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Killing a chicken, Part 1

February 28, 2011

Warning, gruesome content.  We really did chop the head off a chicken, and photos of same are below.

Our puppy decided to ‘play’ with one of our chickens the other day.  Previously, a few weeks ago, he ‘fetched’ another one of the birds for us.  At the time we didn’t think he’d killed her, just brought the dead carcass to us for inspection, but now we suspect it was him all along.  As we didn’t know the cause of death, we were reluctant to try and eat her.

So fast forward to Saturday… He didn’t bite this one, but it seemed like he picked her up by the neck and shook her around a bit.  This all happened within the 5 mins it took for my wife to pick me up from the train station.  We came home to find this on the back lawn:

unfortunately, she wasn't picking at a worm

At first we thought she was dead, as she wasn’t moving and her head was hanging all over the place.  On closer inspection she was quite alert, moving her wings slightly and blinking at us.  So then we thought that perhaps she was just playing dead.  We put her in a warm soft box and gave her a few hours to sleep it off.

The next morning, she still couldn’t lift her head so we’d figured we had ourselves a paraplegic hen and decided that there was nothing for it except to put her out of her misery.

Luckily, my wonderful mother-in-law bought me a kick arse axe for my birthday last year (not for killing chickens mind, but rather for the pizza oven).

She was quite incapacitated, so it was an easy thing to lay her on the chopping block and do the deed.  Being a good heavy axe, it was very straight forward and she died on the first chop, though it did take another to remove the head completely.

good old axe, nothing beats axe

She did take us quite by surprise though by jumping back to life and running around, sans-head, for about 30 seconds.  We’d kinda forgotten about that old chestnut as she was all injured and figured she wouldn’t be up for it, but the blood stains on my wife’s pyjamas and my shorts tell a different story.

The head:some say she was too beautiful for this world

The stump:

note the drop of blood about to dropAfter it’d run its course and calmed down, I strung her up by her feet and started to pluck.  And yes, that handsome man with hunched shoulders and no shirt is in fact me:  hmmmmm, wtf do I do now?

Predicting this might all happen one day, I had previously found this excellent article covering what to do in this situation.  It (and others) suggests that you may need to scald the bird (dip it briefly into boiling water and then into cold water to stop it cooking) in order to loosen up the feathers to make the plucking easier.

However, I skipped this step as she was still quite warm, and I found that it was easy enough to pull the feathers out when only grabbing a few at a time.  After all the years of seeing this done and hearing about it, I always thought this would be the most difficult part, but it turned out to be quite easy.

One difficult area though is the wings.  They kept getting in the way, so I trimmed the feathers to free up some space.  The problem with this is though that the extra length actually gives you a bit of purchase, which I found out too late.  So after realising my mistake, I decided to just chop the wings off instead of plucking them as there isn’t all that much meat to reward the effort.

Another tricky area was around the vent.  The cliche of animals evacuating themselves at the time of death is a cliche for a reason.  I gave her a good rinse around the rear under the tap before tying to do this area, but even so there was more to be squeezed out.  So next time I might wear gloves.

All told, it probably took about 20 minutes to half an hour to pluck her clean.  Note the absence of wings as I explained earlier.

almost as naked as I was!One thing I found real interesting was how they seem to have feathers in strips.  I always thought that they must just have feathers all over their bodies, but there were distinct patches of clean skin.  You can see what I mean a bit in the photo above just above it’s wing stump.

Another fun fact is how small these birds are when they’re naked.  I would say easily half of their shape and bulk comes from their feathers.

End of part 1.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2011 11:03 pm

    Good to see you back online…interesting theme after being away for a few months…

    • March 1, 2011 9:02 am

      I’ve been well and truly off writing lately, but this event kinda imposed itself on us, and I always knew that when the day came it would be a worthwhile thing to share.

      The photos only get more gruesome 😀

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