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.