This past Thanksgiving Break we finally dispatched one of our three roosters. Currently, we have twenty-seven ladies and two roosters. For weeks we have put off killing our extra rooster and had him in the isolation chamber, so he couldn’t stress out the ladies. He was the last rooster to begin crowing and he was such a late bloomer he took us and the entire coop by surprise. We almost stayed his execution if it wasn’t for the need of his isolation chamber for a chicken who is ill and another chicken who has become broody.
Our broody Barred Rock chicken has been nesting in the same box for about two weeks now. She has about six eggs under her, and we are hoping for them to hatch within a week or so. Our nesting boxes are hanging on the wall of our coop at about 3 feet off the ground and for the newly hatched chicks we are hoping to welcome into the world it would be a steep drop. We decided to build a table out of scrap wood today to set under the box so the mama and her babies can walk out of the nesting box and onto the table that we will have wired off for their safety. It is a crude design made out of scrap wood, but it should serve the mother and baby chicks well until they are ready to flit about the coop.
This will be our first chickens ever hatched from our group. We never had a broody chicken before now. We were hoping maybe next year to purchase Silkies to help with hatching, but with a broody Barred Rock, this could be what we have been hoping for. We have heard that once a chicken is successful with hatching chicks, she will most likely become a mother again. Once the chicks are old enough, we’ll transport the mother and chicks to the isolation chamber where they can be safe together from the others in the flock until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Thus, our rooster’s stay of execution was lifted and we ended up butchering him.
We decided to butcher our rooster a different way than we had done in the past. We bought a killing cone and placed him in it. WARNING! GRUESOME DETAILS TO FOLLOW. Next, I used a sharp razor box knife to slit his throat and let him bleed out. I do not enjoy killing animals, so I attempt to compartmentalize my thinking, so I could proceed with the butchering process. I am sure the more chickens I kill over the years, the easier it will become. At least I keep telling myself that.
My son was not overly curious to watch the event and I almost spared him seeing the entire thing. I explained to him this is how we get our chicken and for people to buy chicken in the grocery store, someone had to kill it. I think every human meat eater alive should have to butcher their meal once in a life time. I think it would give a renewed respect to the animals being butchered as well as make people think about where their food comes from.
Once our rooster was dispatched and was finished twitching, which for me is the worst part. I removed its head and decided to skin the chicken instead of plucking its feathers. I heard skinning was easier. Plus, we were planning to can the bird with our pressure cooker and wouldn’t need the skin. After having done it, I have decided in the future I will go ahead and do the warm water bath to loosen the feathers and wet pluck them. Skinning took too long hunched over the table, and I believe I could have been finished sooner if I had plucked the bird’s feathers. I also decided to split the bird near the spine and fold the bird open to remove the gut sack. I did not like the way the bird looked cut open like this. Having to cut the rib cage next to the spine, I discovered the bird lost its symmetry, so I will most likely remove the guts the usually way of cutting the vent area out and proceeding just below the rib cage and sternum.
Other things I would change is I would lift the tables higher by placing them on blocks, so that I wouldn’t have to lean and hunch over so much. My back was really hurting after the butchering process. With the added stress in my system from killing the bird and the below thirty degree weather, a higher table and less leaning over would be nice.
Krista finished cutting our rooster up for the quart size jars. She then pressure cooked him that evening. It was quick work for Krista since she had done this before with our first flock. Next spring, the rest or our Buff Opringtons and Australorps of three years will need to be butchered as well. They are getting of age where they don’t lay as often and will need to be put down before they become old and ill. Our one sick bird these past few weeks is suffering from what may be congestive heart failure and we will be burying her soon. We are using antibiotics with her and at times she shows major improvement and at others she seems a death’s door. We shall wait and see, but the prognosis is not looking good.