Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chicken Butchering

This morning, with a break in the seemingly endless rain, Steve let me know before heading out to the tree nursery that the Ebels were coming over to slaughter some chickens with Tim. Tim has had 30 chickens, and all of them have lived, so it was time to "thin the flock." As he said, they were getting too expensive to feed. The Ebels had fewer laying hens, but still too many to roost in the garage all winter. One of the boys told me these eight were the "bad chickens" who didn't stay in the yard. They are in a cul-de-sac where free range must be limited.

As usual on the farm, there was a well-set-up system for the butchering of the chickens. A line was strung, and the butchering station was set up at an ergonomically efficient height on the hay wagon. They were building a small fire to boil water for the dipping necessary to get the feathers off. The chickens themselves were in two crates, with no idea of their fate.

The butchering was efficient and seemed very humane. Temple Grandin would have been proud-- and Tim said he was reading her book the night before, Animals Make Us Human. The chickens squawked a little when they were taken from the pen, but once they put the wire over their heads, they settled down completely. The butchering was clean and over in a second. I couldn't have handled it if there had been a lot of flapping and squawking, but this was actually peaceful.

The guys, Tim Heymans, Tim Ebel and Alex Schleper, seemed happy to be there. It was a very "guy" thing, and to see them standing around the chickens plucking them, one could have mistaken them for guys at a tailgating party-- not that these particular guys would ever be at a tailgating party. The Ebel boys, Blaise, Joel, Eli and Henry, were more cold than anything. They sat by the fire to keep warm, then moved into the truck. Blaise and Joel spent some time chasing around the chickens who got to live. Eventually their mom picked them up to take them to get costumes for tonight's trick-or-treating.

For the complete slideshow, click here.  (NOTE: I've fixed the link so they should be accessible to all now...)

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