Monday, October 5, 2009

cannibal chickens and a spinning head

My attempting to be self-sufficient friends (the warders at rabbit-stalag-luft) and I had an important discussion about cannibal chickens. I shall never attempt to convert the savage chickens and keep a weather-eye for roosters with large cooking pots... actually as far as I could figure the chickens confined their cannabilistic behaviour to other chickens, and if they ate you anyway, it was just fine because as you weren't a chicken or an egg, it wasn't cannibalism. According to them chickens are good evidence that yes, birds are the lineal decendents of T.rex and haven't really changed that much. Their birds had gone egg-cannibal which they cured with extra calcium in the diet. I'm listening very carefully to all this stuff as we expect to have to keep chooks. I hope my next effort is better than my success at it as a young shark biologist. We stayed in a rented cottage on a run-down farm and had semi-inerited a flock of feral bantams that came to be fed every day. We'd had a spell of bad weather (ergo the fish and shellfish we normally principally lived on were low) and the exchequer was at its usual biologist's income flush point. And the chickens had increased vastly in number. So I went out with mayhem or at least chicken dinner in mind. I baited the feeding area well, and put more food under the steel bucket with one edge propped up with a stick with a piece of thin fishing line attached... leading to my lurking place 50 yards away.

Of course one of the roosters led the charge.

Did I mention that thin fishing line has quite a stretch factor and that the bucket was heavy and not easy to balance on the stick. The stick had to be pushed into the ground a little...

peck peck
peck peck peck
wander off and bully a hen.
return. Peck. peck peck. advance.


Pull harder.
Line snaps

The next day I used 200kg tuna line.
Now I''m not very squeamish, but I really hadn't thought through the 'how to kill a chicken' bit. I'm a firm believer in quick and clean (I do not approve of people who leave fish to flop on the deck or beach.) I'm an omnivore, prepared to eat meat, so in need, I'll kill it. Quick, neat and painlessly as possible. I've been dealing with fish-killing all my life. So I ran out there, and beside the fact that I was not going to have the scene with the headless chicken running around spewing blood, I really didn't know what to do.
Grab chicken.
Not happy rooster. Bullying is left to him, not happens to him. Decide to wring neck.
So I did. Several times as I had no idea what it took.
And the dastardly deed done I turned to pick up the bucket to put the rooster into.
And the chicken dinner -- just like in the cartoons -- stops being dead.
Starts running, its wrung neck unwinding, head spinning (you heard of someone's head spinning? Bet you didn't know it was on a rotating neck.)
The next few hours until dark were spent by a horrified Dave (you've injured it, you must kill it mercifully) chasing chickens through about 100 acres of scrub.
I never caught it, and it continued to rule the flock until we left the farm.


  1. Part of me regrets that I never took the opportunity to learn the little tricks of the country farmer, such as how to cleanly remove a rabbit skin in one jerk, from my paternal grandfather.

    Although I do remember the trick is not so much to wring the chicken's neck as to quickly jerk snap the cervical vertebrae using the chicken's own weight against it.

  2. We'd cut the head off with a hatchet, and toss the body away to run and flop, bleeding it out. Then pick it up by the feet and dip it in scalding water to loosen the feathers for plucking (also kills any lice it may have been carrying.) And after removing the pin-feathers, singe off the hairs (yes, for all you city-folk, chickens do have hairs!) over an open flame.

    Uck! Y'know how smell is your most-deeply impressing sense? I just got a recap of the smell of chicken guts. :p Second-youngest of the family, had to use a step-stool to properly reach the counter, and guess who got the "joy" of gutting about 50 chickens over one long weekend? (for two years in a row!) My older brothers just had to pluck the blasted things!

  3. Silverdrake -talk to B sometime about gutting 5 tons of carp. She feels much the same way. It is weird how smells conjure such intense memories.