A quiet young man at work calls himself a “city boy” by birth, but is becoming more “countrified” every day. He bought a small chicken coop and put it in his backyard several months ago so he could have “fresh eggs”.
He lives slap dab in the middle of town and the four Rhode Island Red chicks he bought turned out to be roosters. Roosters don’t lay eggs, so in quiet frustration, he told me he was starting over this weekend with four pullet chicks from another distributor.
“Well”, sounding more like a tired old farmer than a young city guy learning the basics, “I think I’m gonna have some fresh grilled chicken.”
Have you slaughtered chickens before?
“Well, no. But I went dove hunting once, and it’s probably about the same.” He hadn’t decided if he was going to chop off their heads or wring their necks. I smiled at his conundrum, and a brain wrinkled memory flashed back.
~~1993. House in city limits. Backyard chicken coop in converted dog kennel. Net on top to keep chickens in, hawks out. Three of four of my straight run Rhode Island Red chickens were roosters. I was in the exact same predicament and had to start over with three more pullets.
Hello baby chicks means goodbye roosters. I was about to understand what it means to run around like a chicken with its head cut off.
I decided to use a machete because it seemed instant. I picked a spot in the backyard behind a storage shed to butcher them so no one driving or walking by could see.
Rooster one didn’t like being carried by his feet, but that’s the way cowboys on TV did it, so I figured that’s the way to go. I tried to lay its head on a tree stump to get a good chop in, but the squawking rooster was less than cooperative. It flapped its wings, twisted and contorted its body and all the while screamed in chicken terror at its grim future.
When I finally swung, I missed. And missed again, and again. I finally did the dirty deed against a tree and immediately felt guilty. I dropped the chicken to the ground and darted behind the tree because three old women were walking in front of my neighbor’s house. They kept looking around to see where the chicken noise was coming from, or by that time, chicken silence.
Trying to be discrete, I paid more attention to the old women than the chicken, which was a crucial mistake.
The chicken’s horror reversed to me as the big headless bird got up and took off running toward the backyard fence! To make matters worse, the chicken Nightmare on Elm Street noise woke up my golden retriever. She was spasticly excited, barking wildly, and took off chasing Ichabod Crane across the yard!
The old women were about to be freaked out if I didn’t stop the chicken, so I dove from behind the tree and tackled the headless torso.
Unfortunately, there was no doubt the old ladies saw it. They stopped on the road staring at me stretched out on the ground holding a headless chicken still frantically trying to run.
Simultaneously, I had my own personal trauma. With each chicken step, blood squirted from where its head used to be. I hoped I wouldn’t have bad dreams, and wake up in cold sweats after nightmares about Big Bird chasing me down a long dark ally seeking revenge.
I had the chicken around both sides of its wings and carefully got up with it, although I’m not really sure why I was trying to be careful picking up a headless chicken moving its legs like it was running a 100 meter dash.
Even so, when I got up, I stood up straight, told the dog to shut up, nodded my head toward the old ladies like nothing was out of the ordinary, and casually walked back out of sight behind the storage shed.
Chicken two and three didn’t go much better. By the time they were in chicken heaven, I was semi-traumatized. There’s a horrible stench when gutting chickens! I was proud, however, that I could identify most of the internal organs.
After cleaning three roosters, I had no desire for grilled chicken. In fact, the thought of eating those chickens was as nasty as thinking about eating the neighbor’s cat……which reminds me.
A few years ago in our local newspaper, a Chinese restaurant received a number of demerits from the health inspector, including one for a frozen cat in the restaurant freezer. I kid you not! A frozen cat! The newspaper quoted an explanation from the owner why a cat was frozen next to the egg rolls — “We were saving the cat for our personal use”, he said.
I promise to cough up a furball if this is not the absolute truth! I never ate there again, and the event had catastrophic (no pun intended) consequences on their business.
Anyhoo, I didn’t want chicken, so I put them in the freezer (and for the record, there’s never been cats in my freezer).
That was the first, but not the last time, I’ve slaughtered chickens. It gets easier over time, except for that horrid smell, but I still couldn’t throw ‘em right on the grill.~~
I snapped back to the present. My young co-worker was telling me he was going to slaughter his chickens Saturday morning and grill them for company that afternoon.
I started to describe it and make sure he understood the big picture, but instead just nodded and smiled. He’ll learn, and some little old ladies walking in his neighborhood Saturday morning will no doubt have a story to tell.