Friday, 13 February 2015

Killing A Cockerel For Dinner

This post contains pictures of dead animals and may offend some
Please don't read if you feel that it may upset you as it's not my intention to offend anyone or be controversial. I only want to give a fair account of my lifestyle and the way I'm trying to live. I use this blog as a diary and a record of what we've achieved here and I think this is an important part.
The cockerel is the light coloured chick by the hen.
This Sunday I killed a cockerel for our dinner. 
This has been done for thousands of years and yet when I tell people about it they think it's somehow "odd". My wife's friends at work can't believe that we do it, but I can think of little better than caring for something it's whole life that we're going to eat. 
This cockerel was largely free ranged most of his life, hatched with one of our chickens, from one of our own eggs back in July. He' had a good life, fed well, was looked after and cared for, with a nice patch to roam as he sees fit. 
He was always destined for the dinner table though as we can only really keep one cockerel at the moment and he started to become aggressive towards my girls, trying to attack them when they're in the garden. 

Killing an animal is not something I undertake lightly and it's not something I enjoy. My aim is to do it as calmly, quickly and painlessly as possible, I don't want the animal to be distressed.
I've killed many chickens over the years and I can do it instantly. The cockerel had been isolated the day before, making him easier to catch. I set myself up making sure everything I needed was close to hand and then I killed him first thing in the morning.
Tail feathers removed straight away

Hung to drain

Plucked whilst still warm
 I plucked him whilst he was still warm and found it much easier than normal. He was a good sized bird but the shape of the carcass is so different from the birds you buy in the supermarket that you wouldn't believe they were the same animal. They don't lie flat on the roasting dish and have much, much more leg meat and much less breast meat. There was also a lot more fat on this bird due to the natural grain I've fed him compared to concentrated feed he would have had on a commercial farm.
A real difference between leg meat and breast meat.
I roasted him for an hour and half, whilst he was roasting I also dug up parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks and got a few squashes from the shed. The only thing I didn't grow for dinner was the potatoes which came from an organic farm a few miles away. 
The leg meat was a bit tough in all honesty but it was perfect in a curry later in the week.

A chicken raised how we wanted on our own little homestead. Meat for two meals, bones for a stock and feathers for compost. 
Almost a closed circle. I need to increase how much food I produce for the chickens on our own land and grow quite a few more of them.
Anyone else raised any meat birds lately?

62 comments:

  1. I wonder if you will get any leaving and de-linking you this time like you did when you went hunting?

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  2. Be interesting to see. I'm not worried if I do but I gave fair warning. Unless they're vegan then they're responsible for animal deaths (the dairy industry kills thousands of male animals at birth in the UK). At least this nasty little cockerel had a good life before I killed him!

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    1. Vegans never appreciate that they are responsible for animal deaths that mostly go to serve no purpose. Those fields full of veggies are systematically cleared of mice, rats, rabbits and numerous species of small birds amongst others, Needless to say they're not send on holiday lol. Most are cleared using poisons by large pest control companies, not a nice way to check out! As they never see this it troubles their little minds not a jot.

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    2. I don't have little mind...cheeky!
      Jane x

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    3. I guess that they want to reduce what they do to animals and keep it to a minimal. I can see their point of view. We eat a lot less meat than we used to and I'm probably healthier for it!

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  3. And they can be really nasty too. I was very pleased to see the end of one of ours. Others have not been an issue so much. We probably won't get any more after our last old girl (pet really and now 11 years old) goes because I am allergic to eggs so we will turn the netted run into blackcurrant protection and buy the few eggs we do use. I will miss her though. I did think that once her companion went, maybe she would be lonely but she seems perfectly happy with about a thousand sparrows and the odd blackbird. It will be the end of an era because we've had hens for 20 years now.

    viv

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    1. Allergic to eggs would be a nightmare with the amount of cake that I eat! I do enjoy having the chickens in the garden and the noises they make.

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  4. We have done it in the past, when the FH was alive and fit and well enough to do the butchering. A home-raised chook has got SO much more flavour. We also bought some Cobb-cross chicks to raise for meat one summer. I wouldn't do that again as they were abnormally hungry, seems to be in their genes to eat and eat and eat! They put on weight at an astonishing rate. Much better to raise it the way you have described here, and we have done in the past with spare cockerels. Good luck, and keep up the good work - love reading here x

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    1. I was thinking about some Cobb chickens but then I think I prefer a bird that has been slower grown and puts on a bit more flavour.

