It’s what’s for dinner. We did it. We had one of our roosters for dinner tonight. SO…
[CONTENT WARNING: don’t read if chicken guts make you queasy.]
We had six roosters; one very mean Barred Rock (Will), two Australorpes (Mike and the-one-smaller-than-Mike), and three Americanas (Loki, the orange-ish one, and Dinner). The one that became dinner was the smallest of the Americanas and was always getting picked on, plus he is too small to have his own harem (and we’d rather not pass along puny genes).
In addition to hypnotizing chickens with a line on the ground, you can also hang them upside down and they chill out and relax. No squawking and no flapping. Even tied up over the trash can he was remarkably tranquil. Almost Zen-like.
Then Farmer guy cut off his head and all that Zen-ness was replaced by flipping around blood-spraying creepy convulsions. I knew that “chicken with his head cut off” is based in fact. I just didn’t know how much fact they were talking! Head came off and he (it? the carcass?) started flapping and spinning around and thrashing so much he came untied and fell into the trash can where he thudded around for another 17 minutes! (ok maybe another 2 minutes, but when a headless dead chicken is causing the racket, time stretches). Then he was dunked into a scalding bath until his feathers came loose, then an ice bath to keep him from cooking.
Plucking feathers. You don’t have too, you can just pull the skin off, but Neil wanted to do it right.
The crop should not be this gargantuan. Because you are supposed to keep the bird in question away from food and water for at least 12 hours prior so that this thing is not full of partially digested hay, chicken food and general nastiness. Yeah well we learned that 10 minutes before we were set to go. I’ll just tell you that the contents of the crop smell bad. Really REALLY! bad.
Little man realized that if you push on the pad on the foot, the claws curl in a little bit. His sister thought that was…interesting. He was a bit bummed when I told him that, No – he could not keep playing with it and Yes – I was going to use it for something ELSE. Chicken stock to be precise.
This was my contribution. The rooster was really small. (He was small even for his breed, which are not considered meat birds). So small in fact that my husband’s hands (massive and awesome for playing the piano) were not going to fit into the body cavity. It really wasn’t so bad actually, the worst part was chicken gore under my way-too-long nails. But I did get to wear my apron, and that made me feel very farmer’s wife-ish and that was awesome.
Herbed veggies and a brush down with herbed ghee, and we were set. So turns out a bird that has a dress weight of 1.7 pounds does not yield a lot of meat. And the meat your can cut off is almost too tough to eat. The veggies were awesome!
I do understand some things a bit better now. The vast majority of commercial chicken meat (whether as a whole roaster or breast strips or nuggets) come from a breed called a Cornish X (cross). These birds have been bred for one objective and they meet that objective well. They are, however, kind of unnatural mutants. For example, if you let a Cornish X live beyond the normal 7-8 week slaughter age you run the risk of finding your bird immobile because it’s legs have broken under its own weight or dead from a heart attack because it was too fat. When I read about that I was disgusted and I still have trouble buying commercial chicken. But I get it now. It makes sense in a meat bird to have it bulk up as fast as possible so you aren’t spending money on food unnecessarily. You need the most bang for your buck and since it is going to be eaten no matter what…what is the difference between 8 weeks and 8 months?
We are exploring some options with regards to heritage meat bird breeds…breeds that could actually be worth the effort of dressing, but still be able to live a normal life and propagate (You know. In the case of zombie apocalypse). In the mean time, now that we have an idea of how it is done, we have 2 more roosters that will not be waking me up with 2:30am crowing competitions for very much longer.