Several years ago I brushed elbows at desks with professionally employed people who did more restaurant dining than home cooking. Representing the “new American woman” image, my female friends had been born into the metropolitan lifestyle and had little experience with raising animals or crops. It was only as the organic food movement and a true revival of sustainable lifestyles began to be known that I found more and more friends who considered themselves “urban farmers” or “urban homesteaders.”
While most of my friends now raise a bit of a garden, a few also have joined the “backyard chicken movement,” which reportedly is taking place across the United States. Although poultry raising was common in small towns of America a hundred years ago, it is gaining surprising popularity even in larger cities today. Evidence the “Tour de Coop” activities and backyard chicken cooperatives for the power of community brought about by raising a few chickens!
Recently, my own experience with birds was called into action by my friends Barb and Van, who have been raising bantam chickens for a couple of years. Barb and I belong to the same quilt bee, which is made up of women with rural backgrounds and all have an enormous fondness for chickens. One day the conversation turned to the slaughter of chickens because Barb needed to cull some excess roosters from the flock. Turned out that although she and husband had learned much about the raising of the birds, they had never actually experienced the processing of the birds for meat. Enter this author for consulting and demonstration purposes.
After passing a few Kansas colder-than-heck Saturdays (thank you, God), we assembled last Saturday at 65 degrees for the process of removing said roosters from the flock. My prior arrangement with the owners was that I would gladly help with the butchering, however, I insisted, I would not participate in the killing of the birds. They agreed that they were willing to perform the act and had researched the “cone of death,” which supposedly made the killing more humane. Deal. I never did like that part.
As can be imagined, many memories were triggered and we had many good laughs and learning from the process. Here are some pictures and some observations brought forward:
Chickens are fast little guys. Of course, on the farm we had a chicken hook, but lacking that we used the entrapment method. Anyone who knows chickens knows they were on to that method in no time. With the help of a chicken wire cage, we were finally successful. We felt both foolish and funny at the same time. Great laughs!
Killing the bird is the worst. Although Van did have a hatchet as a back-up tool, they did use the cone method. I took a walk at this time.
There is no other smell in the world quite like scalded chicken feathers. Eeeuuuu. We did a great job on this and it was much easier than my friends had been told.
Bantams are not fried chicken material. They are small and stringy. But then, Barb knew that and was going to make stock. They are considering getting a few normal “fryers.”
It all comes back. Yep, it’s like they say; it’s just like riding a bicycle. Once we got the bird undressed, the rest was familiar. Add a reminder list of the order of processing and it went like a textbook example. It was done. We were proud of the accomplishment and felt we were urban farmerettes. Next time it will be easier.
Culling those darn roosters was good for the coop. The hens were quieter and calmer, and the little hens that had been picked on were definitely happier.
Such is the life of the urban homesteader. I sure hope there isn’t a similar process necessary for their bees though. I think I’m at my limit for micro-surgery.
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