Our car trip around the South continued on from western North Carolina to the eastern part of the state–to the farm of our friends, the Browns. Heather and Craig Brown (and especially their kids) were good friends of ours when we all lived in Utah.
They have since moved to North Carolina and traded their subdivision split-level for a gorgeous, sprawling farm. Way back when I was first getting the itch for livestock, I convinced Heather to get some baby chicks from the local farm store with me. We each got three. Now Heather has over a hundred and I have none. The kids spent hours playing with the chickens and I think it might be time to sneak some into our neighborhood.
Heather was a lovely hostess and insisted I just chill out while we visited. So nice, considering all the cooking and stuff I’m normally swamped with. In addition to all their chickens, the Browns also have a dairy calf, three goats, a dozen yaks, six dogs and a horse. Quite the menagerie. In case you’re wondering about the yaks, yak meat is the healthiest meat there is; even more Omega acids than salmon. They’re not terribly friendly but that’s ok. The goats make up for it.
The Browns had a rooster that had escaped the most recent round of chicken slaughter. One of their children had taken pity on him and set him free at the last minute. The rooster was a terrible bully and crowed his head off all the cotton-pickin’ day long, so my boys volunteered to butcher him. None of us have ever killed anything (except an assortment of goldfish), but we are eager learners in regards to all things homesteadish.
The boys flipped a coin and York won the opportunity to slit the rooster’s throat. Here’s an interesting tidbit: if you plan on killing a chicken (usually it’s roosters, they have more meat and are pretty much worthless; the hens being the ones who lay the eggs) you have to keep it from eating for twelve hours before its death, otherwise there will be food all over in its digestive tract–meaning lots of yuck. So the boys caught the wiley rooster and put it in a cage. Unfortunatly the cage was right outside my bedroom window. I did not realize this until 4:45 the next morning when that rotten monster started crowing. Since roosters keep going all morning, I knew something must be done. The Browns are late sleepers, despite being farmers, and their bedrooms were on the other side of the house anyway. They couldn’t hear it.
So I threw on my shoes, went outside amidst all the dogs, excited to see somebody up so early, and grabbed the huge unwieldy cage. I thought of ripping the rooster’s head off out of spite, but the boys would have been disappointed. Where could I put this dreadful thing where I wouldn’t hear it anymore??? I came up with the perfect solution: into my minivan he went, cage and all. I went back to bed in blissful peace for three more hours. When I woke up, I took the rooster out of my car and put his cage back in the yard. Perfect. And guess who wasn’t the slightest bit sad to see that rooster meet his maker later that afternoon?
The rooster death later that day was not at all as bloody and gory as I anticipated. It was quite civilized, although I left the gross parts to York and Finn. Craig and Lillie were excellent chicken-killing teachers.
The best way to kill a chicken is to put it upside-down in a cone so that its head hangs out of the bottom. Chickens become completely mellow when they’re hung upside-down so you don’t have to worry about the whole “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” scenario. Then you slit its throat and let the blood drain into a bucket underneath. The cone we used was improvised out of a box and nailed to a tree. Very hillbilly-esque.
The head of the chicken is finally cut off and the bird gets swirled in some boiling hot water for a minute or two. This loosens the feathers. Plucking the chicken is slightly creepy and odd. Plus wet feathers stick to everything. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do but I wasn’t about to act all squeamish and sissified.
The boys finished taking out the rooster’s entrails and all that weird stuff. They loved it.
The only thing I got to do was to scrape its lungs out with my fingernails, which was as fun as it sounds. Jasper spent the rest of the day playing with the rooster’s feet. In other words, more time than he spent playing with his birthday presents.
We all had so much fun with the Browns, although it was quite a shock living in the Country. There wasn’t so much as a convenience store within 15 minutes. And church was 40 minutes each way. But when you look out on the rolling green hills, dotted with animals; the lovely little pond and lightning bugs flying all over the place at dusk, it’s hard not to mind being in Nowheresville.