Monday, July 18, 2011

Crazy Honest Chicken

I've always been one of those people that prefer the truth, no matter how unpretty, to falsehoods.

Tell me the truth and I will deal with it; force rose-colored glasses on me and I'm totally unprepared to deal with the world once the spectacles are ripped away. I so very very much hate that feeling of the carpet pulling out from underneath you; when you are left viewing the world from a much different perspective after a violent readjustment.

I believe that living wide awake and facing the grotesque with the beauty is an honest, just way to live.

So when the big factory farms try to sell me packages of meat with images of happy farms and chickens living their lives in sunshine and glorious fields of green I get very pissy. The real reality includes enclosed, crowded chicken houses that require the chickens to wade through inches of fecal waste to get to automated food troughs. And then the insane assembly line at the slaughter houses,'s absolutely horrifying.

I don't want to support that reality. I don't want my money to tell the proprietors that this is all okay.

"You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, friends, a few weeks ago - for the first time - we slaughtered a chicken.

It was the first time in my life that I willing chose to end of the life of anything bigger than a spider (that squirrel on 10th Avenue three years ago sooooo doesn't count - I swear it was a kamikaze squirrel).

The deed had been on the radar for several weeks but we were, well...chicken. Choosing to take knife in hand and kill an animal you've raised since its early days is not an easy thing. The animal knows you, knows that you are a provider. And there's a reluctance, because the burden of making it an ethical, humane kill is solely on your shoulders.

It wasn't technically a spontaneous act, but one Sunday a few weeks ago TMOTH and I screwed up our courage enough to proceed with plans. And once the decision was made we got down to business quickly.

There are plenty of websites out there, dear reader, that go into the nitty-gritty details of how to slaughter and butcher a chicken, so I won't bother sharing the technical processes.

I will, however, tell you it was a wide-awake experience, with sounds and smells which are etched in the surfaces of our memories. The girls were present during the entire activity and participated when appropriate (mostly when it was time to pluck). It was a very quiet time, but there were no tears.

In the end, we had a seven-pound (dressed weight) chicken. Since Rock Star was a meat bird, she had met her market weight of three to four pounds at around six to eight weeks of age. Because we had been dragging our feet about the slaughter, she had managed another six weeks of growth beyond that. She was big.

When folks who were in the know later asked, "How did she taste?" my reply was always, "Honest." Crazy honest. There was no trickery or deception in that chicken meal.

Rock Star had a good life. She always had access to food and water and friends. She was often given treats and and had a clean coop. She was never fed the remnants of other animals, and she was never injected or fed antibiotics while in our care. Her slaughter was swift and done out-of-sight of her coop-mates. Her carcass wasn't injected with solutions of sodium nastiness.

She was an honest chicken.

Thank you, Rock Star.

--Rational Mama


  1. great detail about crazy honest chicken....... thanx for giving detail...happy after reading your blog...appreciate to you on this...


  2. Well, Rock do look delicious. Well done, RM and TMOTH!

  3. Such a great post. Good for you and your family. Good for rock Star too. Along with honest, I bet the meal tasted of honor as well.

  4. We went to a farmers ranch to learn to harvest chickens. I wanted to know if we moved out to "our retirement" land and raised chickens if I could harvest them. The guy who held the class was awesome, we humanly killed them and cleaned them, they were at the stewing age so our dog had dinner and I had amazing stock. I found it interesting as we found many hens with eggs that had not dropped and since the class had a few chefs they were quickly taken. I felt that we were connected to our food in a fundamental way that most people miss out on. I really enjoy that other people are writing about their experiences.

  5. I grew up killing chickens with my grandparents. They had 25 to slaughter and another 25 getting big enough. My job was to run around and kick them after they had been beheaded so they would continued to run around. My father did the same thing when he was little. To me, this doesn't seem crazy at all. However, you tell any of my high school students that kids (especially me) did this they are just horrified.

    To them, the fecal matter, syran wrapped store chicken full of crud is a much better option. I'm glad you are raising your kids to realize that real food comes with knowledge not antibiotics.

  6. Couldn't figure out how to contact you - just hoping things are busy on your homestead and all is well. Miss you on the blogosphere. ;)

  7. Oh wow - thank you for this post. My family will be embarking on chicken-raising this spring, with the full intent of having them for both meat and eggs. This was such a great perspective on what it means to slaughter and consume an animal you've raised and cared for. I'm still wondering how I'll feel when that time finally comes around but your perspective is great.