Thursday, July 18, 2013

Saturday. SlaughterDay.

Saturday was the day.
We woke up with the goal to slaughter four of our roosters.
When we bought our baby chicks a couple of months ago, we knew the day would come where we would have to get rid of some surplus roosters and "make coq au vin". Even though we got chickens mainly for eggs, we fantasized about how we would eat our own "homegrown" meat. Back then it seemed so far away, and we didn't waste too much time thinking about the actual slaughtering process. And if we did, we usually were lighthearted about it and certain that it will be just fine...

20 weeks later,  and we'd been pushing the date for the rooster cull further and further. By then they'd become quite cagy and aggressive, especially towards their girlfriends. There were too many roosters in the coop. So something had to be done.
On Saturday both Wil and I woke up with a terrible hangover, and our motivation was at zero. Luckily Wil was much more disciplined than I, and after some pep-talk we got everything ready. We made some space in the barn, covered everything with black garbage bags, set up a slaughtering station, four places to hang the chickens to bleed out, and prepared a hot and a cold waterbath for plucking.

We felt like Hollywood serial killers. Hell, I still feel like some Chicken Ted Bundy in a way while I am writing these lines. I mean, a killing room! Designed for efficient and quick killing. I never thought I would ever build something like this.
First we tried using a chicken culling cone, a metal apparatus that allows you to place the chicken upside down, while restraining it, with the head sticking out for and easier time. But unfortunately the one Wil and his dad built didn't work as planned, so we quickly found a solution that would be quick and humane. Wil was the one to take on this job

We were nervous and quite tensed up while we worked together. Neither of us spoke, unless it was necessary. But it went quickly, almost mechanically. There were, thankfully, not many unnecessary emotions or hesitations from either of us, as this would have prolonged the suffering of the animals. Neither of us wanted that.

After we bled and plucked them in the barn we brought them over to our house to remove the inner organs and intestines. While I wasn't able to do the slaughter of the chickens, Wil had problems taking care of the gutting. So I took the lead in this task and he assisted.

Removing the inner organs seemed much harder than it was described in the books and online forums. You need to be careful and forceful at the same time, to not make a giant mess. But even this gets better with practice.

We saved the neck and feet, as well as heart, liver and gizzards for stock, and discarded the rest.

By the end of the whole process, both Wil and I were incredibly exhausted, but proud that we had managed this challenging task.

I can't say it was enjoyable, but it was satisfying.
First of all WE DID IT!
We didn't just talk about how wonderful it would be to raise your own meat and eat it in the end but bought raised, fed and cared for our chickens. We build them a coop, cleaned the coop, nursed injured chickens, fed them treats, kept them warm and watched them grow. We watched the roosters and selected the ones that weren't contributing to the flock. We planned the slaughter precisely to make it as easy and quick for everyone involved, both the chickens and us. Last but not least: we didn't waste anything, not time or efforts, and not one piece of the chickens.
We are proud of that and happy that it was in a way far easier, and at the same time more exhausting than we would have ever thought. We may have to do it again, soon. 
Do I look forward to it? No. But I now know that we can do it.

We did make chicken soup using one of the chickens and most of the organs, necks and feet.
And surprise: It tasted like chicken!


  1. Wow. I don't think I would've been able to do that. Kudos to you, Julia and Wil!

    1. Thanks, Vincci! I would have not thought I'd be able to do it either. But then it somehow just happened...

  2. scary BUT brave! love the apron.