Well the day finally came, the day to harvest our hard work. See here about my decision to raise rabbits for meat. I learned A LOT! I have to admit I am proud of myself and my boys, who were a huge help to me. This was the hardest post to write because I know a lot of people who will read this are just starting their first garden and can’t imagine raising or killing an animal , but I also know people who will read this that are debating raising animals and want to know every detail of what they will be in for. Furthermore, I know quiet a few people that want to raise animals but are restricted by city or HOA regulations. The following kind of sums up my concerns; When we were in the middle of butchering rabbit number 3 my neighbor who decided to cut limbs at this time(great timing) had to come in our backyard to retrieve a branch that had fallen. What could I say, “Uh this isn’t a good time?” So in comes neighbor. To say he was surprised was an understatement. In fact I think it is safe to say we rendered him speechless, which is quite an achievement for this particular neighbor. We were left with the feeling that we should have kept this secret or that we were doing something wrong. My son, who has the gift of things well said, commented, “Just imagine if my great grandfather could see us now. This was such a normal way of life at one time, raising and butchering animals. He would think we were nuts that we should hide this necessary part of living.” So here is my disclaimer: This post is about doing something necessary to life, butchering animals. If this bothers you, this is not the post for you. With that said, here goes. I wish I could say that I had established a relationship with someone older and wiser to come beside me and show me how to do this particular task, but being part of modern society I took advantage of the internet to figure out how to do this. I guess in some ways this easy go to technology allows us to miss out on the friendships around us.
First we had to take two older chickens, who were not laying, out of the flock. Some people treat their chickens like pets and pledge to keep each one to their natural death due to old age. I am here to say that when a chicken gets older it begins to suffer through the summer heat and maybe they are not doing it a favor by keeping it way past it’s laying age. Since we had two chickens, we used two different methods of butchering; the first we skinned and the second we plucked the feathers off. We all agreed we liked the plucking way better in the end. Here is the video we followed:Chicken Butchering Station There are a few things I need to add to this. First: A good friend of mine taught us to hold the chicken by it’s feet and swing it around in a circle before killing it, putting it in a stupor of sorts. She believed it was a more humane way to dispatch of the chicken and left the meat more tender. (Not releasing the adrenaline which results in tougher meat) Second: Keep the chicken feet. Believe it or not they are full of collagen that is incredibly healing to the joints. See great article from the Nourished Kitchen about the benefits of chicken feet here. A few notes: We do not have a chicken plucker so we had to do it by hand. I can see that if you regularly raise a lot of meat birds it would be a useful invention.
The cone we used was a HUGE HELP in the butchering process. Searching for a way to say this nicely? Flapping wings and bleeding chicken is not a good way to start the whole butchering process. Let’s just say that butchering a chicken has not always gone this neatly for us. A few weeks ago my kids dragged up a orange cone from the creek so we put that to good use. They kind of wondered why my eyes lit up at the sight of this “treasure” they had lugged home from the creek, as this is NOT my usual reaction to the junk they bring to the homestead. The city is probably going to see this post and demand it back, then again maybe not. A’hem.
To butcher the rabbits(we had 4 left to butcher) we followed this video: Slightly Rednecked: How to Butcher a Rabbit I have to admit that this process of dispatching of the rabbit was not the dramatic event that I anticipated it to be. I believe I could do this by myself if I had to, although I have to say that having my older sons help with this part was a relief.
Once the hard part of killing is over we all had to admit that the wonder of creation is very interesting and identifying all the organs to the kids is a science lesson all in itself. One of my son’s saved a pelt as an experiment in curing the hide. I will have him do a post on his methods soon.
All in all the process took almost all day, although I am sure we will get faster at it. I am far from feeling like I could go out kill an animal and process it, in the end turning it into the evening meal as my ancestors did. However, I guess I am one step closer.
One final note; there will be lots of unsavory stuff left in the bucket. Note to self, whatever you do DON’T let your daughter look in the bucket! What to do with these left overs? We put them in the soldier fly bin and they were gone before they even had a chance to smell resulting in more food for chickens. One more reason to raise these incredibly helpful insects. See about raising soldier flies for chicken food here.