Our First Real Chicken Dinner

Warning: This post contains material that may not be suitable for some readers.

I went outside the feed the chickens the other day and saw that Cornelius was covered in blood and that his comb had been torn near the back.* I’d seen him getting into minor scuffles with another rooster (Young Punk #2), but that other rooster had always just backed down in the past.

Well, YP2 had grown markedly larger than Cornelius, and apparently was no longer satisfied with 2nd place. I looked at YP2 and saw just the tiniest nick on his comb. Clearly, it wouldn’t be long before YP2 made a play for the throne. Since Cornelius represents fresh genetic material, however, the other roosters are all destined for our bellies.

YP2, I decided, was ready for the pot.

It was already evening, so I wasn’t going to kill YP2 right then. I let them all return to their chook house for the night, as usual.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like catching chickens during the day. A friend of ours uses a large fishing net to do the job, and after the antics I’ve experienced, I like that idea. I’d caught YP2 once before, when he had escaped, and it wasn’t pleasant. He instinctively knows that I’m bad news and he puts up a fight. (Becky says it’s because I’ve been feeling up his drum sticks since he was a few months old.)

If time allows, the best method for catching a chicken is to walk into the chicken house at night and simply pick the desired bird off the roost. In case you don’t know, chickens are pretty much switched off at night. So, a few hours after dark, I put on my headlamp and headed outside. In a matter of seconds, Daddy Wolf had YP2 under his arm.

YP2 wiggled around a little, but nothing at all like the mortal combat he’s up for during the day.

Now, what to do with him until morning?

The previous owner of our property used an old washing machine, minus the internals, as a compost bin. It just had a bit of dried weeds in the bottom, so I put YP2 in there with a bucket of water in case he got thirsty. It’s well ventilated, and, at the moment, it’s in the shade. I put a piece of wood over the top with a rock just in case he tried to push himself out somehow.

The next day, I got everything ready. Hot water, knife, and hatchet were laid out near the old stump outside our garage.

I went to retrieve YP2. Woh. He was pissed. He tried to jump through the top of the washing machine as soon as I removed the cover, but I managed to grab him.

While I was fairly confident with my ability to break the chicken’s neck by hand (from my previous lesson), this rooster was substantially larger and stronger than the one I killed before. I decided to go with the broom handle method.

This involves lowering a broom handle, or similar implement (I used my axe handle), over the chicken’s neck, standing on the handle and then pulling upward on the legs to break the chicken’s neck. This is done on a hard surface. It took a lot of force to break this rooster’s neck, so I’m glad I was able to apply it quickly and authoritatively so there was no question that the job was done. I’ll probably use this method again in the future.

I went about the business of plucking and gutting the bird. Becky came out to check on my progress. She had Reed in a pouch and Owen by the hand. She looked pretty proud and pleased with me. She has been looking forward to putting this roo in her Dutch oven.

And it’s a good thing that she bought the largest Dutch oven that we could find in New Zealand (29cm). This chicken just barely fit.

Ready for the pot

Becky specifically requested the chicken feet. She’s going to make stock out of them. I thought she was kidding at first, but she has been coveting them. It turns out the people who don’t use the feet are the minority.

She’ll probably write more about chicken recipes in the future, but for now, here’s a picture of the end result of all of our efforts. Becky prepared an unforgettable meal for us and her parents:

Chicken dinner

Wow! It was absolutely delicious. I’ve read about people who don’t go back to industrially produced chicken after raising and eating their own, and it’s clear why after the first bite. This British site refers to Barred Rock chickens as, “Walking dinner.” It’s not a joke. We were very pleased with the amount of meat on this bird. Four adults and Owen (who eats nearly as much as an adult) were easily filled up. And even though I gorged myself to the point of disgrace, there was still meat left. The next day, Becky turned the Dutch oven into a soup pot and we ate delicious chicken soup for three nights after this main meal. I don’t mean chicken soup with pathetic little scraps of chicken. There was plenty of meat left for the soup.

All in all, raising Barred Rock chickens for meat is very worth doing and satisfying.

* Don’t worry about Cornelius, he turned out to be just fine. A couple of days after his altercation with YP2, it rained and all the blood washed off of him. He looked as good as new.

9 Responses to “Our First Real Chicken Dinner”

  1. gaile says:

    wow that looks delicious! Glad to hear Cornelius is okay after all as well!

  2. The first time we ate one of our chickens, we couldn’t believe the difference between it and store-bought birds. It was like night and day! Chicken that actually tastes like chicken, rather than bland white meat.

    It’s no wonder everyone cooks chicken with tons of spices, sauces, marinades, rubs, etc nowadays – it’d have no flavour otherwise. Give a home-grown chicken a few fresh herbs and a rub with butter, and you’ll have the best-tasting roast chicken you’ve tried for years.

  3. Greg says:

    I tried the “broom handle” method my first time and thought I gave a good ‘authoritative’ yank… but the poor thing jumped up and ran off. I opted for a more traditional “off with your head” method next. I didn’t feel so well for a few days after that experience…

    Ever since, I’ve gone for the “obvious” rather than “clean” methods… glad to hear you did better Kevin!

  4. I used to use the “by hand” method of offing our chickens, but a long-running shoulder problem has put paid to that, so I’ve been using an axe. Not an “off with his head” style of thing, but a blunt axe, the aim being to break the neck immediately behind the head with minimum damage to skin. Works very effectively and quickly. I’ll consider trying the “broom handle” method next time…

    One tip: I see the chicken legs sticking out as he lies in that pot… Once you’ve plucked wings and legs, and while the carcass is still warm and pliable, be sure to tuck them close to the body – tie them in place if need be – and you’ll get a much more compact affair.

    Mmmm… my mouth waters at the thought of home-grown chicken!

  5. Healey says:

    Yummy looking dinner. I find I prefer a killing cone for my birds. I’m not strong enough to make a neck break quick and clean. Blood drains nicely and the cone restrains the bird preventing damage to the meat from thrashing.

    Nothing like raising your own birds. I’m on my second year; only wish I had enough room to raise enough meat birds to last us for a whole year.

  6. Eden says:

    For ease I use the 2 nails in the woodblock to hold the head while I do the deed. It holds the head in a nice position. I was taught this by a Mennonite farmer and it works well. I am going to start raising Chantecler chickens this summer since they seem to be best for my climate (Eastern Ontario) and cold weather laying.

  7. Steph says:

    I love chicken feet! It may seem gross at first but the skin, collagen, and other connective proteins in the feet are good to keep the wrinkles away! 🙂

  8. Anna says:

    Wow looks so delicious! We’ve just about finished our chicken coop so hopefully will be getting some chooks for eggs and meat in the next few weeks. Will be looking forward to some tasty chicken dinners of our own soon!

  9. Lucy says:

    I’m so glad you get the chickens at night. my husband used to gather and kill at night too – so little stress for the birds and less stress for him as a result. I used to read a blog where chasing the chickens around the yard with nets was the fun activity for the kids, prior to sluaghtering the birds and I thought it looked so cruel.