Back to Carla Emery’s indispensable ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING. She had a picture of a wooden board with two nails partially nailed in and standing up about 2 inches. It created a sort of V shape. She had us stretch the chicken out on the board with its head between the two nails. I held the body down while my husband did one whack with the kitchen cleaver (the big Japanese kind was perfect). That was it. A friend had warned me that the nerves fire off for “much longer than you’d think” so I was prepared for that. It was true. I held down with one hand until it stopped. Surprisingly little blood.
I walked the chicken over to the pot of boiling water and dunked for 30 seconds. Then, sat down on a log and commenced to pluck. The feathers came out so easily! Almost immediately the chicken looked like one you’d buy in the store. Boom! I made the connection. I was sitting there plucking a chicken I had raised just as millions upon millions of women had done throughout history. It was so empowering! I envisioned a group of women sitting on that log with me all doing the same thing. Feeding ourselves and our families. Whew!
The gutting was my husband’s job as he had cleaned turkeys in the past. I washed them down and packaged them up and let them sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Then, I put one in the freezer and one in the soup pot. These hens were a year old so I did not know how edible they would be. The breast meat was perfect but the rest was pretty tough. It was good for stock and the tougher meat went to the dog. I would not raise chickens for meat but I don’t mind making use of the older layers.
My plan now is to change out the flock every two years as egg production declines. I’ll have the next generation of layers just about ready to lay before I cull the older hens. Do I name them or not? Hmm… My friend Jane names them and puts their name on them in the freezer so she knows who she’s eating.
I had kids over last week and told them that we’d butchered two of the hens. “Which ones?”, “Why?” they asked. I told them that chickens don’t lay eggs for more than a few years and that I couldn’t just keep adding chickens to the backyard flock. They immediately understood and asked to look in the freezer. One of them said, “I just want to say a few words”. When they looked in and saw what looked like a chicken from the store they understood even more. We closed the freezer and went to the feed store to buy more chicks. “Mary Ann, Fred, Irene, and Honeycomb”. So, much for not naming them.
This time I did my research. I bought varieties bred for meat AND egg production. We got two Delawares and two Golden Sexlinks. They will be added to the two just-laying Aracauna and Americauna. Heaven help them from the older Americauna’s wrath.
I’ll cross my fingers when it’s time to integrate them. Good ol’ “Ari” still walks upon the earth. She’s the one pictured peering out of the peephole in the last entry.