We ate him.  There’s the answer to last week’s dilemma.  I feel good about it, now, but felt very bad, for the days of decision leading up to it.  I just couldn’t get around the absurdity of thinking of buying organic chicken or turkey imported from the mainland, with all the energy use and pollution and packaging, and then that expensive bird isn’t even as fresh, or as well fed, and wasn’t as free and happy.  We are working towards food self-sufficiency and several of us do feel that meat is important to our diets. All logical thought pointed to killing our excessive, and aggressive, Australorp rooster.

Saturday morning, Camas (one of the Chicken Committee members) was again attacked by him as she brought the chickens their morning food.  He flew at her and as she evaded him she dropped an egg – very maddening.  I did point out to Camas when I saw her later that her bright pink dress was very likely a poor choice, probably made him more aggressive.  I kind of noticed a pattern that he attacked people wearing bright colors, such as neon green crocs.  Not 100% but it was all I could think of to explain why he chose some people and not others, unless provoked – if provoked, he also attacked tall guys wearing dark colors (Bear and Dan).

So all the reasons were well in place and we had made our preparations.  Dan had made a cardboard cone to put over the rooster’s head, and pounded 2 nails in a board to place his neck through.  This way, and with one foot tied down, he would be absolutely still and Dan could make a clean cut with the machete.  We would be under an ice-cream bean tree with plenty of low branches to hang him from, to drain the blood.  We had a big canning pot full of just-boiled water ready (we used a propane wok burner that boiled water fast, and our composting thermometer to check that it was at 150 degrees), and rubber gloves to de-feather before  immersing him in 2 baths of ice water in coolers.   The second ice water bath had salt in it to delay rigor mortis.

We headed out in the pouring rain to round up the rooster.  Joy and I walked a little behind Dan and Simba, like mourners at a funeral.  Joy, who was very apprehensive about being part of this but was trying very hard to be, said she didn’t know if she could watch it.  I said, it’s not really about us.  We both were feeling so miserable that I also pointed out it wasn’t as bad for us as for him, so we would stop taking ourselves so seriously, and we laughed a bit.

Dan and Simba went into the chicken pen but the Austrolorp rooster was inside the little doghouse we set up as their launching pad (to fly up into the coop, and also a small shelter/feather dusting area).  When I walked in, he came running out.  Dan grabbed him, and I held the umbrella as we walked down to the chopping block area.  I patted him a few times, apologized to him and teared up, distraught at his show of trust in me.  Briefly thought of saying I can’t do this! But kept my lips shut.

Everything went very well, except for needing to adjust the cardboard cone a few times so his head stuck out properly.  He let out one small squawk when his neck was cut – Dan said if he had cut above the voicebox this wouldn’t have happened.  His headless body flapped for awhile, hanging by his feet; his beak opened and closed.  All separated on a dead animal, but I just wonder if there is any awareness left at this point?  A very hard thing to know; common wisdom is no, this is involuntary muscle spasm.  What you choose to believe.

It took Simba and Dan only 5 minutes to get the feathers off, and then he looked amazingly like any dead chicken I had ever handled to prepare a meal.  I had thought the glossy feathers would be a reminder of his character, but they looked very different in a pile on the ground, there was no resemblance to how smart they looked on the rooster.  Now Dan turned to Simba and I (Joy had left by now) and asked who would pull the guts out.  He said my smaller hand would do it best.  Simba was backing away.  I couldn’t imagine putting my hand inside this bird that had just been alive, but then, I just did.  Simba asked if it was still warm and when I said yes it was, he said he would have fainted if he had to do it.  I just tried not to think too hard about what I was actually doing and at the same time pull all the guts out of this creature I had recently been talking to.

Kind of revolting but this is where it’s at – this is the conversation we’ve been having all week – facing the death we choose every time we choose meat.

There were a lot of insides, made me wonder if there would be any meat or if it was all workings.  I pulled the intestines out and Dan cut them off so none of the interior would get onto the carcass.  From there, ice water baths, and overnight in a third cold water bath with more Hawaiian coarse salt.

The next day (Christmas day) I found as I readied him for the oven that he still had his gizzard, and it was huge and full of the wheat berries I sprout for them every day.  After making a slice to pull this out, I tucked his wings back and tied together his long lean legs, and put him in the roasting pan with onions, garlic cloves, rosemary and oregano, and I rubbed him with lemon.  I put plenty of water in the pan, and the cover on, at 325 or so for 2 hours, then took the cover off for another hour and let him get brown and pretty on both sides.

He was well enjoyed by our dinner party of 11; even one of the four vegetarians had some (not Joy).  The dark meat was a little tough but still very tasty.  Today, I got to make chicken-vegetable soup.  It was odd to eat it and still have some recognition of the life that had been there, but mainly, I had an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that we had raised this bird, and protected him, and he had grown strong and healthy with all our coconuts, bananas, soldier fly larvae, papayas, compost, comfrey, lilikoi, and worms, and sprouted wheat berries and sunflower seeds, and had had a good life, and was now feeding us, and we were all grateful for the food and appreciative of the cost at which it came.

Advertisements