Sacrificing Chickens-The truth


9 Years
Sep 24, 2010
Elk Grove, Ca
I'm of Hmong decent and everytime I go to a chicken swap meet, auction or show, I get asked the question, "Do you kill chickens for ritual sacrifices." So here is the truth about chickens in my religion and culture.

YES, we do kill chickens for ritual sacrifices, but in a good way. Some rituals held just need a chicken, but not killed. Chickens are not the only animals being sacrificed. Pigs, cows, goats, and very very rarely dogs. The chicken is one important animal in our culture, highly revered. There is a ritual called "Hu Plig" (hu-plee) which means Calling of the Lost Soul. This ritual is done when a person is ill or not being themselves. We believe that when your soul wanders away from your body, is lost, or kidnapped by evil spirits you get sick and modern medicines don't really work. A shaman or a wise elder of the family will take a pair of chickens, a roo and a hen, with an egg placed untop of a bowl filled with rice and incense litted and stand it next to the egg. The shaman or wise elder will stand in front of the front door with a circular cymbal, a set of split baffalo horns and "call the lost soul of the ill" back home. The chickens part in this ritual is to "help find and chase the soul back home." The chickens will be slaughtered, but before it is slaughtered, the shaman or wise elder will use the incense and ask of the chickens help. This is what he/she will say to the chicken. "Oh greatful brave chicken, we do not crave for your lucious meat, nor do we crave for your richful broth. We are asking for your help, to help us find a soul, to help protect us from evil. For after the great duties you accomplish, we will never forget and we thank you for your courage." Then the chickens are slaughtered and cooked. After the chicken is cooked, the feet and head are examined. By the way the feet curls and the skull of the head is shaped, it will tell the shaman or the wise elder that it has accomplished it's job, give warning signs to the ill of what he/she shall not go or do, or warnings of death in the family, marriage in the family, or a major dispute. Every chicken sacrificed is believed to reincarnate and go to heaven.

Another ritual is called the "Fiv Yeem" (fee yeng) It is the calling of the gods, the universe and the land to help and protect. For instance if a person is involved in an car accident are doctors say he might not make it or if a person is lost and not found, a shaman will be called over. The shaman will call to all gods, universe and land to help and protect the person and a chicken will be sacrificed to them if the person makes it from the accident or is found. If later on the the family recieves the same bad news or not found, they will offer a bigger animal, now up to a pig. Then so forth to a cow, and then a goat. The goat is THE MOST POWERFUL animal in our culture. If the person is not making it from the accident or not found after the offering of a goat, everything is stopped. But if things show better signs, whatever you offered, you must sacrifice. Usually an offering of a chicken makes things work out, but sometimes it goes all the way to a cow, rarely to a goat.

One other ritual where the chicken is NOT KILLED is the new year celebration. The chicken swung around a whole village of people during the new year to protect everyone from evil spirits, evil mishaps, everything from bad luck to divorces. The chicken is HIGHLY a brave animal in our culture. Another ritual is during a wedding where the groom takes the bride home for the first time, a chicken is swept outwards of the couple to take away evil spirits and mishaps that can ruin the marriage. Then the chicken is swept inward to bring good luck to ther marriage, fortune, and children. The chicken is not killed here. The chicken plays an important part in our culture.

There is a story on our culture of the chicken. It is said that long ago we had 9 moon and 9 suns. The land was dried up it was always hot. The night was bright and no one got any sleep. The Hmong then took thier best crossbow archers and shot the moons and suns down. They shot and shot until one moon and one sun was left. The moon and sun got really spooky and afraid of the Hmong that they hid away far far way from the Hmong. Later on the Hmong had realized of thier great mistake. They would beg, cry, sing and play music for the moon and sun to come back. But they did not. Then the rooster came along and said that he can convince the moon and sun to come out if the Hmong was able to find the great golden comb for the rooster to wear, which is located in a deep dark cave full of dragons and beast. The Hmong gathered all of the best and bravest men to go get the golden comb. They went in for 40 days and 40 nights and fought dragons and beast until they got the golden comb. They brought back the comb to the rooster and with a smile on its face it slapped on the golden comb on its head. Then as the rooster promised to the Hmong, he crowed 3 times and the sun and moon got curious and came out to see what the noise was all about. The rooster then told the sun and the moon, "Sun and Moon, I am the king of the Morning for you can see the golden crown on my head. My servants have humilated and tormented you, for now they shall take punishment. You shall not be afraid as if they shall redo what they've done wrong, I will no more call for you. Shall every morning they will be punished by my ear piercing crow and wake up early and bright to begin thier labors. Be not afraid!" From that day on, the sun will come up for the call of the rooster's crow and humans will always get an earful everymorning.

Thank you for sharing!
I do just love that last story...

