My First Solo Culling and a Sad Goodbye

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Earlier I proudly posted pictures of my new chicken flock, including the handsome cockerel who became my first flock rooster. He seemed like a fine choice until sometime after the hens started laying, when he began acting a bit temperamental, pecking at me or kicking me when I entered the coop — I was never sure which, since he was so quick and usually ambushed me from behind.

At first I chalked it up to his being a good guardian, and I’d leave and come back later. But it got worse. He would take off after me for no apparent reason, walking along beside me and giving me a good wallop whenever he could manage it.

Harvey Ussery suggests offering treats to a rooster to promote good relations. So I started keeping my bag filled with treats and tossing some out for him whenever I approached. He and the hens were quick to devour them, but this served as only a momentary distraction. Worse yet, they all got the idea they were supposed to get treats whenever they saw me, and their fearless leader started harassing me for more and more treats until he got tired of it and went back to attacking me.

It got so I had to carry a shovel or some kind of shield just to walk around my property, and sometimes I couldn’t get any work done for fending off the attacks. Clearly he had to go, but I had only ever processed one bird, and that was with a friend supervising and helping me. I was hoping to get more practice before having to tackle this on my own. And I hated to part with him, even though he was so mean, because I still loved him when he wasn’t attacking me — I just wanted him to be nice!

I had to postpone any action for a while, because I didn’t have running water and didn’t think the process would be too sanitary without it. Then I wasn’t sure I had any sharp enough knives. I decided to make a chopping block and try the hatchet method instead of the killing cone. This was a bit tricky since I needed to position two nails to hold the bird’s head, and I wasn’t sure what the spacing should be. Any attempts at measuring the rooster’s head or neck were futile. I decided on about an inch, but then I couldn’t get the nails to go in straight. Ever hear of somebody who can’t hit a nail straight? That’s me.

Just when I was ready to plan the execution I ran out of propane and couldn’t use my stove. So how was I going to heat my scalding pot? I had read in a magazine about how to build a rocket stove with bricks and thought this would be a good way to heat the pot outside, so I built one. The stove was only recommended for cooking small items, but I thought maybe I could keep it going long enough to heat the pot.

Nothing doing. I was going to have to revert to plan B, which was to skin the bird rather than plucking him. Harvey Ussery says this is easy. Hah! I thought I would never get the skin off that bird. But the worst part was the execution. I’ll spare you the details, but clearly I need to get some better knives. The hatchet was useless — all it did was knock one of the nails out of the block, and get my already agitated rooster even more upset. A good whack with my little hatchet, which I had sharpened to a keen edge, seemed to leave his neck completely unscathed!

I then had to transfer the poor fellow to the killing cone, where I did my best to finish him off as humanely as possible. I didn’t want to cause him undue suffering, even if he was mean. Unfortunately, the process took way too long and was not pretty, but he was very brave and eventually expired, leaving only the job of properly skinning and eviscerating him.

Did I mention that I was working in the semi-darkness, since I had to do this at night and had only a lantern and my porch light to work by? Never again. At one point I seriously considered throwing the whole mess out for the possums, but I persevered, and — amazingly — by about eleven o’clock had something resembling an edible chicken! By the time I had finished cleaning up it was almost midnight, and I was exhausted, but relieved that it was over.

Next morning I missed hearing my rooster crow, but it sure was nice to be able to go in the coop and not be attacked. And later in the week my rooster made a very nice coq au vin!