Some may find pictures in this post graphic.
Sometimes you have one idea in mind and the day takes a totally different direction. Today was such a day.
A fellow chicken-keeping family called around 10 in the morning and said this was the day they wanted to kill one of their hens. Speckles, a Speckled Sussex like our Sussey, wasn’t laying eggs and wasn’t following the flock. They invited us to participate. After a quick read of the Hip Chick Digs method for slaughtering a backyard bird, we headed out for our first chicken kill.
Alex held Speckles and we all said goodbye to her. Hanging her upside down by the feet and covering her eyes, Alex yanked the neck to break it. She was dead in less than five seconds.
Our friend cut the head off and Alex held the bird as about a quarter cup of blood drained away. The chicken’s body seized and wings flapped, natural post mortem movements.
A large pot of sub-boiling (140 degree) water was brought outside and Alex dunked the body in for twelve seconds to loosen the feathers. A stench not unlike singed hair filled the air.
We carried the body inside and everyone went to work removing feathers. This job was less tedious than we expected, though many hands contributed. Many feathers were saved for the kids to explore and craft with.
Alex started the butchering by removed the neck bones. Then, he carefully cut a ‘Y’ shape on the lower abdomen, cut between the cloacha (anus) and tail and pulled out the entrails. We were all fascinated with the chicken anatomy.
The two children were interested in all the body parts so while two adults rinsed and chilled the bird, others dissected the heart, observed the intestines, cleaned the liver, and cut open the stomach. Later Alex found the crop, the stone filled sack chickens use to partially digest their food.
Already we would sense that this bird would be different than any we had tasted. Under the skin and around the organs were huge masses of yellow fat. The leg muscles (drumsticks in culinary terminology) were small in comparison to the body size.
Once fully cleaned, our friends invited us to share a lunch of roasted Speckles with them. Alex trussed the bird with skewers and we surrounded her with onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes, all covered with salt and lemon pepper.
For some reason, the kids attached to the feet. Each wanted one to preserve for ‘making into a tree for the train set’ and ‘making into a halloween decoration’. We are salt curing ours to draw out moisture and then we’ll dry it. Even these oft-discarded parts are finding uses.
Like when we slaughtered the pig, I feel like this was an honest end to this chicken. We killed her humanely. Her flesh fed six for lunch and will provide at least one if not two meals for our three friends. Dissecting her body provided an anatomy education for all of us. The children experienced empathy towards animals, one of many lessons to be learned by witnessing an animal slaughter. Once again I conclude that to know a meal from backyard to plate is immensely satisfying.