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Friday, October 29, 2010

Today I learned an important life lesson and I am glad.

When I went to bed last night I had never killed another living thing in my life besides insects. Never ever, I had never even seen something killed. My dad doesn't hunt and my husband hasn't since before we were married.

Do you remember when I blogged about my chickens before? And I wondered how you could tell if they were roosters or hens? Well out of the 10 chicks we got 8 of them are roosters. I was so wrong in that post! That is entirely too many roosters in the hen house and we needed to downsize the number of roosters to one. I asked my husband to find me an Amish to do it and well he did - I love that guy!

So today  I had my first experience with death of an animal and it wasn't as bad as I had always envisioned.  Maybe it was the lovely Amish lady that did most of the dirty work, maybe because of how fast she was and how she just kept talking and teaching the whole time. I learned really where my dinner was coming from and how a life needed to be lost for us to eat it. I learned that was OK, and how God meant it to be.

You see this morning I went and picked up that Amish lady who raises 25,000 chickens every 6 weeks to sell - when you buy "Amish raised chickens" it could be one of theirs.  I didn't know that when I went to get her - my husband set it up. 

To say she is a professional is a understatement. Mary is her name. I wasn't sure what I was getting into - boiling plucking etc. Well she brought a sharp kitchen knife and that was it.  No cone, no boiling water - just a super sharp kitchen knife.

My son caught the roosters for her and GET THIS - in order to kill them she just held them by the feet and stepped on their heads and pulled - yes she just pulled the body off the head. It was super quick and the first time I was amazed. They really do run around without a head, I guess I just thought it was an old wives tale or something.  I didn't actually kill any - I am not strong enough to do it quickly, and that is what you want is to just get it done quick. She kills 20 - 30 chickens in a couple hours at home in the same way.  Mary told me that when you are doing it alone it is safer than trying to cut their necks because they move around and you can miss and hurt yourself or not kill the chicken quickly.

Our coop is out by our pond and so we set up a table with a couple big buckets of cold water and she set to work. She skinned them and gutted them and well - it was very interesting - really not gross at all. I didn't actually do that part - I was running back and forth for things from the house - buckets of cold water, a table etc. She did show me how to do it - we only had about an hours time to do it in and she was so much faster. What was super interesting was the stomach - it was full of feed, about the size of a tennis ball. We opened it and spread it back on the ground. 

I saved the heart and liver and gizzards - not sure how I am going to cook them. I also saved the feet for stock - not the heads, that was a bit much. We did throw them in the pond for the fish - so they weren't wasted.

Mary thought it was funny I wanted the feet - she said only the Mexicans ask for them around here - I laughed and told her how they make great stock! She said I could have as many of hers as I wanted for free! I am super excited about that.

After Mary killed one of the chickens she tossed it on the ground  and it ran right into the pond - it was a funny sight - my son had to fish the headless chicken out. I know it sounds horrible and maybe I have a weird sense of humor but I so wish we had a video of it. 

What I thought was the grossest part of it all, not skinning them, not gutting them, heck not even killing them was when some of the other chickens got out and kept eating the heads - so gross! Cannibalism - I thought that was just too gross.

This was a real Amish lady - she was a treat, she just couldn't understand why anyone would prefer my backyard chickens to her "free range, organic feed" ones. She kept assuring me they were super healthy -no antibiotics. 

But an interesting thing was that mine were way harder to kill and butcher - the bones were harder. One reason was age - 6 weeks to 6 months but I also think that being able to roam around, in the sun eating bugs and other lovely things made the bones stronger. I could be wrong.  She also said mine had about as much meat as hers. But hers are bred as meat chickens and mine aren't. 

I am not posting any of the pictures here - except for the lovely chickens above still alive and then these two of them soaking in water. If you want to see a couple of the in between pictures - like me on facebook and check them out.

To be honest I wasn't sure about blogging this experience, but I was encouraged by some dear friends. And really I just wanted to share. And perhaps encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. We are so far from really knowing where our food comes from, 60 or 70 years ago almost everyone knew how to butcher a chicken or at least knew that was where their dinner came from. Not today, most children don't have any idea where their nuggets come from. It is sad really. 

Trust me if I can do it anyone can - I have always been afraid of all things animal - but I am so glad I experienced this today and now I know I can do it - and it gives me a feeling of empowerment. 

I am linking this to The Hearth and Soul Hop - hosted by moi and my 3 lovely fellow bloggers!


