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Chicken culling Oct 27, 2009 9:29 PM

Posted by --- on Tuesday 27 October, 2009

Let me start by saying that in this text I will describe the killing of a chicken. If you are likely to find it upsetting, please don’t read it.

I killed a chicken today.

I know I’ve said since we started keeping these chickens that the idea was to raise them in a nice environment and cull the roosters we raised for meat. I also know that we have kept them to the best of our ability and that they’ve had a far better life than most chickens that end up in the shops but when it came to killing one, I found it very hard. I’ve never deliberately killed anything in my life – except slugs. This chicken wasn’t for the table but I think it had a neurological problem.  Not long after we bought these  2 week old chicks we noticed this one had a twisted beak but left it as it seemed to be doing ok. At 5 months old it isn’t doing so well.  DDJ had named him beaky (yes it was  a rooster too) and it’s the only one she said she liked which made it harder as I had to face her. I watched him today when he fell over yet again and struggled to get up out of the mud. The only thing holding him up most of the time was the netting around the run. He fell over a lot, he got knocked over a lot, he got trampled a lot and he found it hard to get back up. He also found it difficult to drink as his beak was so twisted and the water kept pouring back out of the sides.

After watching him today struggling so much to walk, eat, and drink, and realise he’s not growing and is definitely not well I set my mind to dispatch him later this evening and to light a garden fire and cremate him; DFS said that he wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t showing 100% health and even though I was convinced it wouldn’t be transferable to humans, I wouldn’t risk it with my kids either.

I waited until it was dusk to light the fire and only DFS knew what I was doing. I fetched the chicken from out of the coop while he was asleep and tried to use the broomstick method. I found it awkward. When I held him and put his neck under the pole and tried to get my feet on each end of the pole, I kept losing my balance as I was frightened of squashing his neck and hurting him so was leaning my weight back. I know I was about to kill him but I wanted it to be quick and painless, I didn’t want to hurt it by crushing it’s neck. I was almost in position when someone came through the back gate and I had to move as I didn’t want anyone else to see and be distressed by what I was doing. I then realised how dark it had got. After being outside all evening I didn’t realise until I noticed all the lights on in the house and realised that everyone would be able to see what I was doing as I’d lit myself up by the fire to see what I was doing! I could imagine all the neighbour complaints!

I managed to get in position again away from the fire and pulled his body up until I felt the dislocation. I didn’t jerk or yank or pull fast in case I decapitated him as I’d read can happen.  Although expected, it was quite disconcerting when the nervous flapping and movement started. It seemed to go on forever and I was getting convinced I hadn’t done it right. As I’d tried to stop any overlookers seeing, I’d moved into the dark. My eyes had adjusted and I could see quite well but not in detail. In some ways was a relief but in other ways I wish I’d been floodlit to see exactly what was going on! I felt his neck and it felt longer than normal but I had no idea what else I was feeling for and still the twitching and flapping continued. I fetched a torch from the garage to test the corneal reflex. I saw that there was blood on my hand and when I checked, I saw that the skin on his neck had torn! I did the test and there was no reflex but when I laid him on one side and he stared up at me, I turned him over and was sure that he blinked! It was probably my nervous state but just in case, I did the broomstick method again. I did the corneal reflex straight away and found that he didn’t have one so I was now convinced he was dead despite the twitching that was still occurring. I found the whole experience distressing as I wasn’t sure if I’d done it right. I waited and built wood around the outside of the fire and placed him in the centre and covered him with more wood.

I was shaking and felt sick. I still had to tell the kids. I went in the house and told the boys first as they were in the kitchen. Surprisingly, their reaction was to ask if I was ok! I told them I was fine – I didn’t want them to know any different but maybe I looked as bad as I felt. I then went to Asda for a bottle of wine! DSL wanted to come and when we were alone in the car asked me “really, how are you!? You don’t look fine” I asked if he really wanted to know and wanted to know details and he said yes (he’s 21 so is old enough). I told him and he listened but said I was probably over imagining things and was convinced I’d done it right. He offered to do the next one as we still have 4 roosters for the table. Where does he get his courage?! I said I had to face it and do it if I was going to be responsible. Later I had to tell DDJ who again asked how I was first. I told her I was ok but that it wasn’t easy. She didn’t get upset as I thought she would and seemed unaffected.

Although I didn’t enjoy what I did, I will do the roosters when the time comes. I’m dreading plucking and cleaning them as  I don’t know if I can do it or how to do it or if I can eat it if I do but I wanted a “guilt free” way of providing meat for our table. I completely disagree with how battery hens are raised and feel that raising our own to free ranging standards gives them a good life but it is far from guilt free. In fact I feel more guilt this way but that is only because the killing and cleaning process is too far removed from me on the supermarket packs on the shelf. Even though I know it’s a chicken sitting in the plastic wrapper, it’s a similar feeling buying one as it is buying a loaf of bread! Common sense tells me it was once alive and was killed and that someone has taken the innards out for me but I didn’t see it and it takes away the  personal accountability. Culling my own gives meaning to the meat sitting on your plate.

In other news, DFS went to the Dr’s today. I was half certain he had an Inguinal hernia. I wasn’t far wrong. In fact he has an inguinal tear and is being referred for keyhole surgery.

Posted in Poultry, Self sufficient | 2 Comments »