Me (to Dan): So, the roosters are getting dropped off here on Monday around 4 p.m. Does that work for you?
Col: But I thought you can’t have roosters in town.
Rose: Yeah, because they wake up John Martin (our neighbor).
Col: So are we getting roosters?
Me: Not to keep.
Last week, my friend Sarah offered her two 6-month-old roosters on Facebook (the modern agricultural swap meet) for keeping or eating. Without giving too much thought to the fact that I can’t kill a grasshopper clamped onto my chard without a convulsive shudder, I typed in, “We’ll take them both.”
We’ve had backyard chickens for four years, which has been a wonderful experience in nutritious eggs, manure for our garden and an opportunity for Col and Rose to take part in food procurement.
The bothersome thing is this: hens have a finite amount of eggs, and once they exhaust their egg-laying potential, your flock becomes a bunch of retired ladies, which isn’t very sustainable.
Recently, the hen that Col picked out as a tiny chick three years ago and named Sunflower, was killed by a raccoon. Sunflower’s body was recovered, still warm, and Dan skinned her, pulled out her organs and put her in the stew pot while I pretended that I didn’t actually “know” our dinner.
That night we sat down to eat, Dan and I deciding neither to announce nor deny that we were eating our chicken, Sunflower, for dinner, Rose poked around in her burrito and asked, dumbfounded, “What’s this – chicken?” (presumably because (1) we never buy chicken and (2) Rose assisted Dan in removing the slippery viscera from the body cavity of our coon-killed chicken the day before).
We confirmed, with tacked-on smiles, that yes, this was chicken, and then ate our burritos, nobody bringing up Sunflower’s name, as if she were some estranged, unmentionable relative.
Cooking your pet chicken is one thing, killing it is entirely another. And yet, we have a flock of 3-year-old hens whose egg-laying days are numbered; it seemed a good idea to practice on roosters to which we had no emotional attachment. We enlisted our friend Jojo, who grew up with chickens in the Philippines, to walk us through the process.
And Col invited his friend Mathew, for educational purposes.
The roosters were beautiful; a dazzle of shimmery green-orange feathers. I couldn’t watch the killing, so Sarah (who brought the roosters) and I got deeply and suddenly interested in our broccoli plants while Jojo killed the birds swiftly in our shed. The kids watched and when I asked how that was for them, Mathew said, “Well, it was fine, but I seem to have this lump in my throat.”
Once the killing was over, the kids went back to building a village in our dirt pile, the birds got plucked, three neighborhood sisters were dropped off to be watched, I pulled potatoes and onions from the garden for dinner, poured peach barbecue sauce on the bird and popped him in the oven.
He was delicious.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.