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  5. I found the cleaning if the carcass much easier than the killing , with the exception of the testes which threw me because they are tucked away up in the body itself!

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    1. The killing doesn't bother me much but I'm not a fan of putting my hand inside to pull everything out.

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  6. What a fantastic step towards becoming self reliant, we are raising for the table this year, a few years ago I bought a tool for dispatching poultry, mainly because I don't have the strength in my wrists to pull and dispatch also we had an unfortunate incident with a cockerel that Martin even struggled with some of them are tough birds, the tool is attached to a wall and you bring a leaver down and dispatch is instant, its good that I can use it with ease. :-)

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    1. I've looked at those dispatchers before but more than I want to spend on it at the moment for the number that I do. I pull their neck then cut their throat with an axe or knife. when doing hens I've pulled too hard before now and the head comes off. At least then you know it's dead.

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  7. Not offensive at all, good for you xx

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  8. Did you see River Cottage Australia, when they killed the pig at the smallholding? Think it would be far less stressful for the animal if they were dispatched at home.

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    1. I agree. If you've been liking that series there's another one on set in Tasmania on YouTube
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4igMA6ImPIk

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  9. That's a normal way of life over here in our village. They butcher all their chickens beginning of winter and start a new flock again in Spring. Lots of meat canned for the cold months too. Yes, homegrown meat is tastier than the commercial ones, most ideal for stew! We did raised chicks once and ended with a few "coq"...I couldn't do it, I'd probably faint before the deed is done!! ...our neighbours didn't mind doing it at their place!

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    1. I think it's great as it gives everyone such a greater respect for the food we eat. I wish we could be more like it in this country rather than thinking it comes from a plastic packet.

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  10. I don't like killing my farm animals and so I usually trade feed to other people so they will kill their farm animals which I enjoy eating very much. Last time we had cows I managed to be gone the day the mobile slaughter van arrived. I'm just a big ole' sissy...and I don't care if you disprove of me...

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    1. I don;t disapprove, it';s each to their own. Killing you're own is not something I think everyone should have to do so long as everyone who eats meat understands that animal was killed so they could eat it. It's tough if you get atached to an animal before you get it killed. I remember Timmy my first pet lamb and having to put him on the trailer to go to market.

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  11. im not the best cook. But I wonder if taking the legs off before cooking, maybe they could be cooked in milk and then made into Nigellas southern fried chicken. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/southern-style-deep-fried-chicken-recipe.html

    something in the milk changes it. I dont know anyone who has cooked it as my friends dont mix dairy meat. I saw it on her TV programme and have read online previous bloggers saying they had tried it and they loved it.

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    1. I can't really have milk or cream so not he recipe for me! Although I love southern fried chicken. Are your friends Jewish as I've heard that some even have separate fridges so they don;t mix meat and dairy.

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  12. Well, this vegan made it through your post!
    I can't abide when people are 'two faced' about their food...the "I'll eat it but don't want to see it killed,people". I'm sure that if people had to kill their own animals,there'd be a lot more vegetarians in the world.
    Rather your food was raised as your is ,than in some huge ,profit is the only concern,farm.
    Jane x

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    1. Glad you managed it. I don't think people should have to see it being killed. In fact I'd prefer it if people just saw how it lived first and made their choices on animals that lived well rather than an animal that was bred to make the most profit.
      Thanks for your comment Jane and I'm pleased that you like the post. x

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  13. The reason the leg meat is tougher and darker is that most chicken sold commercially are hens, the cocks tend to be killed soon after birth. Partly because the meat is tougher and has a stronger flavour but also because they fight so much as damaged birds command a lower price. Cocks also tend to put on fat faster than hens unless they have an awful lot of space and green food. Less fatty meat is best obtained by making sure theý can access worms, slugs etc.
    If you plunge the still warm bird into a pot of near boiling water for about a minute the feathers will be a lot easier to remove.

