Our neighbors must think that we are absolute lunatics. Not that they’d be entirely wrong.
A couple of months back – after the morning sickness had passed, but before I couldn’t see my feet anymore – we got a semi-frantic call from some friends at church.
It seems that their daughter had adopted a very cute chick back in the spring, with the intent of hand-raising it to be her own beloved pet-and-layer-of-eggs. They already have a number of laying hens, so this would just add to the daily egg haul. You can see where this is going.
Apparently, about a week prior to the phone call, this ‘hen’ had started crowing. It had developed an unmistakable comb and tail. And started, erm, molesting the other hens. Plus, their neighborhood isn’t zoned for roosters. So. Could we please come take the wretched thing off their hands?
Not a problem! But – I have no coop. So any rooster I bring home is going to end up, in short order, in the freezer. Just wanted to be clear. Still want us to take it?
Yes – please – today?
So, we booked it into town and picked up the rooster. Once we got home, we worked out a game plan. Mr. Caffeinated did not want to pull out all the butchering stuff for one bird, so we decided to go with a knife, a table, and hose.
First order of business – where to do the actual kill? At the moment, it was pouring down rain, and we had vast stretches of mud. There were a couple of spots with wood chips where we’d had stumps ground, so we opted to off the bird over the absorbent shavings. Mr. Caffeinated held the bird by the feet (they kinda pass out when they’re held upside down) while I slit its throat. It flapped its wings a time or two, and that was that. Then we waited for it to stop dripping.
Aaaand waited. Generally, when we’re doing a whole lot of chickens at once, the five or so minutes that a carcass takes to drain out doesn’t seem all that long. When you’re holding one out at arm’s length, though, it takes just shy of forever.
At this point, we realized that (a) our choice of locations to execute the bird was visible from the road, and (b) to a casual passerby, this little scene might appear a little strange. What brought that on was one of the neighbors, who zipped by in their car, flipped a u-turn, and drove back past, r-e-a-l slow.
What do you do in that situation? Wave and smile? I was tempted to blurt something out about an ‘obligatory rooster sacrifice after taking out the tree stumps’. Fortunately, they sped off before I could say anything particularly outrageous.
Once the bird was done draining, we took it over to the table on the deck (out of the rain), and proceeded to skin it. We’d decided to skin instead of pluck because Mr. Caffeinated didn’t want to heat up a whole pot of water for one bird.
There were two factors we hadn’t considered. First – we’re used to butchering broilers at nine weeks or so, that aren’t fully feathered out yet. This was a heritage bird over six months old that was not only fully fledged, but had grown a nice layer of down because the weather had turned cold. There were feathers everywhere.
Second – this was a bird with black feathers. If you don’t think this makes a difference, then you’ve never butchered a black-feathered bird before. The closest analogy I can think of is the difference between sweeping up sand versus dealing with clay mud. Eventually, we had to move the table back off the deck and out to the dirt, just to keep the mess from taking over the porch.
I should mention at this point that there was a huge pit pretty close to the house where we’d pulled out a stump (and part of the water line, oops). The table was set up next to this. As we finished the skinning job (and hosed everything down so that we could see again), Mr. Caffeinated opted to leave me to it and attempt to get something else accomplished. It really is a one-man job from that point on anyway. I set aside the feet for making broth, and carried on.
The bare-bones approach to chicken-butchering ran up against another snag two minutes later when I looked around, with a handful of guts, and realized that there wasn’t a nice, plastic lined garbage can to put them in.
“Um… honey? Were you thinking of filling this pit in today?”
“Sure, I can work on that.”
“Oh, good, ‘cause I’m tossing the rooster guts in there.” After putting action to the words, I glanced up… and discovered that yet another neighbor was driving by, gawking. Umm… Hi? Nothing to see here, just throwing around poultry intestines, move along…
Shortly after that, the job was done. I hosed everything down, including the bird, and got it into a plastic bag in the cooler. After a bunch of soap and bleach, plus a shower, I could put the whole thing behind me.
Two days later, while Mr. Caffeinated was finishing the pit-filling job, he came in with the feet. “Did you want these?”
“Aargh!! Initially, but not now. Throw them in the hole and forget it.”
“All right – but you just know that if some poor sod has to dig that water line back up, they’re gonna wonder why there’s two little claws sticking out of the dirt after some shovelful.”
Just call it part of the obligatory rooster sacrifice.
Why is it that I can’t embarrass myself in normal ways? I have to go the extra mile and find new and unusual venues for mortification.
At least the neighborhood HOA president got a kick out of it. His comment? “And here we thought y’all were city folk that had decided to move out to the country.”
I guess it was one way to disprove that assumption.