• We Killed and Ate a Backyard Chicken Today

    by  • February 6, 2011 • City Chickens, Local Food, Meat, Parent, Recipes & Meals • 16 Comments

    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.

    saying goodbye to a backyard chickencutting head off the chicken for slaughter

    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.

    dunking a slaughtered chicken in boiling water

    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.

    removing chicken feathers by hand

    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.

    chicken before butcheringremoving entrails from chicken

    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.

    chicken entrails labeled

    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.

    backyard chicken in ovenbackyard chicken and vegetable lunch

    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.

    The bird cooked quickly. The flesh was chewier than a broiler bird but very mildly flavored. We did not consume the copious fat, leaving most on the carcass to roast with the bones and make stock.chicken feet

    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.

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. I often wear purple and never refuse a drink.


    16 Responses to We Killed and Ate a Backyard Chicken Today

    1. Meredith Cope
      February 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      There’s just something fun about a chicken foot. The last time we slaughtered chickens, Allie, age 6, ran around for hours with a chicken foot.

      • February 7, 2011 at 8:54 am

        Did you let Allie keep the foot? Lil has big plans for hers so we’re trying to sanitize it through salting and drying.

        • Meredith Cope
          February 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm

          Nope, the foot got buried with the guts and feathers. I never thought about salting and drying, maybe I’ll try that next year. I’ve also heard that you can make an excellent chicken stock from the feet, you just have to scrub them really good. I haven’t tried it yet, but I do have a big Ziploc full of feet in the freezer.

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    3. CJonard
      February 6, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Incredible. That was a great lesson–thank you for sharing.

    4. February 7, 2011 at 7:54 am

      Fantastic write up Rachel! Did Alex just pull the neck straight down or was there a twisting motion? Dogs love chicken feet! 😀

      • February 7, 2011 at 8:53 am

        Although I know my dogs would lunch up on a chicken foot, I don’t want them to get any ideas about the live birds…

    5. Betsy
      February 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      That picture of chicken feet makes me think of the Tomie dePaolo book “Tom”. Tom’s grandpa give him some chicken feet and shows him that you can pull a tendon and make them open and close. So he takes them home, paints their toenails and then scares the girls at school.

      • February 9, 2011 at 9:03 pm

        Thanks for the book recommendation Betsy. I love Tomie dePaolo’s style and frequent references to food but we haven’t read Tom. I’ll look for it at the library.

        • Meredith Cope
          February 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm

          I love Tomie dePaolo’s books too, and I’ve never heard of TOm, I’ll have to find it also.

    6. February 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Good for you. I’m picking up my first meat birds next week and am very nervous about the whole undertaking. It always helps soothe my nerves to see that other people share this sort of thing. :)

      • February 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm

        You can do it!

        I didn’t mention that the whole process took us about an hour and a half which would make for a long day if you are processing a lot of birds. But with experience it would have to go faster.

        I just subscribed to your blog – I love your tagline, “life as a maker”.

    7. Pingback: Playing with a Chicken Foot: Wordless Wednesday | Hounds In The Kitchen

    8. Happy Farming Momma
      February 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      I know that it is right there at being a year from this post but I am hoping you can answer a question for me. We just did our first chicken today and my kids would like to keep the feet also, so I was wondering if you could tell me how you “salt cured” them? Thanks so very much!

      • February 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm

        Simply scrub the foot well and lay in a zip top plastic bag. Pour kosher salt over the foot and leave in the fridge or at a cool temperature for a week or so, flipping every day. When it is hardened, remove from the bag and the feet are ready for keeping.

    9. Pingback: Creepy Meats - On Raising Cornish Cross Meat Chickens | Harmonious HomesteadHarmonious Homestead

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