Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chicken harvest

We slaughtered our chickens yesterday. I'm feeling a little teary - not because of all the killing (although, believe me, “harvesting” chickens is quite sad), but because of the way my sons helped out. They are eight and ten years old, and they actively helped for the four and a half hours it took three of us adults to butcher 48 chickens.
I know that some people take offense at taking the lives of animals, and I don't want to alienate anyone here. The truth is, both Steve and I were vegetarians for many years, but my body didn't feel particularly healthy without eating meat.  Plus, we are raising three children, who eat as much as an army, and they are not even teenagers yet.  We feel good about consuming the meat of animals that we raised ourselves: humanly, living on green pasture, with lots of space to roam, feeding on organic feed we provide for them. When slaughter time comes around, our animals are not subjected to being transported to a slaughter house, but their lives end right there, on the pasture they grew up on.
Before we start our chicken harvest, we stand in a circle, hold hands, and give thanks to the animals we are about to put in the freezer.
This year, my ten-year-old Kai wanted to learn how to actually kill a chicken, and so did I. In the past, I helped with scalding, plucking, eviscerating and packing, but I never had the guts to actually put the knife to a chicken's throat. It was a job the men always did (Steve and our neighbor Rich). Kai and I wanted to be able to do the whole process from start to finish. I will spare you the gory details (and Kai's blood splattered glasses), but let me just say that we did succeed, and although we both hated doing it, we did it successfully several times.
And I get teary remembering both Kai and Lukas, plucking chickens, and later with their hands in chicken cavities, tireless cutting off feet and heads, pulling out guts, examining chicken livers and gallbladders. They didn't complain once, and they really, really helped, instead of just being in the way or wanting to goof off. I am very proud of them, knowing that they do live on a farm, and that this is one of the ways we sustain ourselves. They know how to plant seeds in the soil, weed a vegetable garden, and process a chicken. Not to mention a whole new appreciation for chicken anatomy (talk about hands-on homeschooling!).
Today, I shall make liver pate and have our friends over for dinner, to thank them for entertaining little Miss Eva while we did this nasty job.  It takes a village to raise a child.  And a chicken.

Steve, Rich and my sons preparing all the equipment.  Here is the cooling tank.
And this is the hot water tank for scalding and the nifty plucking machine thingy.
It helps to do this job with people you love!

If I haven't you grossed out enough... we fed the chicken innards to the pigs.  They loved it.


  1. Wish we could have been there helping and learning :-) maybe next year! Thanks for sharing! Wow, look at your pigs, they have gotten so big! Aidan and Eamon are impressed with Kai and Lukus, good peer pressure among farm boys!

    1. Ha! Nothing like peer pressure! We had a really good "assembly" line going, and the more we practiced, the faster we got!


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