Saturday, 5 April 2014

No-one likes killing chickens, but it has to be done.

Not a good day for some of these!
I'll put most of the pictures for this one at the bottom, just in case you're of a sensitive nature. But don't worry too much. They are selected and sanitised.

No-one likes killing a chicken, but it has to be done.

I'm sure that there are people reading this who are already thinking "How could you do that?" Well, please don't think that it doesn't happen in the neatly packaged world of the supermarket chicken. What do you think happens to all the boy chicks who won't lay eggs? What do you think happens to the hens when they become slightly less productive at the end of their first year? And how do you think they get the price of chicken so cheap? Despite their various cleverly worded descriptions, do you really think they encourage their chickens to roam around using up energy, to peck and scratch around for insects, to eat grass, to actually behave like real chickens?

Rant over.

So, getting back to the subject in hand, sometimes chickens have to meet their maker. Nobody wants to leave a sick chicken to die a slow death (only humans get that privilege). Nobody wants to watch their cockerels fighting (that sport was banned a long time ago). Nobody wants to see their hens constantly harassed by too many over-zealous cockerels. Lastly, and I'm a bit soft about this, an old hen really doesn't lay many eggs but still carries on eating food. Not that they need to go after just a year.

I've written before about my sad inability to wring their necks. I just didn't have the feel for it, couldn't get the knack. I've written a very gory post about beheading them with an axe! This may seem rather extreme, but it is in fact a very quick, effective and humane way of doing the deed. But it's not the cleanest way, for they still flap and even run around after the deed is done and it can get a bit messy. It's not just in the cartoons that this happens.
Also on my mind was the fact that I couldn't see this working so well with a slippery guinea fowl, a thick-necked duck or a larger bird such as a turkey or a goose.

Why am I writing about this right now?
I had been looking forward to last Sunday for a while. For I had arranged to go over to Mick's from the CSSG (Cambridgeshire Self Sufficiency Group). This is a group which splintered off from the Fenland Goatkeepers Club a few years back. I have now joined it, as well as the Fenland Smallholders, as it is now called. Mick used to run this training when he was with the Smallholders and it was one of the reasons I joined, so when I first arrived on the scene three years ago I was somewhat mystified as to the non-existence of this opportunity. It has taken me all this time to get to the bottom of it, since the CSSG is strictly hush hush in the world of the Fenland Smallholders!!!

Anyway, everybody who had undertaken this training had spoken of it most highly. We turned up at Mick's smallholding and were welcomed by his ever-attentive dog, Diesel. A scraggy, greying animal, we were informed that it had once won a prize for being the dog which most looked like its owner! I'm sure he'd be embarrassed to read this, but Mick was a truly lovely man, thoughtful, generous and contented with his lot. There was no agenda apart from to help like-minded people. This continued for the whole day and was both refreshing and thought-provoking. We have mostly escaped the rat race these days, but I think that some of the stress and worry is still in our systems. I sincerely hope that the longer we do this, the more like a pair of old hippies we can become!

I'll spare you the details of the day. Suffice to say that we learned to use the broom handle method to dispatch chickens and turkeys and we learned to hot water pluck. The whole process was so much easier as well as being quick and humane for the birds, which is the most important bit. The hot water plucking was a revelation. I couldn't really help out much with this bit as I had a badly cut finger (injury sustained elsewhere, nothing to do with the chickens and turkeys) which was just getting in the way. But still it was clearly much easier than dry plucking.

Mick treated us to a lunch of roast turkey, potatoes and salad before the afternoon session, where he showed us how to process the dead birds (he had killed and hung a few earlier in the week for us). Since our birds will be for our own consumption, being able to joint them up and store them in smaller portions is most useful.

All that leaves me to do is show you the pictures. And to thank Mick again. I'm sure I'll be getting more involved in the Self Sufficiency Group if this day was anything to go by.

Pluck me!
An alternative way of doing the deed

Oven Ready

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