This is also being linked to Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist
and Simple Lives Thursday at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa
Fight Back Fridays at Food Renegade 


  1. I think this is an important thing to talk about--where our food comes from, and I really appreciate that you make that critical point. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. I really enjoyed hearing about your experience, Christy. It reminded me of the stories my grandma used to tell me about how my great-grandma would send her out to the back to "pick out a chicken for dinner" and how upset my grandma would get. My great-grandma would always do the butchering herself. My grandma always refused to eat the chicken at first...but hunger would always set in! Ironically, my grandma's favorite meat was chicken, LOL!

  3. You are way stronger of a woman than I am but this certainly was a great post. I don't think it's ethically fair to eat meat when you can't stomach the idea of an animal being killed for it.

  4. This was such an interesting post Christy. My Dad used to tell us kids about the chickens running around with their heads cut off when he was growing up - his grandmother raised chickens. I guess he was telling the truth!

  5. My grandma used to butcher chickens so I remember them running around headless:-) In my country these backyard chickens are called yard fowls and they are prized for their superior flavour. You are spot on when you describe the bones as being harder. Bravo to you on this post. It is important to know where our food comes from and to be knowledgeable about all aspects of it's preparation. I don't like the feet but here in the Caribbean it is used in soup and they are also pickled

  6. I enjoyed reading this so much Christy! Wow, you sure had a memorable day!! I really wish I could have been there to witness the whole thing..well, except the chickens eating the other chickens! We have considered getting chickens but we live in a subdivision and our backyard is not that large. The thing that really holds me back in the smell of chicken poop. I don't want to smell it every time I go out to work in the gardens. But if we ever move to a place with more land, I will definitely have my own hens. I bet you are right about the bones and the vitamin D, etc.

    Thanks so much for posting this!

  7. My dad was a hunter. He only hunted deer for food, never for sport. I used to help him by holding the deer still (it was hanging and so it swung) while he skinned and cleaned it out. It was never gross to me either. In fact, I learned what a heart and liver and other organs looked like because of it. I really believe we need to understand where our food comes from. Too many people just don't appreciate real food because it's too far removed from their daily life. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. Christy, I am so glad you decided to blog your experiences. As I shared with you, the quickness of it is the most important thing as it stresses the animal much less. Your chickens are healthier because they get sunshine, fresh grass and most important bugs! I also find it extremely important for folks to know where their food comes from. I remember as a child when my brother started fishing, my mom and dad made him clean his catch. It taught him to take only what he needed and not overdo it on the take. Hugs. Wonderful article and I will tweet it for you. Alex@amoderatelife

  9. we eat without thinking,
    but you are right,
    they are living creature...
    life is full of contradiction and cruelty at times.

  10. Happy Weekend,
    Have a fun Halloween.
    u rock!

  11. An unlimited supply of free chicken feet is a total SCORE!

    I'm confused though. You butchered 6 month old hens?

  12. I'm not sure I'd be able to kill my own chickens but this certainly sounds like an experience. I had no idea that chicken feet made great stock. Who knew? And I think I would have laughed right along with you at seeing a headless chicken run. So no, you're not weird.

  13. Liz - you are welcome - I so agree!

    Jenny-fer - I love your story chica! I can just see your grandma trying not to eat the delicious dinner set before her and failing!

    Joanne - well, after the cow tongue this was nothing LOL - really it wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be.

    Brenda - I know - I really thought it was a story. But it isn't!

    Wizzy - thanks! I love it yard fowl doesn't sound quite as soft and cuddly as chickens - and they are soooo yummy!

    Patty - you are welcome, I hope you get your chickens someday!

    Ginger I think it is incredibly important to know where your dinner comes from and that if you are eating meat it did come with a loss of a life.

    Alex - what a great lesson your parents taught your brother - and skills - many people (myself included) have no idea how to clean fish.

    Jingle - thanks. I don't know that I think it is cruel to butcher animals so long as the loss of life wasn't just for sport - they were intended to be eaten in the overall plan of life.

    Jenny - no they were roosters and we had way too many for a backyard coop - only want one.

    Lisa - the feet make the best stock of all!!!

  14. This probably gets linked with unforgetable first time experiences! I have not yet experienced it, if I do I hope I have someone there to help me, too!

