We raise our own meat and process our chickens too. Together as a family we’ve done over 100 birds so far in the last two springs. We never take butchering lightly, but we’re getting pretty comfortable with the whole process.
At least I thought I was until I had to do it alone one morning!
It was a normal morning going through feeding chores when I noticed one of the meat chickens had blood all over it’s head. I snatched it up and found a severe neck injury. It looked as if some little critter of some sort tried to grab it but was unsuccessful.
The injury looked bad and it was obvious the bird was in distress. My toddlers were with me and gave me that look like, “can’t you help it mommy?”. Ugh!!! I knew what I had to do.
I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew I was going to have to put the bird out of its misery quickly….and alone.
My husband was a few hours away working and it was just me and two very concerned toddlers. I put on my bravest mommy face and assured my littles that everything was going to be fine.
I explained that we needed to end the birds pain and keep it from suffering any longer. I think I managed to do so without my voice shaking too much.
I realized I was NOT prepared for an emergency culling and had zero supplies on hand. Without skipping a beat I passed the injured chicken off to my three year old and covered it’s head with my jacket to keep it from getting too stressed while I went to round up supplies.
I was nervous.
I realized it was all in my hands and I had to be the one to end this quickly and efficiently. As I sharpened the knife I said a little prayer, “Please let this go smoothly, please help me to be steady and fast”.
Once I was ready I explained the process to my littles, even though they’ve seen it done before, and I settled the bird into position. I told the chicken it would be alright, thanked her for the gift of meat, took a deep breath, and did the deed.
Much to my surprise and satisfaction, it did go smoothly. It was over quickly and we all shared a sigh of relief. My oldest little gave me the boost of confidence I needed when he said, “good job Mom, the meat bird no hurt no more”.
Before this incident I thought I appreciated my meat, but this experience made me appreciate it even more. This time I was the one with the knife and I had to call the shots on my own and under pressure.
Over and over gain, farming is teaching me to expect the unexpected. It’s teaching me to value my animals, and have confidence in my own abilities. Raising your own food and playing a direct part in life’s circle is strangely intense and satisfying all at once. In my heart of hearts, I know without a doubt this is the life I was meant for. I’m positive there will be plenty more tests ahead, but I’m ready for them!
I am forever changed and forever grateful.