated at this, her father was also a huge animal lover that completely understood her vantage point. I think it runs in the family, though..... I may not have been grossed out entirely by the pics, but I am certainly not eating any chicken! Of course, I am already a vegetarian, so I guess it doesn't make much difference.

I would not survive if I had to kill my food - I can hardly stand squashing nats and mosquitoes!

The Oko Box said...

I totally understand Meg - i was vegetarian from age 13-27, many of those years I was vegan too. My diagnosis of Celiac Sprue with multiple food allergies forced me to change my diet to include more fish and eggs, and the very rare chicken when I can tolerate it. Took years to build up to that much too.
My great grandmaw was hardcore cajun/native american and could kill a chicken and skin a rabbit like she was washing dishes!

Meg said...

I certainly admire someone that can kill their own food - after all, if you are going to eat, you should be able to kill it! I am just not one of those people.

I am not a total vegetarian, though. I had to start eating eggs occasionally again, since I am allergic to so many other food items, I was told I needed the nutrients.

Vanessa said...

This was a great story. You had me there except for the smelly part! This made me laugh so hard. I haven't heard a story like this one in quite some time. I will continue to buy my free range chicken at the store without thinking about where it could have come from.

Love your cousin,
Vanessa

The Oko Box said...

Vanessa! I am so glad ya got to laugh - maybe we all need to sit around a table and tell some crazy stories till late into the night and have good giggles. Preferably some good ghost stories in there too, which helps me sleep better at night :) I miss you!

Erik said...

I remember my grandparents slaughtering chickens, they would only run around for a few minutes once the heads were cut off. Despite appearances, it is a humane process.

I've been reading some of your DIY posts ... I have to say I'm impressed that you've found a safe place to live with a (small) community of people with similar goals.

I've started posting to a new blog, FYI. http://smogharp.blogspot.com/

Leslie @ the oko box said...

Hey Erik-
I am starting to think the ol'e head chop is the best way to do it, since most people prefer it. Certainly I would want to do things as humane as possible.
The community around here is shifting a little as of recently- but it is definitely cool to live with neighbors who are into organic, natural, chem free lifestyles. I am super sad because Cody and Nikki in this post moved out this month. :(
Looking forward to checking out your blog!