The Axe-man Cometh

DH has one job on the farm. He has always been the axe-man with turkeys. I can’t hold the really big birds and chop their heads off.

For these jumbo chickens, Jeremy, the new boy at the rental store, had sharpened my axe. I ran my thumb over the wicked edge of the blade.

Over morning coffee and tea, DH asked me my plan. I explained that these birds were quite large, but I was thinking… I outlined a scheme involving baling twine. DH looked dubious. “I’d better come down and help you.” It was clear he thought I’d chop my hand off. Though I can cover most things by myself, in this case I was relieved. The birds were so heavy I grunted to lift them.

There are ways to slaughter poultry that can be handled by one person working alone, but they involve either slitting the throat or piercing the brain with a knife thrust through the mouth. Either way is too hard on me emotionally, as the goal is to have the bird slowly bleed to death. I once attended such a slaughter and when a supposedly dead rooster convulsed under my hands almost ten minutes later I was near tears, and told myself, “Never again.”

I prefer the quick death of an axe blow. I am not confident about much, but I am fairly sure that when the head is in one location and the body in another, the brain is no longer sending or receiving messages of pain or fear.

DH and I coordinate times. He ducks out of work and meets me at the farm at the stump I set up as a chopping block. He gets out of his car, picks up the axe, and dispatches each chicken as I hold it. Once I pointed out that an arterial spray had splattered his good pants with blood. He smiled. “Oh, nobody will notice.” Then he is gone.

It takes me a little more than half an hour to scald, pluck, gut, and wash each chicken. These birds are too big for my scalding pot. They fit in, but only by displacing all the water. So I heat the water to 150° on my stove and then scald them in the kitchen sink and pluck them over a trash bag. The dogs wait eagerly for the gutting, as I always toss them the hearts and kidneys as I work.

The first day I did six birds. After evening milking, barn chores, watering the sheep, and supper, I was still chasing down stray pin feathers at 9 PM. Since then I am trying to do two a day. It is slow, but not as overwhelming. The chicken pen is gradually getting quieter as the bullies make their exit.

I weighed some of these roosters with my digital lamb scale. Dressed out, they average ten pounds! They barely squeeze into a two-gallon freezer bag. They will be good eating over the long winter.


2 Responses to The Axe-man Cometh

  1. Wow! Beautiful! Much better than anything you could ever buy at from a grocer. I’m NOT looking forward to the first time we process our chickens, but we have a little bit before it is necessary. For now, we have a laying flock.

    I love to learn bits and pieces from your blog. I’m eager to see the difference in photography as we get into the winter months. I’m in Texas…there probably won’t be much of a difference here!

  2. Beth Tilton says:

    I’m with you about the method of slaughter. I used a killing cone once and it nearly killed me — it’s almost cruel because, as you said, they don’t die right away, and you have to watch the life drool out of them. Your birds look amazing — good riddance to those nasty roosters, eh? Beth

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