The Emotional Side Of Chicken Processing

Taking the step to become closer to your food source is a big step for many, and can be difficult. That is ok.
  1. booker81
    As documentaries and news articles come out with the latest information about inhumane treatment of meat animals, or the newest outbreak of food poisoning, more and more chicken owners are looking to raising their own chickens for meat use. Many of these chicken owners aren't hunters, and possibly have never voluntarily taken a life of an animal for it's meat. Meat has always been pre-packaged in the perfect portion, with no face or anything other than perhaps a nice cartoon of a happy cow or chicken or farm on the label. As a society we are distanced from our meat, it's no longer personal.

    Taking the step to become closer to your food source is a big step for many, and can be difficult. That is ok. Depending on your life and raising, you've been taught to never harm living things, but probably eat and enjoy meat.

    I was personally raised with a close attachment to the critters that were destined to be dinner. I knew the cows, pigs, chickens and ducks, and it was just a fact that we raised them and would eventually eat them. They were livestock, and they were afforded the best care possible to give the best meat possible. They are living things and need to be cared for properly, even if they were going to be killed to eat.

    When one begins the road to raising chickens for meat, just pound it in your head - you are a "farmer" now. You now have "livestock", not pets. Just like growing a garden, you are growing food for your family. They just happen to be more alive than a tomato plant, but in the end, they are food. The better care you give them, the better food they will give. Fresh air, fresh water, good food will all allow them to grow into a good product.

    When it comes time to process, remind yourself over and over - this is what you raised them for. You can't eat a living chicken for dinner - your meat must be processed. Taking the BIG leap yourself to process is a hard one for many folks, but it's a rewarding one - once done, you've proven that you can complete the cycle of life and be able to "make" food for your family rather than relying on a store. At first, if you're not used to it, it's hard to take a living creature and transform it into food. It's a skill that requires resolve and backbone - there isn't any turning back. It's ok to feel bad at first - we're conditioned that way as a society to not want to take a life. It will get better through. It's not ideal to be completely blank about the process - for me, I don't feel "bad", I feel thankful for the food and the ability to provide good meat for my family. I'm thankful for each critter I process and I always mentally send it my gratitude for feeding my family. Each animal I kill - from a deer to a chicken, is important to me, and I'm grateful.

    It's not about not being attached and treating them like things, it's about caring for them with the complete understanding of their purpose and end result. I like my Cornish cross meat chickens - they are amusing and funny. I talk to them, touch them, and spend time checking on them closely - it's good animal husbandry. Just because they are destined for dinner doesn't mean they should have zero contact and be avoided. Rather, it's our human mentality that needs to be changed to understand that killing an animal that isn't attacking you is OK. We have to remember that if we want to eat meat, an animal will die for that purpose,and it should be our duty as their caretakers to give them good care and a humane death. Somewhere with the advent of grocery store meat, we've lost that mentality - as a society. Taking the step to raise meat birds - or any other livestock meant for meat - if a hard step for many at first, because you're bucking years or even generations of teaching that you should never kill anything yourself.

    A home raised chicken dinner:
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  1. green egg
    When I first got chickens, I just purchased hens and bought my eating chickens at the store. Once into chickens, I found out about the disposal of the extra roosters that the hatcheries have to contend with. Wanting rare breeds, I also started hatching, and ended up with too many roosters to keep. I thought of building a bachelor pad coop, but being on the edge of town, that is not going to work. My neighbors do not complain about my handful of roosters, but 25 crowing every morning. I think not. I tried selling my extra roos, but found that there is little demand for them. If I gave them away as food, then I have no control over how they are treated or killed for meat.
    If we have chickens at all, it is something we all are part of as roosters will hatch with the hens and someone is left with the issue of dealing with the extra roosters.

    I am taking my first batch of roosters to be processed this week and I am finding it is affecting me emotionally a bit. I am not ready yet to do it myself although I am aware of the process, having grown up around farms and chickens.

    I have been thanking my roosters for serving and being food for my family and my table. I feel in my heart that they are ok with the role they have in the world. It is us humans who struggle with it.
    I can sense there will be growth for me in using my chickens for meat. I want to live in greater harmony with our earth, and this is one of the ways I have chosen to do that as a meat eater.
  2. gypsychicken
  3. lungewhipqueen
    Thank you for the article. I agree, we ARE designed to eat meat. We have the teeth of an omnivore designed to eat both meat and vegetable matter. I have eaten our own farm raised chickens although I have yet to process one myself. That time is rapidly approaching and I keep telling myself that this is so much more humane than eating store bought chicken. I'm not going to become a vegetarian, I want my family to eat healthier and appreciate the food they receive. And I figure that each chicken I process myself means one less bird purchased from the store and fewer dollars spent supporting an industry who's practices I'm unhappy with. Even folks who love their pet chickens and could never kill one could help improve the quality of the lives of ALL chickens by purchasing their meat from a local, family farm rather than buying from the grocery store.
  4. gypsychicken
    It gets easier with time. I've been raising chickens for 3 years now. I've learned so much from each batch I process out after one year.