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    1. In Frances they still castrate their cockerels as they say it changes the taste of the meat too much. My chickens had access to plenty of worms and green food (he was completely free ranged) but they also had lots of wheat which I find makes they put on a little extra fat. I've read about putting them in hot water but for one bird it's not really worth it.

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  14. I wish I could raise chickens here, but zoning lows prevent it. Its all about urbanites not wanting to hear roosters crowing. Never done it my self but I don't think dispatching one would be a big issue for me. Sure would love to try a non-factory chicken. The ones you buy at the supermarket here are pumped full of salt brine after slaughter to "improve" flavor and increase weight and shelf life.

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    1. What about rabbits? they produce loads of meat for the food you put into them. We can't have cheap chicken any more as the taste just isn't right, in fact we tend to have chicken less and less lately for this reason.

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    2. Yes I was thinking rabbits may be an option as they are quiet and live in a cage. Quail might be possible as well. I may look in to it. Though I am not sure ho we'd fare with all the foxes and possums here.

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  15. Much better to kill on home ground and he'd outstayed his welcome!
    North Sider Dave, River Cottage Australia is one of my favourite tv programmes now! I wonder if you can get the chicken 'neckers' over here? (the metal gizmo the chap had mounted on a fence post in the progamme a couple of weeks ago).

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    1. Yes Sandie I saw the metal gizmo. It seemed to kill the cockerel very humanely and the pig was soon dispatched with the rifle. There is no need to transport live farm animals hundreds of miles.

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    2. Sandie watch the link I put in reply to Daves comment it's as good as the river cottage one (which I also love).
      The chicken dispatchers are available on eBay. Much better to kill on home ground but with more and more rules I doubt we'll be able to kill flies soon!

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  16. We've raised meat birds on three occasions when it was convenient to acquire chicks or growers. When we had some unwanted cockerels, it was a case of into the pot at the first crow whatever size they were as the neighbours are not very tolerant. We can't breed our own chicks because of this intolerance and the carriage costs of buying in are very high for the small numbers we can take, hence just the three times we have done this when we happened to be passing near somewhere to buy them.

    We liked being able to look after them well and give them a quick death and know that their life had been as good as we could make it. And we made use of every part of the bird and like you, put the feathers in the compost.

    We found that we were regarded as peculiar by the people we know and those we work with because we did this. If I buy a chicken in the supermarket, I have no idea how well it lived or died and I much prefer if we can do it all ourselves.

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    1. At our last house (in the middle of a village) I had some chickens for killing and the neighbour joked about the crowing in the the morning. The next day he was hung outside the greenhouse - the neighbour was quite shocked but I'm not sure what she thought I'd do!

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  17. Hello from over here in Texas! Good for you and living off your homestead in all ways! He had a great life and was treated kindly and his life was taken quickly. Love your blog by the way!

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    1. Thanks Suzanne, glad you like the blog!

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  18. Yes Jane & Chris, never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who say "I couldn't possibly kill an animal", often whilst tucking in to lamb chops or a steak.

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    1. I'm really not sure you have to kill it to eat it but they need to understand. I remember having an argument with a vegetarian once who wouldn't eat eggs as they were baby chickens. He didn't really understand the whole fertilisation thing!

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  19. Hi Kev
    This was a difficult post for me as I hate the thought of killing animals even though I eat meat all of the time, that makes me a big hypocrite and I know this. When I was young in the 50's chicken was an expensive meat and my Auntie kept chickens, she often used to bring us one down and I sat on the kitchen step and plucked it, no problem. My Dad kept rabbits and they used to hang in the shed with a stick across them once they had been drawn. I remember he made a Davy Crocket hat for the boy who lived upstairs.
    And yet this post disturbed me. I guess I've grown into a sissy pants in my old age. I think what you did was fine it's just that now, I couldn't do it.
    Looking forward to the seeds
    Hugs for understanding.
    Briony
    x

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    1. Thanks for your comment Briony, and thanks for reading the post even though you found it hard. Like I said I never wrote it to offend anyone but I do want a record of how I'm trying to live. I don;t think you're a hypocrite at all, you've not said I shouldn't be doing it.

