We killed our first chicken for Thanksgiving. We said prayers and honored it as best we could. The girls insisted on being there, but Ivy quickly ran back inside. I tried to get Eden to go, but she wanted to learn about it. There were tears, but there were also prayers, reiki, and discussions.
Josh had at least seen his Mamaw processing chickens before. He's cleaned a few small animals himself. I've never done either. I'd even refused to dissect any animals in high school, so I had absolutely no frame of reference for what we were trying to do. I looked up directions and picture tutorials online. We had planned to do several at once, but the weather turned and it took longer than anticipated to get our pot of water boiling outside, so we ended up just doing the one. We haven't yet found a deep freeze either, and we certainly didn't want any to go to waste.
Josh was going to slit its throat, but it had started raining on us and the knife didn't want to cut with the wet feathers in the way. As soon as Josh realized, he cursed, shook his head, and snapped its neck around. I hope the little rooster didn't suffer. We'd done what we could to love on him and calm him, and we both felt horrible that that was the part where we hit a snag. Josh was brave and capable in killing him swiftly once the knife didn't work.
I ended up taking the knife for him and cutting the head off while he held it. It didn't bleed as fast because we hadn't been able to slit his throat quickly while he was alive. It worked as well as it could have, I supposed. I had trouble sleeping that night though, with that image of me cutting his head off.
We dipped it in hot water for a few minutes before plucking and cleaning. It was actually really easy to pluck, and then Josh showed me how to gut it and what all the different parts were. Eden wanted to see its brain. We think we found the tiny thing. We gave the organs and neck to the cats and dogs. Josh taught the girls a trick his Mamaw had taught him, to slice the legs to grab the tendon and move the claws around. It was morbid, but the girls loved it.
Yesterday, Achaiah accidentally killed one of our hens. I'm not sure what happened, but I heard her warning growl, then a scuffle. Josh came in (he'd been feeding the animals) and said that a chicken wad dead. The chickens had been getting a bit aggressive with trying to take Achaiah's food and water, but the scuffle I heard was out back. Her porch is the front porch. And it's usually the roosters who give Achaiah problems. So I'm not sure how our poor little hen ended up dead, but Achaiah seemed quite sorry about it and understood that she'd messed up.
We did not have a cleaning station or a pot of hot/boiling water set up. We weren't really ready to process a chicken, but I didn't want to let it go to waste. I was very sad that it was one of our girls. We only have 7 or 8 hens, and none laying yet. The last sick chicken that finally died when the weather turned had been female, but we wouldn't have eaten her or her eggs anyway. We just tried to keep her comfortable. The one Achaiah killed was a healthy female, although still a bit small (especially compared to the roosters). She had a spot on her head, where I guess she'd been nipped, but it seemed that her neck had been broken.
Not having anything ready, and Josh was still all gloved up and working on getting all the animals water, Josh told me to go ahead and try cleaning her. I didn't even have a knife, but Scarfs (cat) was starting to show interest and try to get her, so I sat down and tried plucking. It didn't work nearly as easily. The skin itself was tearing pretty easily, so we decided to try skinning it. We'd seen Dave Canterbury skin a turkey on Dual Survival, and Josh said might as well try as it was icy and she'd get cold way faster than we could try to get water boiling.
I did a fairly decent job (and yes, I had prayed and thanked her for her sacrifice). I had trouble with the wings. When Josh was done, he came to help finish the skinning and clean her out. It actually went pretty quickly, considering that we weren't expecting to be cleaning another at all. I did squirm at hand skinning her while she was warm. It was hard, but I had to do it. I romanticized farm life a lot. I enjoy having a real farm, I'm proud to be doing it and feel better about the food and lessons it's providing my children, but I've found that I do squirm and parts keep me up at night.
We decided to let her set before we cooked her up, so we left it overnight and had it for dinner today. Josh cooked after I got home from work late, so we saved the legs for the kids. Eden was still awake and got a bite of breast when it was done. It was much smaller than our Thanksgiving rooster, but still very lovely and a welcome meal. I am put out about it being one of my girls though. I'm going to try making stock and really using all parts possible. Achaiah didn't get any this time, though.