Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Orcas Dreams 5: "Thank You Chickens!"

Hi friends,  I'm not quite sure where to begin with this one.  I guess I'll dive right in.  I had the honor of participating in a not so romantic part of country life the other day.  The night before, I had received a call from a friend who had taken me up on an offer I had proposed a few months earlier.  He had mentioned that he planned to kill some of his chicken flock and eager to learn about the process I offered an extra set of hands.  Now was the time.  Yikes!

Since I got to Orcas I've been very interested in self-sufficiency.  Becoming more connected with my food source is an important part of this.  If you can't feed yourself, you can't survive.  Coming from a place where most foods come out of a package, Orcas has been a huge leap in bringing me closer to my food.  Most of the meat we get here has been raised and then killed on the island.  And yes people, there is a significant different in the taste and energy in this meat.  Amazing.

The night before the deed was to be done, my nerves were running high.  I knew it was an important thing to learn, but I still found myself wondering if I could really do it.  I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to harm a fly.   My friend sent me a link to take a look at so that I would have an idea of what was to happen.  As I did my "homework" I felt a knot in my tummy.  This was going to be interesting. 

When I got to their place the next morning, I put all my nerves aside and went in full throttle.  If I was going to do this I was going to give it my %100 and I was not going to let my unease stop me from learning a very important skill.  
Chicken Plucking

Chicken Guts!  
Although the experience was not very pretty, it was very rewarding.  The chicken you buy in the grocery store must come a long way before it ends up in your hands.  It must be killed, plucked, be-headed, de-footed, cut open and gutted.   Hopefully, during the process, there is respect, compassion, and sensitivity; this animal has just given its life for the sake of another.  I felt fortunate to be learning this skill amongst people who carried with them all of these traits.  When I think about the slaughter houses across america that mass produce animal meat, admittedly, I get even more queasy imagining what goes on there.  Ugh.  

Anyway, I won't go on too much about the gory details, you get the idea from the photos.  I did a little of everything because I wanted to experience it all.  Mostly, I wanted to get good at butchering and gutting the chicken.  By the end of the day I was definitely a  little less shy about sticking my hand up a chickens back end and trying to slowly pull its insides out, no easy task.  

Before the chicken swallows it's feed, it goes into the crop which is a big bulge in the chickens neck.
From the crop the feed moves into the gizzard where it is slowly digested.  In the picture above you see a whole (top left), a gizzard that was cut open (see the feed in it?), and then a cleaned gizzard (bottom).

Overall, I'd say that the actual killing of the bird is what stuck with me the most.  When I did go to kill my first (and only) chicken, by breaking its neck, you can imagine my horror when I pulled a little too hard on it's feet and decapitated its head by accident.  I was trying so hard to not let it suffer, thinking if I pulled too lightly that I might just hurt it and not kill it.  Suddenly I had a headless chicken in my hands.  Sorry chicken.

Regardless of the days errors, in so many ways I'm proud of myself.  Pushing past my comfort zone is never an easy thing.  When I came home that night, after a nice hot shower, I sat down in the quiet to really compute what I had done.  I felt heavy, there was definitely a weight bearing down on me.  Perhaps the city girl part of me was feeling guilty for participating in the slaughter.  Maybe it was because I felt bad for the chickens, they knew what was going on.  All the death.  I think it was the totality of it all.  

But after a few deep breaths I reminded myself of the never ending cycle of life.  Death brings life.  Life brings death.  Sigh.  This life!  How lucky I was to be able to thank these beautiful animals before they end up on my plate.  

My next test will be to keep our own chickens and deal with all that comes up with that!  Will we allow our chickens to live out their lives in retirement as thanks for their yummy eggs?  Or, do I put my new found skills to the test?  We'll see!  But for now, all I gotta to say is, . . .

"Thank you sweet chickens!"

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