    First batch, store bought chix. Named them, made them into pets, cried for days when it was time to take them down. Couldn't eat for 24 hours. Made 'em up into chicken pot pies and stew. Wish I had sent my favorite to a nearby farm to live out her life... regrets.
    The second batch didn't name them, cuddled them too much, couldn't sleep the night before butchering day, but it was easier. Learned the arabic prayer for halal meat. Faced Mecca. Made chicken pot pies and shared with friends. I'm christian by the way...
    Third batch, bought one dozen fertilized eggs from the nice lady at the feed store. Put them under a broody buff orp. She sat outside in the house and they hatched after 21 days, AMAZING EXPERIENCE!
    Yesterday I took out 2 of them, cute 3 month old roos. I can see their meat will be tender as can be. Planning to salt brine them and do fried chicken tomorrow and roast the other over a slow wood fire outside.
    Each time it has not been easy, but each time it has gotten easier. I saw an organic 4 lb bird at the store the other day for $21. I'm paying that after all the organic feed that goes into the chix. I SHOULD be eating that meat with enjoyment.
    Still, without being with other humans to pat your shoulder while you go through the process for the first time is very difficult. I didn't grow up on a farm, my parents did. I've been with my grandma and aunties from italy when they butcher rabbit, but never killed anything before. I would say, now, I've come full circle and am able to enjoy eggs AND meat from my chickens, BUT IT TOOK YEARS. I learned a few things on my own and from others:

    1. Chickens egg production goes way down after the first year. Did you plan what to do then? If you can't afford chicken pets, prepare to pay a pretty penny and have someone butcher them for you, or suck it up and learn how to do it yourself.
    2. We are so used to industrial raised cornish that we expect that same type of fat white meat from our chix. It's not going to happen. We have to learn how to enjoy REAL chicken meat again, which is very different, delicious and somewhat gamey. Be prepared for that.
    3. Learn all of the techniques to soften the meat with the older girls, aging in the fridge for 3 - 7 days, brining and slow, wet cooking methods bring out the best with those gals. Ever had a savory pie crust made with
    butter yellow fresh chicken fat? Outragious!
    4. If you intend to process them, enjoy them, laugh, cry, but keep your distance. They are there to provide eggs and eventually practically used: meat for your family. If you can't kill them yourself, pay someone else to process them for you. Feed the meat to your dog or cat or to the hawks, but use the meat. You can do it yourself, but expect it to be a painful learning curve if you did not grow up in the country.
    5. Don't be too hard on yourself if you can't sleep...
  5. ironjim
    All these people who pushing vegetarian lifestyles, saying our bodies weren't designed for meat, don't really understand reality. A true vegetarian lifestyle will leave you anemic. The ones who eat eggs and other animal products will probably be alright. I just wish they wouldn't share so much untrue "knowledge". good article. We have raised egg layers for 6 years now. my first ever batch of meat birds arrive in 2 weeks. We also plan to soon raise red wattle pigs and Dexter cattle for meat and milk. Along with our fruit trees and gardening we will depend less and less on commercial unsustainable agriculture.
  6. Thoreau
    I'm new to chickens and will begin this spring (or sooner), but have raised rabbits for a while now. We (me, wife, and 12-yr old son) have our pets (breeders) and they provide us with food (kits). They are "bunnies" until they become "rabbits", then they go into the freezer. We play with the babies and enjoy giving them a great life for about 3 months (better than many other livestock endure), but when the time comes... we all know they go "out back" with me and come back in bags. Each and every one is thanked for it's gift to our family. Every time we discuss how fun the 'bunnies' are, we remind ourselves that they will become 'rabbits' one day.
    I guess the point of this comment is that we know that food animals will become food for us, but that we do enjoy the time we have with them as living critters under our care. We don't "fall in love" with them like we do our pets because we know their fate all along, but we do enjoy their company and make their life as enjoyable as we can.
  7. chicken pickin
    I appreciate this article. Its good to hear about how hard it feels for people to take a life, it means we are human. I felt the same way not to long ago. But I loved raising my first flock of egg layers I enjoyed watching them and tending to them and I knew I wanted more poultry around. I also decided while us as a family with 3 young kids were learning about going back to the basics, already having egg layers and a garden for veggies I thought what better time to teach my kids where meat really comes from. Our CX are almost 7 weeks and we are processing them in just 2 short days along with our 2BBWs. I am very nervous to take the lives of these wonderful gentle funny birds and I will miss them. But I know they were bred and raised for the purpose of providing meat for my family and I am so excited to have the process over and my freezer stocked full of happy loved healthy chicken/turkeys.
  8. LightningTFarm
    I was raised in the city, but my dad was raised on a farm and always talked about the food they raised, be it crops or livestock. Since my parents retired out to the country, we process our own venison every year, we have butchered our own hogs, rabbits, squirrels, etc. I have just started raising ducks, and we are about to have to butcher the extra drakes. I know this will be harder than the deer, but I've known from the start that's what would happen. I have to say, I am looking forward to that duck and oyster gumbo!!
  9. Eievie
    I'm veggie. It's hard to adjust to at first, but it's not hard once you get used to it. I'm much happier for it.
    But on the other side, we are getting out first chicks this spring, and I hope so much that we don't get the rare male.
  10. jchny2000
    The more i read about the hormones, antibiotics and the other horrors being fed to the "store" chickens, and our food in general... Well i want my family to stay healthy. I kept chickens for meat several years ago. Rule #1 my Gramma taught me: dont name them! If theres a hen you fall in love with keep her, or even a roo. Theres no rules in who "gets it" and i usually had one or 2 hens that were just special. Did the whole coop of 30 chickens in a day with about 6 family members, the whole process was the old fashioned "by hand" way. We then fried up a huge dinner, and enjoyed the company of family. I do miss the simpler times when it was just part of a family task. I just got back into keeping chickens, and already have 9 layers. Have my meat flock planned and building the 2nd coop already!

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