It is quite humbling to catch a chicken, hold her, pet her, attempt to calm her, pass her off to Steve, and look her in the eye as the hatchet comes down. Then after plucking feathers, and knifing away the vitals, I carry it on ice to my freezer. I did that today. I caught a bird that has lived at Ferncliff much longer than I have, and helped end her life.
This article is about killing chicken. I thought you should know that here before you decide to keep reading or not.
There was a bright vivacious red color blood. There were feathers–lots of them. There was a small child calling at his father, “please don’t kill it Dad.” There was slimy smelly guts. There was skin. There were feathers we missed. There was yellow fat. It smelled like a dead animal, it did a lot of twitching. It bled on me. It’s smell lingers in my arm hairs hours later.
Today I am brought back to the earth. I am reminded how the life thing works. I must kill to eat–be it a bird, a mammal, a plant. I must cut open the earth to plant, cut off the leaf or root, cut off the head, or in some way “cut off” and consume another’s life to sustain my own. We humans are pretty destructive if you think about it.
Continual sacrifice, death, and dirty, smelly, labor are required to continue our lives. This is real. This is food. This is life.
Jesus’ sacrifice gives us life.
All food comes at a cost of life.* It makes me think of James Cameron’s Avatar in the scenes when they hunt. The blue girl Neytiri, teaches the blue guy Jake Sully to respect the animals he hunts. A few times you see her approach the animal she has attacked and fatally wounded. She says. “I see you” “I thank you.” She has a brief zen moment with it. Some call it a prayer. Then she slits it’s throat to kill it. Jake does this later while hunting. That movie has a lot about “knowing” the other animals on the planet with the jellyfish tentacle thing from their hair that they touch each other with. I don’t have one of those things in my hair (that I know of) but I appreciate the concept–A truer empathy and understanding with other people and other species even. What if we had that today? I think it was more prevalent a few generations back. A lot of adults here talked about butchering chickens with their grandparents. Fifty years ago everyone did this, somehow now for me it’s new and blog-worthy.
In the real world how much of our food do we see? How much do we thank? How much do we want to see? How much are we thankful for?
My thoughts taper off into trying to empathize with the bird….
I remember Steve said today, “I don’t think God intended for us to enjoy it.”
I am a heterotroph. I must consume energy from something. I cannot generate it on my own. That’s biology. I’m imperfect and rely on God for forgiveness and renewal. That’s faith.
I did this to some quail at NuBeginning Farm a few years ago. The same shaky feeling came over me. Catching the bird knowing what you’re going to do to it is the worst part. Doing the deed is tough. I could only kill five quail then. Steve killed them for us today. It gets better when the feathers come off and it looks like store food more than an animal.
It hasn’t made me vegetarian, but it’s made me realize someone for a job has to get bled on every time we order meat. It’s made me remember that an animal had to die to make my dinner. It reminds me death is hard and the insides smell really bad if you cut something wrong. It’s gross and vile. This has made me very comfortable having meat only once or twice a week, and often less than that.
With chicken blood on my pants, and a chicken’s blood on my hands, I realize more fully, I must inevitably leave a mark (or a pile of feathers) behind if I am to continue.
The chickens that died today left a mark on me (more than blood), and I will say some words about them.
(Placing my hat over my heart…)
While living, these birds put many a egg in a campers hand, they were the first animal many a child ever held, and they were used to teach many how to farm. Even today as they died, 7 people from ages 7 and up were taught “how we eat chicken,” how to kill it, and make it ready for your kitchen. They became part of a meal for the YAVs and the Americorps team. They lived a happy life eating a mix of grass, bugs, and feed and lived to a ripe old age before they had to go.
I thank you dear bird. I held you, I see you, I smell you, I thank you. I’m also sorry, it was kind of rude for me to move into your home and help kill you soon after.
This Chicken Killer’s Benediction:
May all birds have the chance to give such light to the world.
May our human lives and deaths be a blessing to all who hold us.
And may there always be good soup!
Thank you God, Thank you Birds
*Idea: In the author’s opinion, arguably fruits, seeds, and eggs do not cause death to anything living. Most edible fruits are like gifts the plant wants you to take so you spread it’s seeds. (so plant a few of them once and a while-pay it forward) It doesn’t damage a plant to pluck it’s fruit in the same way tearing a leaf or cutting off the root literally tears cells apart and damages the plant. Unfertilized eggs will not develop into chicks so we might as well eat them since they are there, right? Nothing dies there because it wasn’t really alive. I don’t consider those alive in how birds are alive.