Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feeling Sad

I have seven too many roosters in my small flock. They have reached the age where they're making life miserable for the hens, so the time has come to begin eating them. I killed the first one this evening -- he is becoming tortilla soup.

It's been a while since I killed an animal. I feel sad about ending the rooster's young life, even though the soup smells delicious. Eating meat is something one has to accept if one raises chickens for eggs, or cows (or goats) for milk. There are always too many males, and you can't just turn them out into the streets.

When I lived at Altamira, I used an ax to kill chickens -- chop off the head in one swift blow. I used the "broomstick" method this evening, because I left the ax in San Antonio and don't trust my skills with a knife. The broomstick method (I actually used a wrecking bar) seems quite gentle, compared with the ax. The bird relaxed for a moment, then went into the usual death spasms. One can never say for sure, but I got the impression that it was a painless death. I've noticed, when I've been in accidents, I don't usually feel pain as the injury is taking place, only later. I would guess that death by guillotine or neck snapping is painless.

At least when I kill chickens myself, I know they had a very happy life up until the last moment, and that their deaths are quick. If I were to buy chicken meat from a store, I could be pretty sure that the bird had an unhappy life, and the last moments could have been really horrible.


  1. I'm sorry you're sad, but I think personally that you've done the right thing...the VERY right thing.

    Your chickens are lucky to have lived with you instead of a factory farm.

    I hope the soup was delicious.

  2. Oof. I love your ideas and believe your beliefs but I don't know if I could deliver the blow. My mother talks about how her mother would wring the neck of Sunday's chicken dinner. Hot water and plucking and finally frying for Sunday dinner.

    Sure makes a person appreciate the meal!

  3. My wife had an uncle who I got to know quite well before he died of a second heart attack. He was a bank vice president and gentleman farmer living east of Los Angeles. He and his wife kept a turkey for Thanksgiving, and a steer for whenever it was big enough for conversion to steaks. He never named them, just gave them numbers. The idea was that he wouldn't get to know them in friendly terms if they just had numbers. He would get someone else to do the actual slaughter, so I guess the technique was not completely successful.

    His animals always had the best of everything: great fences and paddocks, great food, nice painted shelters. They lived as he did. He could have bought the meat in a store, but I suspect that he felt raising it himself was more honest, and that when the time came, as it always must if we, as inevitable predators, are to feed the family, the lives taken had been comfortable and content, with their ends delivered swiftly and humanely.

    I miss that man a lot.