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  20. Excellent post my good man, definitely not offensive and very interesting to boot. Also some good comments generated by it too.
    John

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    1. Cheers John, the comments have been great on this post it must be said!

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  21. I was looking for the scary bits but I didn't see any...glad you didn't make a video of it though! I suppose I'd do it if I HAD to but not something I'd do happily otherwise. But it's good that you're doing it to feed the family and not for fun, that's how it should be.

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    1. Video to come - only joking I'd probably have animal rights protesters burning down my house! It's never fun killing something but it did provide food for me and my girls and thats important.

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  22. Most people eat meat. Anyone that does can't give you any flak about killing a chicken to eat. I don't like to kill animals, so I don't hunt, but I would if I needed to. Same with raising food animals.

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    1. Its a good point and I think that mos people could do it if they needed to.

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  23. I wish you were my neighbor, I've a few cockerel that should go into the cook pot ever since they decided to become Gladiators and beat on one another. But i haven't the guts or the knowledge to do it properly and quickly. Well tended farm animals have a much better life and death than those raised in mass. Kudos to you!

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    1. Good neighbours are hard to find! The first year here we had four cockerels and I had to kill three before they killed each other!

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  24. It doesn't make you a hypocrite to not like to kill animals you have raised or to see animal killed in general, but still like to eat the meat.
    I also don't like to work on sewage pipes but still like to use a nice sitdown toilet.
    People drive cars but pay mechanics to work on them. You don't do your own proctology work.
    And... not everyone raises their own vegetables and kills them by chopping them up or pulling them out of the ground.
    Just saying...

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    1. I never said it it, and I agree with what you're saying. So long as people understand that it's been killed.

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  25. We raised our own meat when I was a child, the cockerels where all destined for the table, once plucked they were hung for 2 days ( New York Dressed) before being drawn, this helped to tenderise the meat. I could see nothing offensive in this post, all meat was once a living creature and you gave fair warning for the mere hearted to move away from the content.

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    1. I didn't hang this one to see if it made much difference. In many countries they kill them and eat them on the same day but I guess that's to stop the meat going off.

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  26. Really appreciate this post, Kev. I am a month or so off doing our young rooster. It will be the first time for me - I was interested to hear what you said about their being more fat on the bird because of what you fed him - that makes sense because I am always saying the chickens that we buy now are nothing like the ones I had as a kid - I can remember a layer of gelatin and fat on the plate once it went in the fridge. Okay - now the hard question - how did you do the deed- was it an axe - I am trying to work out the technical aspects of how I will approach that step (at present wishing they had chicken anasthetic masks prior to the deed).

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    1. Thanks Kim. Let us know how you get on with yours when you do them. I break the necks of ours then use a hatchet to remove the head or cut it's throat. I know that some stun them first but I haven't the equipment for that.

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  27. the cones do help - chickens naturally go quiet when hung upside down (dorsal dive) and if you have a sharp knife they are killed instantly. Thanks for posting this Kev --

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    1. I might have to look into making a cone for them then. I've read in other places that the cone is pretty good to use. I've seen a friend put a chicken to sleep by rocking it between his legs - not sure if you've seen that before!

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  28. Well done on this post Kev. All birds are easier to pluck when warm. If you are breeding your own anything then 50% will be male and you can't keep them all.
    Take the legs off and casserole them.
    We have and intend to keep rabbits for the table again.
    Meat eaters who are flippant about being sissy show a total lack of respect for life. They really make my blood boil.

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    1. Thanks Irene, It was a tricky post to write as I don;t want to offend anyone but then I do want to be honest with this blog and leave nothing out. Removing the legs probably would have been a good move, but they were great int he curry I cooked later in the week (and I mean really great I stewed them in it for an hour and a half). Rabbits are on my list, if I get through my paying work I might get around to building some hutches so I can start a breeding program.

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  29. good job! we raise almost all of our own meat and butcher here on our farm. we dont think it's weird at all. we are currently out of meat chickens and will get some as soon as our winter weather breaks.

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    1. It's not weird for many people around the world but some take a dislike to the notion. I've been surprised by the response on the blog though an not a negative in there, I'm really pleased with how everyone who comments has been and what a great response I've had.

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  30. Wonderful, informative post with nothing offensive in it!

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