Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Roosters and hens

Any time we lived in a place that would accommodate chickens, we had them.  In ND, we ordered 100 baby chicks in the early spring.  Raised them in the basement under warm lights until they were old enough for outside.  That fall, we butchered most of them.   Craig's dad and  a couple of  friends helped me. 

 Craig was going to help, but even though he grew up around hunting and butchering, his tender heart opposed him.  The first morning we had the hot water boiling, the table, the garbage cans, the knives, hatchet and anything else that would get us started.  Our goal was to process 10-15 a day.  

Gordon, my father in law, reminded  Craig that when you chop their heads off, if you use the hatchet and sort of thunk them first with the dull end they naturally stick their heads out for you and make it easy.  Craig is a trusting soul and believed his dad.  He's also really strong.    Matter of factly, he thunked the first one on the head while holding it's feet in the other hand.  It turned around and looked him right in the eye, like, "What was that for?".  He thunked it again firmly,  harder.  Same thing happened-it dazedly looked around at him, crushed that this gentle giant would be so rough.  Hating to disappoint me, Craig shook his head, tears running down his face and said, "Honey, you'll have to find someone else to do this part, I can't".  

Gordy came over faithfully every morning and cut the heads off 10 chickens so I could process them.  He would hold them while they bled, so they wouldn't run around and gush everywhere or get dirty.  I couldn't cut their heads off either, but the rest of the processing went well and I loved the freezer full for the winter.  I saved one and cooked it that first week but it was too real, too soon; none of us seemed very hungry.  What if it was Matilda?  It became easier after that.  

We never did get chickens to butcher after that, but in Lake Stevens, we got 12 chicks to raise to lay eggs.  By that fall they were laying and the next spring some of the hens got broody, nested and we had batches of chicks.  Watching and observing them was so interesting.  The babies obeyed that hen when she called them under her wings, sensing danger.  While I was out gardening they loved scratching in the newly tilled dirt for grubs and worms.  

We had a little white banty rooster.  He was a prince of a rooster.  His harem was very well taken care of, protected and provided for.  While they were feeding and digging, they could do it with complete abandon, as he watched out for danger.  He would  scratch up a worm now and then and offer it to his lady instead of eating it.  He was on guard the whole time they were outside of the pen.  One night, we forgot to lock the door.  When we got up in the morning there were white feathers spread over 1/2 acre of our yard.  A hen with 1 chick got killed, but the other chicks we found.  He must have put up a brave fight to the death trying to protect his family.   

I still miss fresh eggs that taste like eggs and a rooster welcoming the morning.  Don't think our neighbors would appreciate it though.  

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