Three roosters sat in a box on the floor. Bud adeptly reached in and pulled one bird into a football hold, smoothed its feathers to calm it, then slid it head-first into the cone. Its head peered out the open bottom, but the bird was calm. He scooped up the other roosters in like manner and deposited them into the empty cones.
“They crow and the neighbors don’t like it,” he explained.
“They are pretty,” I shoved my hands down in my pockets.
“Pretty, no pretty, all gotta go. No pain, though.” He tugged the first one’s head down a little, and a blade sliced through the bird’s neck. Blood poured down into a bucket beneath the cones. The legs tensed, but within seconds there was no movement at all. “See, no pain.” He moved on and did the other two birds exactly the same. “Now, they’re meat.” He pointed over to a giant sink-looking thing with heated water and to a metal tube with rubber on the outside. It looked like the inside of a washing machine. “Into the scalder, then the picker, then I take off the legs. ” There was a little slide through place on the stainless steel counter. “Then over to them to pull the insides, clean, chill, and package.”
“How long does it take?”
“Only a few minutes, times how many birds.”
He led the way back outside, where Elliot had already pulled the crates off the truck and stacked them next to the back door. I placed my hand on a crate, felt and heard the birds shifting inside it. I did my best to clear my mind of the images of the adorable baby chicks that once sat in my hand, remembering a Native American custom to thank the animal for its life. I don’t know if that’s a real thing or something I saw in one of Dad’s movies, but it felt right, so I did it.
Some backstory: Billie has never had to kill anything larger than a mosquito before. Her dad ordered meat birds the year before he died, and they were sprung on her without notice. With no livestock experience, she is uncertain how to feel about this little reality of farm life.
If you didn’t grow up on a farm, how would you feel about having to do this? Would you be directly involved, get someone to do it for you and cling to denial, or try to dump the whole problem onto somebody else?
Keep in mind that in her situation, the birds were ordered before she even knew she would be living on the farm. Also, these are meat birds, which are not bred for longevity. Even if they were spared the gallows, they would likely have health issues, and Billie would be stuck with over a hundred extra birds with no use for them.
If you are new to raising chickens or other livestock, what practices help you resolve any inner conflicts?
If you’re a seasoned farmer, do you still have any qualms about it, or is just a thing you have to do? Have you done the butchering, yourself, or do you go to a commercial processor?
If you’re opposed to raising chickens or other animals for meat, you’re welcome to comment, too, but please stay on topic.
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You can pre-order the Kindle version of Chickenshit Volume 2 Just Hatched ahead of its release on April 1st. I hope to have the paperback version ready by then, too. So if you’re an I only like to read real books kind of person, we should have you covered. As always, I do the $1 eBook match.
Chickenshit Volume 1 Or How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong and my first novel, Lookout Butte, can be found on my Kindle and in paperback on my Amazon author page.