Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NOT for the Squeemish!

Today, thanks to some home school friends, Audrey and Eric Beachy, I had the awesome experience of learning how to butcher a chicken! So be warned, this isn't gonna be pretty!

I got to their house at around 8:20 a.m. and accompanied Eric to the hen house. After looking over the flock, he and his kids caught the few birds they were going to keep. The others, we took by the legs and carried to the edge of the garden... where waited a board with two nails sticking up about an inch apart. Each bird, in turn, was held by the legs and wings and their head placed between the nails. Then the axe. Quick. Done. I even used the axe quite deftly. Below is what is left, after the birds bleed out, which was done while we held them, so they wouldn't run all over in their 'death throws'. I warned you, it isn't pretty!
Next came the part that most people really hate. The scalding and plucking. For the 'farm challenged' among my small readership, scalding a bird in hot water helps relax the skin so that the feathers come out nice and easy. Usually there are some small, almost hairlike, feathers left that you burn off by passing the bird over a small flame. Unfortunately, these birds are in the process of molting and had numerous pin-feathers that we had to scrape off with the back of a knife. Grossed out yet? Here's a pic of Eric dipping a bird in the water before plucking.
After that, it gets messy. Yes, chicken butchery is as smelly as you've been told. I almost lost it once, but I bucked up and just backed away from 'the bucket' a bit. This was the tricky part. Eric had to show me how he wanted the birds cut up and how to gut them. I've cut up a chicken before, but I've never gutted one. So that was a really new experience. Let me tell you, not pretty. Put simply... gall bladder bile is very green indeed, and the gizzard is an incredibly tough, muscular organ - it's amazing. I also saw undeveloped eggs, which was pretty cool.
In all, we butchered 7 birds: 2 roosters and 5 hens. Below is a photo of the chickens we left to cluck and scratch another day. The rooster in front is an Austrolorp/Phoenix cross, five hens, and one itty-bitty little peep. See it there behind the brown Buff Orpington? The little whitish spot....
So... would I ever do this again? Yes, I would. Why on Earth would a person do all of that? Well, there's something to be said for knowing where your food came from. Knowing that it lived a healthy, happy life, full of sunshine, fresh grass, lots of juicy bugs... for a chicken, that's a good life. No antibiotics or hormones either.

Before I went over today, I had had little interaction with Eric, who is a doctor. But through the course of the day, I found a man who is something of a kindred spirit. He gardens, raises chickens, is thinking about goats, just planted a bunch of fruit trees yesterday... He's a homesteader. On top of that, he's a father of four, a husband, and a committed Christian. We had a very good day working together and talking about life, homeschooling, parenting, animals, gardening, bees, property... oh, just everything that came to mind. It was really a blessing to me to be able to spend a large part of the day there. So I'm thankful.

Oh, and about a half hour before I left, Ethan, the 8 year old son, shot and killed a squirrel with his dad's .22. That was his second squirrel. I understand it takes about two to make a good pot pie. But, since I was there, and it had to be done anyway, I got to watch as Eric cleaned the squirrel, so I learned that too. Melora about gagged when I mentioned the thought of hunting squirrel. She says they're rodents and she just can't do it. Sigh. Oh well.


Keetha said...

I have no understanding of nor patience for people who find food preparation squeemish. None whatsoever.

I suppose this comes from my "poor preacher's kid" upbringing in the farmlands of Wisconsin.

Where do these people think their chicken nuggets and burgers come from???? (Well, maybe not the chicken nuggets - - - they MAY be all fake)

I remember my dad killing chickens for our "pot" when I was a kid - - - we didn't use the board with the nails, but just let them flop around the yard HEADLESS for a while after. They would actually get up on their feet and run for a while with NO HEAD.

Keetha said...

Oh - - - and I've eaten squirrel a time or two and was not impressed. The meat is "meager" at best - - - stringy - - - and the flavor is nothing to write home about.

So, Melora should win that battle - - - it ain't worth fighting.

Oh, and I wouldn't even bother to try bear if I were you.

Rabbit and quail are fine.

Danman said...

Lol, Thanks for the advice about the squirrel and bear. You know, there was a bear found over the river from here in Marshall, Ill. A farmer was out working his field and the tractor tire went down in a big hole that wasn't there before. Got out to look and found a bear in a new den.

I also understand that Elk have been released in southern IN. Imagine running into one of those in your minivan!

Keetha said...

I heard bear have started migrating into Indiana. Seems hard to believe - - - but if they've been seen here I can't question it, can I?

Linda J. said...

While buying peaches at an Amish family's fruit/veggie stand, the wife and mom had a table set up and she was cutting up chickens. Even though I grew up on a farm, we didn't butcher our chickens--mom couldn't handle it. So I asked my Amish friend, Lizzie, if the owner would mind me taking a look. Long story short--she allowed me to remove the guts from one of the chickens. Smelly, yes and kinda gross, but I think both of the Amish ladies were pretty surprised that the English girl kept her lunch down and didn't quit.

Thanks for the play-by-play and pictures. I would like to have my own chickens someday.