Raising Chickens

On Death

“Plants have the karmic advantage of creating their own food out of pure air and sunlight, whereas we animals, lacking green chlorophyll in our skin, must eat some formerly living things every single day. You can leave the killing to others and pretend it never happened, or you can look it in the eye and know it.  I would never presume to make that call for anyone else, but for ourselves we’d settled on a strategy of giving our food a good life until it was good on the table”
from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (read it if you haven’t!)

Yesterday we butchered our first chicken.

After much research we (being, the husband and I) decided on the technique that we felt was the most humane.  It involves holding the bird upside down by its legs (which causes the bird to go into a very passive state), then simply slitting the throat.  There are a few more gruesome details, but that’s the gist of it.  There is no struggle, no violent flapping about, no sound, and really not even that much blood.

We had settled upon some rules about the event, really without even speaking.  Chris and I went into it with the same somber sense of respect and duty.  We didn’t make jokes about the death or with the bird.  We worked as efficiently as possible to allow as quick and painless a finish as we could offer this bird.

I don’t feel sad. I knew this was the plan.  We brought the bird out of the coop, pet it, thanked it for its sacrifice, and took care of it from there.  I have wanted to participate in the death of an animal I’m going to eat. Not because I’m terribly morbid, but, as the quote says, I wanted to “look it in the eye and know it.”  I don’t want to shut my eyes to the fact that death is a necessary part of living the lifestyle I choose to live.  I have no regrets because I took good care of this bird.  I held it as a baby. I petted it as an adult. I allowed it out into the yard to peck at bugs; I gave it plenty of room to sleep and move about.  I removed this particular bird from the others when another bird was picking on it (literally, picking at its tail feathers).

I do have details about how I cooked it and the recipe that turned out so well, but I feel like that needs to be a separate post.  I think this post needs to just be about the fact that death is a necessary bi-product of our omnivorous lifestyle and ignoring that fact is ignoring your very own life source.  Failing to appreciate and take care of this fact is failing to appreciate and take care of the food that will nourish your body and the bodies of your family members.

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