  15. You are brave. I couldn't have watched. How blessed to be able to raise your own though! And we ARE so far removed from where our food comes from--you are absolutely right. I know I have learned a ton in the last 6 months....and I haven't even came close to butchering my own. ;)

  16. Kitchenrecovery - definitely unforgettable! I hope you get to do this at least once - it helped me to appreciate my food so much more.

    Jackie - I never thought I could watch or for sure help - but I think you would surprise yourself, it isn't any grosser than vomit and well, I have cleaned up tons of that.LOL

  17. Congratulations! You faced your fear. This is a great post. I recently did a post on cutting up the chicken and some just can't look and I understand that. I remember as a child helping to pick the feathers with my Grandmother. I will never forget the process in case I ever have to do it. Thank you for your post.
    Miz Helen

  18. I remember thinking that I would never want to eat meat again BEFORE the first time we butchered one of our cows, but it really wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. It does give you a sense of appreciation and it made me careful not to waste any of that food.

  19. I have assisted with the butchering process and although I thought it might bother me to eat the meat later, it doesn't. I like knowing that the meat is clean and that the animal was properly cared for. I have used the organ meat to flavor the broth when I intend to make gravy or chopped the heart and gizzard up and mixed them in when making stuffing.


  20. It's healthier to raise your own meat and butcher it, even though it seems ucky. Personally, I would not butcher them by pulling their heads off, but I do see any problem with raising animals to eat. At least you know what they ate and how they were taken care of and such, which is more than you can say about a store bought chicken.

  21. Absolutely amazing, Christy! Although you know I was hoping for some down 'n dirty photos...guess I'll head over to FB :) I think this was such a fabulous experience for you and your're right, so many people ...even adults these days... think the nuggets start and end in the freezer, sad. Love the part about only the Mexicans ask for the feet...Mexi will get a good chuckle over that when I tell him. No shame in that. :D So glad this was your hearth and soul hop post this week...fabulous!

  22. Gotta tell you that the Asian folks I know LOVE the feet too, and cook them up crispy like pork rinds. My dad loved them in china! Glad you linked this to the hearth and soul hop and thanks as always for hosting! Hugs. Alex@amoderatelife

  23. Mz Helen - I hope to give my children the same skills in case they ever need to butcher a chicken.

    Alea - I agree that is why we are eating the whole chicken (well except the heads)- no wasting is my mantra! I would love to be a part of butchering a cow or pig.

    Brenda - I intend to use the organ meats as you describe - especially in stuffing - yum!

    Heather and Alex - I think the Mexican and Asians are the smart ones and us silly people who are squirmish are the ones missing out!!

  24. Great post Christy. I agree - it is so important to know where our food comes from - I've been posting a bit about that too lately. I don't think I could actually kill anything myself, though really I believe that if I'm to eat it I should (but can't quite make that leap), but I think a big part of showing the appropriate respect for the living creatures we eat is getting up-close and personal with them. It's important to recognise that chickens don't just come out of a freezer cabinet, or worse still ready-crumbed in a stripy tub!
    Sue :-)

  25. If more people slaughtered their own, I think we'd have a much more balanced food culture, without so much dependance and waste.

    I'm so glad that you decided to blog your experience. This is a story that needs to be heard and repeated. Thank you for sharing at the Hearth and Soul hop so that it can reach many eyes.

    Just a note - we always look at the stomach contents of the wild birds we eat, too. It helps to know what they were eating (possibly gmo corn, bad, wild seeds, good), to know whether or not to harvest them in that spot again.

  26. Oh, I love this post! We've raised meat birds for several years now, and the kids do the butchering, but it's good to see it written up like this.

    And it's really good to see more and more people being honest with themselves as to where their food comes from.


    Annie Kate

  27. Thank you for posting about this experience! I found it while perusing the Food Renegade Fight Back Fridays. Coincidentally I posted a similar blog - my experience visiting a butcher to see how beef is processed from start to finish when I bought my grass fed beef. My kids were totally into it, not squeamish at all. I guess that is something we are "taught" - whether to think something so natural is "gross" or to just see it as part of life.

  28. Sue - I didn't actually do the killing - I am not strong enough but now I know I could if I had to. It was an awe-inspiring experience - and it taught my whole family more respect for our chickens!

    Butter - Seeing the stomach contents was super interesting - and a learning experience - they were stuffed.

    Lee - I would love to see that post - I went to your blog but couldn't find it. I think we don't give kids enough credit. And you are right - if mom is squeamish and grossed out chances are the kids will be too!

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