Tonight, we had chicken roll-ups for dinner. But they weren’t just any old chicken roll-ups. They were made from our very first home butchered chicken. Yes friends, we finally did it. Well, Jerry did at least. I was the overseer.
What prompted us to kill one of our chickens, you ask? Necessity. Jerry still hasn’t had any luck finding a full time job, and his 20 hr./wk part time gig isn’t exactly enough to pay the bills and put food on the table. I’m cleaning my dad’s house twice a month (which is a real blessing), but it’s still tough right now. We are so fortunate to have our food storage built up, and lots of hamburger in the freezer, but we were ready for a change. We wanted some chicken!
The kids were surprisingly enthusiastic about the whole idea. Jada was running around singing about the dinner we’d be having, it’s her favorite meal. Jerry told a story about when he was younger and watched his grandfather chop a chicken’s head off and how funny it was to watch the headless chicken run around the yard. They all laughed at the idea (though I found it to be quite morbid humor). Ty and Jada were ready to see this for themselves!
We found the biggest pot we have, which happens to be my pressure canner, filled it with water, and put it on the wood cook stove to bring to a boil. When the water was nicely rolling, Jerry got a stump ready. We decided to hammer two nails into the wood to help hold the chicken’s head in place. With a sharpened machete in hand, he retrieved the chosen chicken; a young rooster we had no need for, and prepared him for his doom.
Holding a chicken upside down will make them very calm, and relaxed. Once he was inverted, the young roo just hung there completely content. Me and the kids watched from a little distance as Jerry laid it’s head across the stump, between the two nails. I couldn’t believe how it just laid there! After a hesitant murmur to himself, “Oh my goodness…”, Jerry swiftly chopped with the machete, and the head was quickly and cleanly separated from the body.
We all stood in our own silent horror as we watched the body flip and flop around the yard. I glanced over at the kids who were both staring with mouths gaped open. After a moment, I said to Jerry sarcastically, “Funny, huh?” Nobody was laughing. Jerry tried to make light of the situation and laugh a little, for the kid’s sake. They both joined in with their own nervous laughter, but it didn’t last long.
At least the chicken wasn’t suffering. I was very proud of Jerry for doing such a good job. I had feared that the machete wouldn’t be sharp enough to completely sever the head with one blow… how sad that would have been! No, it wasn’t in pain. It’s body was just flopping around from reflexes. We were all glad when it stopped moving. “That was kinda sad,” Jada said. We all agreed.
Ty and Jada were interested in looking at the chicken’s head though. “Yuck!” Ty said. Yeah, it was gross. But the kids really did do well about the whole thing.
Jerry went and picked up the body by the legs and we all headed to the wood cook stove. On our way up, Jada commented again that it was interesting to watch, but sad. I told her, “Baby, you’re right, it was sad. It shouldn’t be funny to kill an animal. We should not enjoy watching it die. It is a sad thing. But we do it because God gave us animals for meat… it’s our food. We do it with thankfulness to Him, and to the chicken for giving his life to feed us.” She nodded in understanding.
I wasn’t sure if the entire chicken would fit into the pot, but it did. Fortunately, it was pretty small. We now realize that when it comes time to do one of the hens, we’ll definitely need a larger pot. After thoroughly dipping it twice, we were ready for the next step: plucking.
Jada had volunteered to help, but once it came time to do so, we decided to let Jerry do all of the work. She did sit right next to him to watch how it was done. He cleaned the chicken outside on a cutting board since we didn’t have a table to work on. The feathers were getting everywhere, so we definitely didn’t want to do this indoors.
Jerry cut the wings off at the joint, and got them out of the way. Then he cut the feet and neck off.
Jada couldn’t contain her curiosity, “Can I touch it?” she asked. She picked up the chicken’s foot, and was thoroughly grossed out. (We’d gone to a festival earlier that day, so she has her face painted here.) Silly girl.
Once most of the feathers were plucked, we moved indoors. We didn’t worry much about all of the smaller feathers that remained ’cause we were gonna skin it anyways. If you are planning on baking or roasting the chicken, you need to leave the skin on so that the meat doesn’t get dried out. But we were putting this fella in the crockpot, so we didn’t need the skin. It made it a little easier to skin it instead of plucking it completely clean.
Next step, gutting the chicken. Jerry felt for where the breastbone ended, and made his cut below that bone. He cut all the way around the tail and removed that piece, opening the bird completely up. Reaching in, he carefully pulled out the organs. The kids were truly fascinated by this. Jada especially enjoyed the little biology lesson she got. They asked a lot of questions about what was what, so that was cool.
Once it was all cleaned out and skinned, he went straight into the crockpot to cook for a few hours. There wasn’t a lot of meat, and it was kinda tough (which are both expected from a rooster), but it was dinner.
So, there you have it. Our first home butchered chicken. All in all, it went quite well. I’m glad Jerry did all of the hard stuff… okay, everything. I was perfectly happy to stand to the side sharing tips I’d read in books, and taking pictures. It feels good having one more skill under our belts.
Alright now, what do you think? Could you do it? Have you done it? I wanna hear what’s going through your mind.