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What Does it Feel Like to Kill a Chicken?

What Does it Feel Like to Kill a Chicken?

What Does it Feel Like to Kill a Chicken?

“What does it feel like to kill a chicken,” she asked. It’s been a deathly day, starting with two mice in a bucket in the garden shed. They couldn’t get out and made for a good opportunity to teach Zoey more about rodent killing. She’s a great huntress but not a good killer. A red squirrel made it into the house and onto the kill list today. Not sure I’ll get it today but the peanut butter bait is set (outside!) and the pellet gun is loaded and waiting.

What does it feel like to kill a chicken. I had to think about it. I don’t do it often, avoiding it when possible. Yes, I can, but if Steve is here when one is mortally injured, or it’s time to kill meat chickens, he does it. Today, he’s not here and the chicken couldn’t be allowed to suffer.

Chopping Block

The old chopping block is gone. I found two tall screws and a hammer and set up the block. When the screws were an inch and a half apart and the cover was off the hatchet, I went for the chicken. What does it feel like to kill a chicken…

what does it feel like to kill a chicken, chopping block

He wheezed, its comb no longer the bright blood red it should have been because of oxygen deprivation. Each breath was a struggle. Breath in, sides heaving, wheeze out. Was that a drop of liquid in its beak? The bird had pneumonia. Still fit to eat, today had to be the day for its sake and ours.

I tucked him under my left arm and thanked him for feeding us. This bird didn’t “give its life to feed us.” It didn’t give us its life. I took its life. I killed it. So bird, thank you for feeding us. I am indeed sorry it didn’t live two more weeks like the others will. Well, all but one other. It’s wheezing a little and probably won’t get better.

what does it feel like to kill a chicken, pneumonia, cornish cross

Tucked under my arm and thanked, I kept the Cornish Cross rooster calm. Its feet gently but firmly grasped by my left hand so it couldn’t scratch me if it decided to try to escape, it felt secure. I bent to pick up the hatchet while hanging the rooster upside down by its legs. Flap flap flap…three times, and then it calmly hung upside down, trusting me because I’ve been feeding and watering and tending it since it was three days old. This chicken had no thoughts of “I’m going to die.”

The Chop

I laid the breast, neck and head of the bird across the log, wedging its head between the screws to keep it secure. What does it feel like to kill a chicken, I thought as I raised the hatchet, pulled gently back on the bird’s legs to stretch its neck out straight, lined up the hatchet to land a half-inch behind the screws, closed my eyes and dropped my arm in a fast, hard swoop. With the thump of the hatchet hitting the log a split second later I opened my eyes to see what I’ve done, to be sure I’ve killed the bird instantly.

No suffering. I held the bird until the flapping stopped, maybe six or seven flaps, and watched blood pour from its neck. No suffering. When it was still and the blood stopped pouring, I laid the bird out on the log.

what does it feel like to kill a chicken, chopping block, blood

what does it feel like to kill a chicken, chicken chopping block

Killing a chicken feels like something I can’t over think. If I think about the steps of what I’m about to do I will talk myself out of it. It feels necessary but still heavy on my heart. It feels like a burden on my mind. There’s a sense of control when the bird is firmly in my left hand. A swift downward swing, as though I am swatting hard at a fly, followed by an immediate thump when the blade severs the head and then hits the log. Motion in my left arm as I’m holding the flapping bird, but it’s not heavy. The five pound bird feels light because I’ve lifted and thrown three cords of firewood – twice – and have strong arm muscles.


Mindful. It feels mindful, intentional and deliberate. It’s a burden. And then it’s over and it feels like relief. The bird isn’t suffering in life and didn’t suffer in death.

We don’t normally eat chicken for a couple of weeks after slaughtering day but this is different. I already have a chicken out of the freezer and fully thawed for tonight’s supper, and I will eat it. These chickens that we raise have great lives on pasture, grass and garden. They eat bugs and weed seeds, grass and clover, and take dust baths. These birds see the sun, the full moon, and the rain. They feel the wind blowing. If we didn’t raise these birds to eat they wouldn’t have a life at all. It feels like I’ve given them a good life and a swift, painless death, and it feels good to feel my family humanely.


Homesteading Today – September 29, 2016

Homesteading Today – September 29, 2016

Homesteading Today – September 29

There are a million things to do in this house – scrub the toilet, lug ripped out wallboard from the bedroom to trash bins outside, vacuum and wash floors, back screws out of 2 x 4’s – and little of it will get done. I’ll deal with the screws and wallboard, the rest will wait. It’s too nice outside to be indoors. I thought I’d bring you with me through homesteading today.

The Poultry Shuffle

The perfect music for The Poultry Shuffle was already playing when I went out this morning. A young white throated sparrow that hasn’t migrated yet tested his not-quite-perfect ability to sing. They’re one of the first birds that make my head snap in their direction in the spring and it’s nice to hear them before they leave in the fall.

The meat birds, 25 Cornish Rock Cross, need more room than their 4′ x 8′ tractor allows them. I took the smaller mesh electro-fence from the turkeys, ducks and Silkie chickens and shuffled it over to the meat birds’ area. I won’t have to move them once or twice a day now. The 160 foot long roll of fencing gives them plenty of room to eat grass, weed seeds and insects for a few days. They haven’t yet discovered the freshly tilled soil in the garden but when they do the soil will fly as they learn how easy it is to dust bathe there rather than on grass.

Silkies and Runner ducks slip through the large mess of the second fence so I have to keep an eye on them. Ava and Zoey spend most of the day outside to help deter predators. There are three raccoons hanging around but not until it starts to get dark.

