Monday, June 24, 2013

Death on the Farm

Just as I was sitting down to write about the chicken slaughter, the power went out. I called hydro and they don't know why - they're working on it - but it means that the pump in the aquaponics turned off (so the water isn't getting oxygenated). I rushed outside after calling Nathan but one of the fish was already dead. Now the generator is on and the pump is plugged in. That fish was the first accidental farm death - pretty good considering we have (had) 17 chickens, 58 fish, 4 sheep and a llama.

I was going to comfort myself by baking a cookie with the dough in the fridge but the oven has no power (duh). I really hope the power comes back so that all of our labour from yesterday isn't wasted in the fridge and freezer.

An hour later and the power is back!

We did it: Our first chicken slaughter and butchering is complete. We killed our two biggest meat roosters and our landlord's buff roosters. I didn't actually feel as sad as I expected to - we killed the roosters quickly and it has been in my head since before they arrived that they are for meat. Tomorrow night we'll see how our free range, 'happy' chicken tastes. They ended up being over 4 lbs each at 12.5 weeks. We learned a few things during the butchering experience:

1 - when you're killing the chickens and dealing with the post-death convulsions, you'll probably get blood sprayed on you no matter how careful you are. Make sure you wash that blood off of your light blue t-shirt (..and face..) before you rush into the house to get the pot of hot water...where your visiting parents are eating their breakfast and pretending that slaughter 101 isn't happening outside.

2 - also pertaining to visiting parents, when you choose a location to perform the slaughter you should worry more about whether they can see you from the dining table than whether your other chickens can see you. Your other chickens won't notice. Your parents will.

3 - when you scald the chicken to make plucking easier, you actually need to keep the water at scalding temperature. Any cooler and plucking is extremely difficult and time consuming. The skin tears, the feathers break and you end up with a porcupine chicken.

4 - you will spend a lot of time bent over and plucking feathers so your table should be at a comfortable height for doing so...otherwise you end up hobbling around rubbing your back for the rest of the day.

5 - when you're poking and prodding the chicken trying to get all of the feathers out, any pressure on the carcass will agitate the vocal cords and cause the chicken to 'squawk' in a very disconcerting way through it's headless neck. The internet tutorials never mentioned that...

6 - when you grin at your boyfriend as you're wrist-deep, eviscerating a chicken and say "I'm actually having a lot of fun!" he may look at you strangely.

7 - don't freeze the chickens as soon as you're done...they'll be in rigor mortis. Not only will they be extremely difficult/impossible to fit in to freezer bags, the meat will also apparently end up tough. You're supposed to let them 'rest' in the fridge for 2 days. Oops. We will have to let the one that we froze 'rest' when it's thawed prior to roasting.

Abby and Ryan were happy to eat their share - the feet, kidneys, livers and hearts. I accidentally threw the gizzards away with the intestines. Lucy wanted nothing to do with the meat. If you look carefully here you can see Abby under the table with a chicken foot in her mouth.

Working at our too-low table.

Bagged and ready for the freezer (should have been the fridge). 

All in all the process went smoothly and I really am excited to taste this chicken.

Clearly the hens weren't too traumatized by the morning's events. They were very involved in helping Nathan jump start the mower. After a dead battery, a dead battery charger, no gas, a hidden 'safety' switch that was on, and an equal number of things wrong with the weed wacker, we finally got the lawn mowed.

Look - the first aquaponics cucumbers! Speaking of cucumbers, the pickled cukes are delicious - very garlicky and vinegary which I love.

The greenhouse is becoming a jungle.

Today I'm going to make Thomas a halter. He really enjoyed being brushed yesterday and wasn't interested in ramming me. I'm not sure if it was because of the brushing or because he only goes after testosterone...

I think Mother Clucker is looking in the wrong place for her new man. The worst part of the whole chicken slaughter was that we took Buff away from the hens. Maybe they'll choose one of the other roosters instead.

Yesterday was Ryan's first successful time moving the ewes! We let them out into a larger paddock behind the one they're in now, and after they'd grazed for 20 minutes or so I went in with Ryan and sent him out. He went around them and pushed them back through to their original paddock. Good boy! He lay down when asked and he was relatively calm (no barking, at least, and his tail was down) about it. 

Lucy went home with my parents but before she did, she had one last hurrah....chasing Zeb all over the place. That poor "guardian" llama looked like he couldn't believe he was running from an 8 lb terrier. Back and forth across the field they went until we finally got Lucy back...I guess she's feeling better after her toxic plant mishap!


  1. Jody: I found the best way to pluck a chicken was just to skin the dammed thing. Sooo much easier, and cleaner. Ellen

  2. The problem is that I really love crispy, seasoned chicken skin! That would be much easier, though...

  3. Aw too bad about the handsome buffs--G had a good idea for keeping the water at scalding temp--but I'll have to let him share that--they had the same problem at the place he did the processing, but he's a hydrometallurgy guy so he has an easy solution...good job on the brushing Thomas!! At TRC they gut everything--and don't feed gizzards. Might not be a problem if fed fresh but if you froze the guts to feed to the dogs later there is risk for clostridial overgrowth and subsequent uber badness for your pets. greenhouse madness!! need to bring a fox 40 whistle and a compass for safety!!

  4. oh also on the tilapia thing--I thought they were really tolerant of low DO? any other parameters out of whack?

  5. Everything else was fine so the other option is that the fish died from an unrelated reason and it was just coincidental timing!

    1. spoken like a true scientist! absolutely. you guys monitor nitrites etc?