In Wausau Wisconsin, we have a large Hmong community. Growing up, my neighbor raised beef cattle, every year a group of Hmong would come out select a steer, the farmer would shoot it with a rifle, and the Hmong would process the entire cow in the field right on the hide! I have much respect for those Hmong butchers. They worked fast and efficiently.

We don't have Hmong community that I know of near, but that you very much for sharing! I love hearing of different cultures, and I too like the story of the rooster bringing back the sun and moon
I think that's fabulous. I used to live in altoona wisconsin, and we had a sizable hmong community. I worked as an EMT, and the only complaint I ever heard was not about killing chickens, but there were a few families who grew gardens in their rented houses, and we're talking 2 feet of soil right on top of the carpet... I never saw it though. Thanks for sharing!
WOW, thanks for sharing!

I certainly hope you all eat the chicken after the festivals and riturals were done...its a shame to waste that meat. Unless the feral cats and dogs get a hold of it, then it would not be wasteful.

Some cultures think the chicken is the highest respectful animal while others thinks the cow (as in India, Nepal, etc.)

Is it polite to ask what culture or "family" they are from? Is there any difference among the Hmong and others? I am very ignorant in these "tribes" and recognizing the differences of each families. With our Native Americans, we can figure out the differences in our Crow, Apaches and Blackfoot Indians by the way they dressed, their languages and their tribal customs. sometimes their appearances CAN show the differences as well.
Thank you so much for sharing, it is always fascinating to learn about other cultures. Ingnorance breeds hostility in a lot of cases, it is nice to be able to learn about other ways of life. It goes along way towards understanding and friendship.

We have a huge Hmong community here in MN. I work with and are friends with quite a few too. They will never go into detail on their holidays or rituals though. From my history of selling birds, they usually want chickens around Halloween and Easter for their major holidays. If there are special occasions such as a woman giving birth, a car accident, etc they will come looking for specific type of birds. They want a certain feather color, leg color, comb shape, etc. They usually like anything 'red'. Not like rhode island reds, but light brown leghorns or BB red old english. Some will pay high amounts for anything with a long tail such as your phoenix crosses. They will not take a white bird unless it is a silkie. Speaking of which, they have a medicinal soup they make out of the black skinned chickens. They are very efficient too and use every part available including the blood.

Depending on what culture, they also come looking for ducks in the fall too. I can't remember which one...Laos, Vietnamese, Thai, etc.... But some will only take the smaller ducks like your call ducks or maybe even the smaller mallards. Some will rarely butcher the larger ducks but they have a way to avoid the greasiness. Some of them only like the muscovies.

I'm not sure what ritual they perform with the pigeons. I've had some calls where they want a specific color and sex of a pigeon. All they want to do is be able to release it. Something about freeing their spirit....

I do know that the Asian community is beneficial at our swaps. They come and buy truckloads of the cheap cull birds. They actually prefer the older birds too because there is more flavor there. As a silkie breeder, they are a good place to get rid of my cull birds that can't find pet homes.
During October to December, this is the time the Hmong celebrate the new year. Every family celebrates at a different weekend during these months. When it is held, the family is to not go outside for 3 days. During those 3 days, you are to prepare 10 meals a day, 30 total. This celebration is called "Peb Caug" (Pey Chao) meaning "30". Your are to slaughter enough chickens for 30 meals, or you can use a pig or a cow. Most prefer chicken because it's cheaper and you don't get tired of the meat as easily as pork or beef. Think of it as a FAT HMONG THANKSGIVING, haha.

Now the issus with the specific color of the chicken goes like this. The Hmong people have a shrine in the house, this shrine houses the protected spirits of the house. There is one spirit called "Xwm Kab" (sue kaa) which is the spirit which protects the whole family. One spirit is the "Dab Rooj Taag" (dah tong thah) which is the Front Door spirit which blocks evil spirits. One is the "Dab Ncu" (dah chu) which is the stove spirit which will help the family to always have something to eat. The other one is the "Dab Rooj Tog" (dah tong toh) which is the Back door spirit, same routine as the front door. During the Hmong New Year celebration, the shrine is to be replaced by a new one. A crowing red rooster or a duckwing crowing rooster must be sacrifice to protect the shrine. The chicken is slaughtered and it's neck feathers are dabbed with the blood and sticked onto the shrine in three places.

In Hmong culture, after a women gives birth, she has to eat nothing but boiled chicken soup for 30 days, long story, but it's supposed to cleanse the body.

And about the pigeons, they are nothing special, just for dinner and fun of raising it.

Hmong people don't like the chickens at the grocery store, they blame heart disease, diabetes and all sorts of sickness to grocery chickens because they've never seen these kind of illnesses back in the old country. They have never say such a fat plump chicken before, that's why they choose farm raised chickens.

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