Tag Archives: Butchering Chickens

Green Chile Bread Pudding (+ an update on the chickens)

getting_their_wings

After a busy weekend, I looked at the chicks and realized they’re getting their wing feathers already. They’re nearly a week old now, and they’ve also mastered scratching in their feeder and in the clumps of grass I put in the brooder; seconds after I place them in the freshly cleaned box it’s trashed again.

6_day_old_chicks_trashing_the_brooder

They’re adorable though, and all eight appear to be thriving and will shortly be moved to their private quarters in the chicken coop. And then this Saturday, incubator #2 is due to hatch so we hope to have a few more joining the fun.

welsummer_egg_hatching

welsummerXfaverolles_just_hatched

The big chickens have also been going through a lot of changes this week. We found our first tiny pullet egg this week, and the rest of the girls from our April hatch should start laying anytime. And of course, the young roosters found their voices and started trying to put the moves on the ladies. It’s been an awkward few weeks, steeped in rejection, frequent ambushes, and plenty of dominance battles. Visiting the coop was like being in middle school again.

Ideally, the ratio should be 10 hens for every rooster. And as the boys matured, I learned firsthand that chickens aren’t meant to live in equal numbers. Our once-harmonious flock grew edgy and out of balance as the hormones kicked in, and we knew it was time.

With this flock, we planned from the start to harvest all but one of the boys. And so on Saturday morning, we followed through and butchered nine beautiful roosters. It was hard and sad work, but ultimately gratifying to see an entire shelf full of meat that we raised with care, from egg to freezer. Most roosters never even have a chance at life, they’re just an unfortunate byproduct of egg production — for each of the 18 female chicks we’ve purchased from hatcheries, a male chick was sent off to a rendering plant.

And so I think it’s more ethical to hatch my own laying hens and raise the roosters for the freezer, because I can ensure they’re well cared for and treated with respect. Even so, I get the occasional comment to the effect of “I wouldn’t kill a good looking rooster like that, send him to a nice farm!” (Actually, I’m pretty sure we are that farm). Butchering is bloody, brutal work to be sure, but I consider myself fortunate to be part of the process and know that my birds are treated with respect — really, I feel like I had more blood on my hands back when I was buying factory-produced chicken and eggs without acknowledging the source.

Butchering includes several steps, and as novices with nine roosters, my sister and I had our work cut out for us. Fortunately, our wonderful neighbor came over to help and even recruited her three houseguests to join us — maybe not what they were expecting on vacation, but they were excellent sports.

With six people on the line, the work passed quickly and the emotional burden felt a bit lighter too (or at least, having other people around helped me keep the water works under control). After just a few hours, we were all freshly showered and drinking a champagne toast to the boys, who were cleaned and chilling in the fridge.

I put brunch together the night before, since the kitchen would be devoted to packaging chickens and I doubted I’d feel like cooking afterwards. This dish is one of my go-tos when I’m having people over, because all I have to do in the morning is pop the pan in the oven. It’s usually improvised in my house, sometimes with bacon, sometimes with jalapeños, always with cheese — so just think of this recipe as a template for your own creation.

Green Chile Bread Pudding

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Green Chile Bread Pudding

A perfect dish for those days where you've promised someone you'll feed them brunch, but really want to sleep in.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium loaf of crusty bread, about 300 grams
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite green chile sauce, or roasted and peeled anaheims, or a small can of diced Hatch chiles
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 slices bacon (optional but highly recommended)

Instructions

  1. Cut bread into chunks about 1" thick and arrange in a 13x9 glass baking dish.
  2. Beat eggs with milk, and whisk in salt, chiles, half of the cheese, and bacon (if using).
  3. Pour egg mixture over bread and press down on the pieces to coat them.
  4. Sprinkle remaining cheese across the top and cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours (and up to 24).
  5. In the morning, let the dish come up to room temperature on the counter (about an hour) then bake in the middle a 350 degree oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/green-chile-bread-pudding-an-update-on-the-chickens/

 

General Tso’s Bad Day Pâté

Early on the morning of Memorial Day, our brave rooster General Tso crowed his last.

the_general

The General was a Speckled Sussex rooster, and he was not altogether a bad guy. He always let the ladies eat first, and he was very protective of his flock — especially Kung Pao, who hatched and raised him from a chick. But as the General’s testosterone surged, things got to a point where we couldn’t take food out to the chicks or change their water without fending off an attack. Everything was a threat: The big plastic waterer, the bucket we carry feed in, the reflective stripes on my sister’s running pants.

general_tso_on_the_warpath

Clearly, we were headed for another Colonel Sanders. Though he hadn’t actually drawn blood from any visitors yet, the prospect of having friends bring their kids over to meet the chickens made me shudder. And the poor hens, much fewer than he should have had, lost most of their back feathers and ran from his advances. The flock dynamic was all wrong.

And so with heavy hearts, we decided it was time to butcher our rooster.

This was my first time killing a chicken, at least directly. Over my lifetime, without really acknowledging it, I’ve commanded the deaths of thousands of chickens. Ordering it in restaurants, buying pullets from a feed store; it’s not really any different when you slaughter your own bird. It just seems that way, because it’s right there in front of you.

We helped some good friends with a few of their chickens last year, so we knew what to do and how to process the General afterward. But I’ve never personally taken the life of a creature in its prime, looking it in the eye and breathing the same air. It was a heavy prospect for me, and I shed a few tears in the days leading up to it as we made preparations. As I’m sure I will this fall, when it’s time to process the roosters from the chicks we hatched last month. But I knew I could handle it, because I realized long ago that if I’m going to keep eating meat I should be okay with where it comes from.

In the end, it was not an easy morning but it went exactly as we hoped. The General went to sleep on his roost and woke up in a dog crate, with no stressful chase and capture. His last morning was a beautiful one, with birds singing and the scent of lilacs on the breeze. And then, in the space of a few seconds, it was over. A dignified end for a rooster who meant well, but whose time had come.

see_you_later

The General is relaxing in the fridge for a couple days, so that he’ll be nice and tender. Last night, I cooked his liver and made it into a little pâté, just enough for two. It was a perfect way to celebrate a fine rooster with a bit of a mean streak.

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General Tso

General TsoTheGeneral
is crowing in the moonlight

he does not know
that when he hops down
from the perch in the morning
it will be the last time.

He will crow in the morning, also,
and call excitedly to his hens
as I throw down the scraps, a few
more scraps than usual.

And he will run at me, as he has lately;
I will keep him back with the broom.

He will run at me, not knowing
that I have a hatchet, and a recipe.

 

(poem and photo by my sister, Anne Dirkse)