How Not to Cull a Chicken

Long before I started this blog, I was sending out e-mails to our extended family and friends to explain what craziness was the new normal on our farm.  This was the e-mail that was sent to explain our first chicken culling experience.. which was, to but it mildly, a disaster.  Pictures have since been added.

Dear Family,

All of our chickens here on the farm are getting quite large. And since we had ordered initially a straight run of chickens, that meant that they came unsexed. Which means we had 50% hens and 50% roosters. Which is far too many roosters for all the poor hens. Translation: we have to eat quite a few roosters!  And now since they are coming up to adulthood, and are capable of mating, our poor hens are starting to get attacked… By the developed males. Interestingly, only one breed of chicken has hit this level, but we wanted to start in with the culling, since we have about 25 roosters to deal with.  So last night was the date that we decided we would start. We thought that we would cull four, and see how it went.

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Not Gary… but a chicken…

Oddly enough, we had figured out which roosters we were to select in the previous days. There’s a group of roosters that peck my legs every time I walk into the coop, and they were the top of my list.  However, since they were all one type of breed, and they haven’t started attacking the hens yet, we were aiming for another breed. And since we were taking the genetically less favourable (smaller), as were keeping the bigger ones for breeding, we had picked out two victims. Catching the victim number one was easy, which in retrospect was the easiest part of this entire operation!  We brought “Gary” into the house, and that’s where it went sideways…

Gary wasn’t named until we decided to slaughter him, and although I have watched numerous YouTube videos on how to slaughter chickens humanely, it’s quite a different thing when you do it for the first time, and you decide to do it in your kitchen. Which again, in retrospect, thank god we are going to renovate! Most people slaughter their chickens outside, but since we have a bear in our neighborhood, we thought it would be best to do the deed inside since we didn’t want the smell to be attracting bears to our baby pigs!

Now according to YouTube, you take the chicken, invert the chicken, stick the chicken into a large cone (made from a milk jug), with its head pointing down and…you get the idea. It’s supposedly simple, clean, and importantly quick… since I didn’t want Gary to suffer more than he had to.

Well Gary had other ideas. And he sure wasn’t going to be going into any plastic straitjacket easily. I don’t think that he knew what was coming, but he decided that he sure wasn’t going to be playing dress-up. Gary figured out how to get out of the cone quite quickly, and thank goodness that I am such a fantastic chicken Wrangler (I don’t mean to brag, but I am getting quite fast!) but I managed to grab him before he escaped the kitchen.  Not before however he outstretched his wings flapped like crazy, knocked a glass off the counter, which then of course smashed into a million pieces on the floor – with me standing in bare feet, the Chef standing in flip-flops, and Camilla the dog looking on wondering what her crazy parents were doing.  The Chef quickly swept the glass out of the way, hearded of the dog in a different direction, wiped of the glass off my feet, mopped blood off my ankle (yes, of course I was cut with the glass, documented as injury number one) and we were back in business. Gary went in the cone, inverted him in a bucket in the sink, dispatched, and we waited, waited, waited and waited. Not to be graphic, the chickens twitch for a long time (or what feels like a long time, when you’re holding a twitching chicken, standing over top of a freshly swept floor with tiny glass shards around you with a fast-paced debate whether we should be doing this in front of the dog or not, and will this traumatize the dog…) both of us were concerned that he wasn’t quite “dead”

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Camilla, our 12 year old pug.  Who has not yet required therapy.

yet.  So I asked the Chef just a cut off its head so we could be “sure”, and the Chef readily agreed, since again, having never done this, we wanted to be sure. Before all of this, and before even the chickens had arrived to our farm, the Chef told me that if I wanted to chickens I was the one that had to kill them. And I said that was fine. However, the Chef is much better in the kitchen with knives (better in the kitchen all around actually!), hence why he was to do the decapitation on a flat cutting board… Out of the bucket.  That’s when our backsplash, countertop, floor, shirts, soap dispenser, window ledge, basil plant, two wine glasses, and anything else that was in a 2 to 3 foot radius became the canvas for a modern art painting, in under a second.  We were just praying that we didn’t have any visitors to our farm at this point, as if anybody came at your house we surely would’ve both been arrested based on the look of our kitchen!

We still had to de-feather poor Gary, and we had our pot of hot water on the stove to dunk him, and then pull his feathers off. Which went very well, but just was slow and finicky work. Of course the feathers don’t want to come off your hands, and for some reason want to go to the floor, and of course Camilla was interested and the feathers on the floor, so now between the shards of glass, the dog, feathers and modern art painting in red, our kitchen was looking fantastic!

It was also established previously, that I would do the gutting of the chicken… Which was fine with me because that left the Chef to clean the kitchen, while I tried carefully to gut Gary.  The Chef was kind enough to sharpen two of his very good knives for me, which were very efficient at cutting my left index finger (documented here as injury number two), and he was smart enough to bring down the Band-Aid box, and not just one singular Band-Aid, as within about two minutes of that injury I managed to cut my left pinky (documented here as injury number three).

The whole process from start to finish lasted two hours.

Gary has been washed and cleaned, and ready for the fridge. And I think the Chef summed it up best, when he said “Wow, he’s about the size of the small chickens that you can get at superstore for $5.50. “.

Here’s to doing it ourselves!

Sincerely,
The Shepherd

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