Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chicken Butchering 101

There's a story my mother told about my grandmother, who had an unfortunate experience involving butchering a chicken. A young ranch wife, she thought she'd impress her new husband by killing and cooking a chicken for dinner. Apparently it did not go well, since my grandmother closed her eyes at the last moment and the hatchet didn't quite do a complete job of severing the head. The chicken was said to have run around the yard spurting blood for some time while my grandmother retreated to the house vowing never, ever to do that again.

Many new chicken-keepers in the city are similarly well-intentioned, thinking they'll set up a coop, feed their chickens, maybe let them run around on the grass a little and reap the rewards of eggs aplenty. But after the chickens have decimated the lawn and landscaping, not to mention flying (or simply wandering) outside the yard and getting chased or, worse yet, mauled by the neighbor's dog, the romance can begin to wear thin, with many chickens ending up dumped or in shelters.

And with egg production decreasing precipitously after the first year, the problem of what to do with these not-quite-pets arises. My friend Chrissie at Kookoolan Farms gets calls all the time from desperate city-dwellers asking if they can bring their chickens to her to be slaughtered, but because she is not licensed to kill chickens that have not been raised on her farm, she has to refer them elsewhere.

So, because she's an educator at heart, she's decided that it's important to teach people how to kill their own chickens humanely and cleanly, avoiding the trauma and mess that my grandmother, and no doubt the chickens themselves, experienced. To that end she's offering a class on "How to Butcher Your Own Chicken" on July 11, where you can, if you choose to, kill and dress a chicken, either your own or one from her farm.

She asks that people dress appropriately, and I don't think she's talking about either black morning clothes or tennis whites, if you know what I mean.

Details: How to Butcher Your Own Chicken, Sun., July 11, 1-4 pm; $50, registration required. From her e-mail: "Your course fee includes bringing one of your own chickens for supervised butchering (or we have ours available) which you will be able to take home in a plastic bag ready to cook. Please call us for special pricing if you have more than one (no one will be allowed to bring more than three). Please note that this class is not a coded invitation for custom-processing of chickens. We will also have our own fully-dressed-out poultry available at the farm for sale as usual. Class is limited to 12 participants. Please dress appropriately." Kookoolan Farms, 15713 Hwy. 47, Yamhill. 503-730-7535.


Lisa Belt said...

Excellent post, Kathleen. Now I have to debate sending it along to a close friend who has 5 chickens--all of them with names, of course. Maybe I'll just keep it on file until the time is right... Hm...

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, HNT. I'll trust your judgment!

Anonymous said...

I have done it many times. After the initial shock of it I'm fine. Meaning once the feathers are off the chicken looks like dinner.