(Update since I started writing: A Cooper’s hawk killed one of the meat birds while Ava was herding a wayward duck back to the pen. Bastard.)
Cornish cross, meat chicken, hawk attack

Autumn Decorating

Not one bit of autumn decorating has been done this fall. I cut the cornstalks, bundled them, and tied them to posts on the porch. Frost is weeks late this year, we haven’t had one yet. The hydrangea are a gorgeous mauve. I hope it doesn’t fade as they dry. Homesteading today is a mix of death and beauty, typical for this lifestyle.

hydrangea, homesteading today

warty gourds, homesteading today

I cut the Warty gourds, Wee Be Little pumpkins and Butternut winter squash, and cleaned up the vines. The last of the tomatoes minus a Juliet plant that’s still doing well added up to a half bushel, and those vines were cleaned up. They’re dying on the garden, waiting to be rototilled into the soil. The bushel of gourds were grown in a 30″ circle in the high tunnel. Easy peasy and worth doing again next year. The winter squash didn’t fare as well but I’ll give it another try in a tunnel next year with a few changes.

The still unidentified hot peppers and Bell peppers haven’t been pulled yet. Maybe Friday, or maybe I’ll put a low tunnel over them for a while. I want more peppers but I’m over gardening for the year. I’m ready to settle in to write, missing writing terribly, and want to be done with just about everything.

Where the Wild Things Are

The beavers are still around out back. The water is low but they’re checking the muddy dam and patting it down on a regular basis. I’m learning to love the land we own. It’s a long process that I’ll talk about later.
beaver lodge, homesteading today
beaver tracks, homesteading todayDon’t forget the young bull moose that’s pics I shared yesterday.

It feels like we’ll have frost overnight so I cut the lemon balm, sage, two varieties of basil, and oregano, and put them in the dehydrator. There’s mint still to cut but it’s frost hardy, fortunate since the dehydrator is full. Sage, thyme, basil and oregano are still growing in the high tunnel, at least until we take the poly off and cold gets to them.

To Do Lists

My list for the day was unrealistically long even if I hadn’t been dealing with the hawk. I’ll work on it again tomorrow. Such is the life. Homesteading today carries into tomorrow, into the next day, and continues on because the to list changes but never ends. I wouldn’t trade it for the lifestyle we left behind in 1989.

Meat Chickens Myths – Raising Meat

Meat Chickens Myths – Raising Meat

Meat Chickens Myths

I’m getting ready to place the meat chicken order, 30 Cornish-Rock broilers. They’re a cross of two breeds – Cornish and Rock. There’s so much misinformation passed on as fact that people shy away from raising them. And just as bad, they perpetuate the misinformation by repeating it over and over and over. We really need to do better when it comes to this aspect of food. Meat chickens aren’t lazy or dirty unless they’re provided the means to be so, and then you need to make a few changes in your methods raising them. I can help you with that.

Myth #1: You have to teach chicks how to eat and drink.

Don’t underestimate instinct and curiosity. They’ll peck at food and water. Give them 60 seconds and they’ll have it figured out.

You’re going to have these birds at least six weeks, maybe ten or 12. Don’t make more work for yourself than necessary. Trust instinct. Instinct and curiosity will lead them to scratch, chase bugs, and eat natural foods.

Meat Chicken Myths: Maybe you're not doing it right. Dirty, lazy or having health problems? Read these tips. Click To Tweets

Myth #2: Meat chickens are genetically engineered.

Go back to the name. Cornish Rock Cross. They’re a hybrid, a cross between two breeds. If you cross a beagle with a husky you get a hybrid, not a genetically engineered dog, right? Same thing.

Meat chickens, English shepherd, pastured chickens, how to raise meat chickensMyth #3: Meat chickens are dirty.

Do you feed your dog or cat in a small, confined area where it also poops, never letting it move to clean space? Of course not, right? So why would you do that to your chickens (or anything else)? Raise them in a clean, dry space with enough room to run around. If they are dirty you’re not doing it right. You need to move them more often and/or give them more room if they dirty.

I move the chicken tractor once a day for the first two or three weeks, twice a day after that.

Myth #4: Meat chickens do nothing but lay around, eating and pooping.

Partially, kind of, could be true, but you can do better for the birds. They’ll lay around and do nothing but eat if you allow it. They can’t eat commercial food you don’t give them so don’t over feed. I give my meat chickens commercial food only in the morning and evening. They spend the rest of the day on grass or in an unused section of the garden chasing insects, eating weeds and weed seeds, and taking dust baths, just like non-meat breeds. They’ll run around to find food if they’re hungry. If they’re picking at eat other or not growing they’re probably not finding enough to eat. They will behave like chickens if you allow them to. They aren’t fat when we butcher. They’re slower growing without the excess commercial food so I keep them an extra week to make up the difference.

Our electro net fence is 160 feet long. I move that around every two or three days if necessary for 25-30 chickens.

Myth #5: Mortality is high because they have leg problems and heart attacks.

So do we if we eat too much and don’t move. See #4. Space to roam, natural food, exercise, just like us. We lose maybe .25% to leg problems and have never lost one to heart attack. Keep them up and moving for food and acting like chickens and you’ll minimize problems.

Myth #6: Meat chickens are injected with hormones.

They’re not. Hormones were tried for a short period of time decades ago. Hormones don’t make poultry grow faster so it was discontinued. It’s illegal to give hormones to chickens and turkeys. If a producer is using “hormone free” on its label or advertising it’s trying to take advantage of a lack of knowledge. I don’t see that as often anymore because consumers called producers like Tyson out on the label.

Meat chickens are easy, clean, healthy, fast growing but not unhealthy, and when fed a mostly or all natural diet they’re delicious to eat. If you don’t have pasture, grass or empty garden space for the birds you can still move them around in a tractor, feed them commercial food, and have better tasting, better raised chicken.