How Not to Kill Chickens


| 11/10/2011 1:51:25 PM


Tags: chickens, Mount Saint Helens, butchering chickens, Sarah Schartz,

Sarah S HeadshotI hate chickens. I love to eat them, and I love their eggs, but that’s as far as the love reaches.  

As a junior in college I was required to do an internship for class credit. My job was working at an interpretive center near Mount Saint Helens in Washington. The center was privately owned and I was provided company housing not far from a little wide spot in the road called Toutle. One of my co-workers was also my housemate.  

The house we lived in was old state highway department house. It had that 1930s look. It was located about two hundred feet upslope from the highway. Below the house was the shop that had been used for the highway equipment. There was a group of  bear grass pickers that I’m pretty sure lived in the shop and there was an additional home next to the shop. 

The house was a two story affair. You walked into the back door where you went downstairs to the unfinished, daylight basement or turned left and up two steps into the kitchen. The upstairs, where we lived was a decent sized two-bedroom house. There were about five hundred windows in the house only two of which opened and there were no curtains. So we lived in a fish bowl with no air flow. 

For some reason unknown to me the director of the visitor center where we worked had baby chicks in a fish tank in the “hands on” portion of the center. To be clear the center was all about forestry and the effect that the 1980 blast had on the surrounding private forest – not chickens. 



My roommate was a student at Berkley and like me was working at the center for the summer. She took to the baby chicks and when one became sick she tried to nurse it back to health. When it died she was nearly inconsolable. I was raised on a farm but had absolutely zero experience with chicks. Everything I “knew” about chickens came as hearsay and second hand information. What I did know was that I wanted nothing to do with them.  

kathy wright
11/30/2011 3:06:33 PM

Ok! I loved your story and now must share mine. My chickens are free range and I Love them. My babies, my bunnies, my good girls, you get the picture. One day two dogs ran into the yard and attacked one of my girls. My husband and I went running with our two big dogs and chased them off quickly but not before a lot of damage had been done to my sweet baby. I picked her up and saw blood spreading across her back feathers. As I spread her wings, I saw the skin was no longer attached and I was looking at something I have cooked before for dinner. Tears streamed down my face as I realised I needed to be a responsible pet owner. She couldn't suffer so I must kill her quickly. I turned my head to the side, gave three big jerks downward and her head lobbed off to the side as I laid her on the ground. Crying for all I was worth, I walked away. Later I went back to dispose of her. (Trash bag NOT dinner.) AND she was gone! In the back, by the garage with her wobbly head and tore up back, she was scratching for grubs! True story and 4 months later, still alive!


Nebraska Dave
11/12/2011 8:03:56 AM

Sarah, I cracked up while reading your chicken story. Chickens are not supposed to be any where close to a house with people living in it. I am surprised to put up with it as long as you did. I can just imagine what the house smelled like with chickens in the basement. Mom was the master of processing chickens. Some how she had the knack to break the neck without detaching the head. Then she would hang them upside down and let all the blood drain into the head. I didn't get in on any of that part thank goodness. However about July when the chickens were being processed, my job was to clean the chicken coop which hadn't been cleaned for the six to eight weeks they had been living there. If you have never scooped out a chicken coop in the hot summer, then you just can't imagine the smell. Well, Sarah, maybe you can. So I was eternally glad when the chickens had to go because a few decided to roost in the hog house and were making the hogs sick from the droppings. I sure loved those fried chicken dinners though. Have a great chicken story day.


Dave Larson
11/11/2011 5:44:56 PM

Hi Sarah, I don't have quite your antipathy for chickens, but I sure don't have a love affair with them either. I think they look best either just after they laid an egg or, if no eggs, broiled with a good spicy rub on the BBQ. Like you, if you are layin' eggs, you're not getting fed. Love your chicken saga by St Helens. Have a great weekend.







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