"We butchered a chicken today. Great life lesson and anatomy lesson. There is something... satisfying... to be able to provide a meal for your family that you know what it was fed, you know how it was treated, you know how it was butchered, and you know how it was prepared. I don't know if we will ever do another, but, we are happy with today." -Personal Facebook Post February, 2014
We have become a society disconnected with our food. Rarely does anyone know where or how their food is processed. We buy our meat in nice, little wrapped packages, and not once do we question where it came from. How were they raised and in what conditions? What were they fed? How was it processed? The chicken from the stores is kept in giant barns crammed full of thousands of chickens, all pecking at each other, or standing there waiting to die. Don't believe me? Type in your computer, 'what are chickens fed to make them grow so fast?' and see what comes up. Quick link to Wikipedia says, well it says a lot.. Just read for yourself.
I am in no way condemning anyone for eating supermarket chicken. I buy it all of the time still. My family loves chicken and I am not a lover of butchering my own meals. Honestly, I hope to grow out of this. I have already come quite a ways from the girl I used to be. In the past, if it did not come from the supermarket, wrapped up nice and neat in Styrofoam and plastic wrap, I wouldn't eat it. We were given some hamburger from my uncle one time and while my family raved about how wonderful my meatloaf was, I was in the bathroom gagging and hearing Uncle Mark call out 'Calfy' to his cow. Fresh eggs? FORGET ABOUT IT! That was just disgusting! (My sister is still this way!) In my quest for self sufficiency, however, I have grown to realize the importance of knowing where my food comes from. This is not important to everyone, but it is important to me.
My husband's, mother's, boyfriend's. granddaughter (phew, did you catch all that?) raised chickens for FFA. When the project was finished, we were asked if we wanted them. They are Cornish Rock Cross and are breed to grow quickly. This also makes them unlikely to ever mate, lay eggs, or live past a certain age. And while I was not yet 'there' in my homesteading journey, I felt if I was going to 'Talk the talk...' I had better start down this road when I was offered the chance at no cost to me.
My daughter helped me along on our first journey. We researched, read articles and watched youtube videos on butchering chickens. We decided to go with the 'cone method' of butchering. We took a milk jug, just like on the video we watched, and cut out the bottom of it. Then you put the chickens head through the hole and slit its throat. As it drains of blood it goes peacefully to sleep. Or rather, that's what is supposed to happen. Nothing could prepare us for our first time. Like I always seem to say, you think you know, but it never turns out how you expected. The chicken fought going into the milk jug hole, the incision clotted up instantly, then, the chicken cluck/cussed us, saying we were doing it wrong. Hubby came to the rescue with an ax. Note to self: Never, ever try that method again.
Plucking took nearly and hour, even with dunking in the hot water several times. We have since learned that the skin is not that important to us, even when frying. It is a lot quicker to skin. We do not eat anything on the inside, so it is all boiled and fed to my dogs. We did find a lot of little orange balls we discovered were the beginning yolks of eggs. That is how we ended up keeping 'Prissy,' our first hen to lay an egg.
It was very educational for my daughter. She learned a lot about chicken anatomy. She is like me (not crazy about killing the chicken) but she loves to identify the organs. She loves to cook our homegrown meat as well. She has very little attachment to the chickens because we have told her from the beginning these were 'food, not friends.' My hope for her is to become a veterinarian or be in another medical field. I believe she will be great healer one day.
Just in case you continued to read, but were uncertain if you wanted to see the photos, I have saved them for last. The are not really terribly awful in my opinion, but this is your last chance to go check out one of my other articles. You can see my daughter make store bought Cornish Hens in my post HERE. Again, you are reading a blog about our homeschooling/homesteading family's quest to become more self sufficient. Thank you for your support.
Getting the insides out.
Don't you just love her protective gear!
An hour to pluck it and it still looked like this?
The end result.
We decided to stuff and slow roast our chicken. We learned from our Cornish Hen dinner that we like seasonings, and this time we did it right. It was delicious and tender. I had forgotten to take a photo of it when we were finished cooking it. The photo above is what we had LEFT after dinner. Two adults and a 10 year old barely made a dent. I pulled off the rest of the meat and separated it into family sized portion freezer bags. We got 4 more meals out of this one bird. 5 meals for free.
We have sent several chickens to 'Freezer Camp' and I plan on sending more soon. If this is not your cup of tea, I understand. I used to be that girl remember? But it is now something I take pride in. My meat was raised by me. They were fed a healthy diet twice a day and also free range all day long. I know how they were treated, I know how they are processed. I know they were healthy and will provide a healthy meal for my family. Thank you for joining me on my journey.