Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Circle of LIfe

Last week, Phillip had a few days off work in which he borrowed a DVD from friends on how to humanely kill and dress chickens. And, after watching it and taking notes, he did it with our extra roosters.

Yes, this may sound a bit harsh to some. Why would we raise, care for, and then kill what is sometimes a bit like a pet? Well, that was part of the deal we made with ourselves when we decided to get chickens and a rooster.

There isn't much of a point in owning a rooster unless you want chicks (though ours does have a wonderful personality and roosters in general can make great "guard dogs"). And, when allowing your hens to hatch chicks, there isn't really any way to guarantee that they're only hatching females, and not males. And, when you have too many mature roosters in your flock, the hens start to go off laying eggs. Which is the MAIN reason we have our hens to begin with.

(Why do hens go off laying eggs with too many roosters around? Mostly because the roosters try to mate with mature, laying hens, not hens who aren't laying eggs. If they're being "jumped on" too much, they'll stop laying so that the roosters leave them alone. We can tell when our young hens are going to start laying eggs because the rooster starts doing his funny mating dance for them.)

Anyway, when we got our chickens the "deal" was that, if we allowed hatchings, we would build up the flock with hens so we could have plenty of eggs for ourselves and to share with a few people, and extra roosters would be for meat.

The past year gave us two extra roosters that just entered their mature stage of life and needed either a new home, or to go in the freezer.

We found no homes for them, so, as said earlier, Phillip killed and dressed them. And, as someone who has only had experience with people either shooting or axing chickens up to this point, I was quite impressed with the gentle way that Phillip found to have them killed. It involves "hypnotizing" them by holding them upside down (this works great with fussy hens too, or just any chicken, and is kind of funny), and gently breaking their necks. This also leaves the meat in much better condition than shooting or axing them.

De-feathering was probably the easiest part of the job, since, being the first time we've had to kill chickens, and these being chickens we've helped raise and nurture, it was a bit hard emotionally (also, I'm flooded with pregnancy hormones at the moment and cried when Phillip brought the carcasses in the house).
Chilling out before we put them in the fridge so the meat
can relax before cooking or freezing.

But Phillip did a wonderful job, and I roasted one the other night with some carrots from our garden, potatoes and onion. After only 2.5 hours in the oven, he was really really tender and delicious. Is there a difference in taste with a fairly fresh, free-range, you-know-what-it's-been-eating rooster and one from the store? Not really. Fresher maybe, and, well, it was a bit tastier than store-bought. But honestly not much different.

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