It is done.

We were left with no choice for the little chicken. Yes, we could have called up a “real” farmer to do it. But that would be a cop-out. As I said before, we needed to do this ourselves. We came out here to learn about food and see where our food came from. This was going to be an experience we were going to have at one point in our future, so why avoid the inevitable? So Saturday morning we started reading about how to cull a chicken. Well, let me tell you, there is much dispute about the best way to do so. There are more ways than one, and all of them are terrible. I won’t go into the gruesome details, but reading about it made my stomach turn. All I cared about was that it would be fast and would not cause any undue suffering to the chicken. One of the resources I came across in our little personal library of country life/gardening/raising chickens was The Encyclopedia of Country Living. There was a whole section titled “killing chickens.” I had to laugh, although it was quite morbid, but killing chickens was clearly not considered a big deal to the author at all. She recommended killing chickens who were late layers, slow layers, too broody, didn’t lay often enough, were sick, were old and definitely those that were egg eaters. We also came across a very “interesting” YouTube video that Treehugger.com posted. In this video, the lady kills an older chicken, but does it with a fair bit of compassion for the animal. The actual killing part is quite horrific to watch, but everything before and after was very good (and highly informative). There was this strange inconsistencey in my mind while watching the video – like, she seems too nice to be able to do that, or something – I’m not sure how to explain it. The video also went onto show how to process the bird (the nice word for gutting and making it into food). So armed with some knowledge we set out to do something we’d dreaded doing. We picked up our little chicken, thanked her for all of the eggs she’d provided us, said our good-byes, and then just like that it was done. The actual moment of the axe swinging down and that “oh my God” realization was terribly overwhelming with the weight and emotion of what I had just done rushing over me. But after a few moments, I composed myself and we went about the rest of the job. We got a bucket of hot water and took to plucking her feathers. Strangely, when this was complete (which was as easy as the book and video had said) our hen, that only a few minutes before had been scratching around eating grass, had transformed into “chicken.” In fact she looked like any other chicken that I’ve bought from the supermarket dozens of times before. She had suddenly become… food. Well, not quite yet. We still had to “process” her. My wife, Darcie, the pretty, sweet and gentle lady that she is, did this task. Who knew she was a natural? This part of the process was actually fascinating. Both of us had taken human anatomy in University that had labs with cadavers (the nice word for real human body parts) so this was just really interesting to see everything. I’m sure a lot of people would think this might be the worst part, but to us, it was interesting and, although it was gross, it also wasn’t that gross at all. And then there it was, a ready to roast chicken. We bagged her up and into the freezer she went. For the rest of the day and for about a week following, both of us felt pretty horrible about it though. I actually woke up a few times in the night with the vision of my axe swinging and her dying. I thought about it a lot, although I didn’t want to think about it at all. But now, I feel better about it. Both of us feel that it was a right of passage. Not something we wanted to do. Not something we enjoyed. And not something that I want to do again (although I’m sure it will only be a matter of time). But it was something we did and something that we had to do to learn about ourselves and about where our food actually comes from. We feel a sense of accomplishment that we did what was best for the chicken, for ourselves, and that we did it together.

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