Vegetarians and faint of heart, go down to the last paragraph or join us tomorrow for another fresh post 🙂
I don’t know if I am really proud of it, but kind of, so yay for being a killer I guess. I have been talking for quite some time around here about how I want to own my decision of eating meat, and kill the chickens from my coop myself, instead of expecting them to magically appear in my kitchen, plucked and emptied from their organs. In real life, it has taken me a year to gather the strength to kill one of them. For my defense, we have only eaten a couple of them so far, because with the heavy rain, the hens are not laying eggs that fast, and we were concerned about waiting for the next generation to be laying before killing the old ones. Out of 10 initial hens, 4 died of unknown causes and one was eaten by a wild animal, leaving us with 5 adults only.
The first one to go was “the little black one”, because she was mean to everyone around her. The handyman killed her as I watched and learned. There are two schools of killing if you would like to know. The first one is to cut the head with a machete, resulting in a blood bath but probably less suffering for the animal, and the second one is to wring the neck until it breaks, which requires a bit of strength and nerves of steel. We went for the second approach. Little black one was soon killed, and since I never liked her in the first place, it was not that painful.
A week later, it was my turn. BF, who always loves to challenge me, declared it would be the perfect day to kill not one, but the four remaining old ones, as they were not laying eggs anymore, they were just freeloaders and we could freeze them anyway. Why, ok, let’s go from white handed virgin to serial killer while we’re at it…
I went to get the first one, aptly named Lunch. The poor thing was one of the first hens to have joined the coop, together with Breakfast, who was on death row that day too, and Dinner, who had died a few months back after getting drenched by the rain on a cold day. Probably the flu.
Anyway, I liked Lunch, and didn’t want to see her suffer. I grabbed her legs in my left hand, put her head down, and with the right hand, started pulling in order to break her neck. I was really happy with the first pull, and thought I was done with the job, but the handyman told me she wasn’t dead, so I pulled and pulled some more. Nope. Not dead. Oh boy. I was really concerned now, for the poor animal had been half dead but not fully for what seemed like an eternity.
The handyman had to give her the fatal pull, and explain to me again. You don’t pull hard once, you pull steady for a minute or so, then the nerves tear apart. I was able to do another two myself but it was pretty hard to be detached when you have lived with the animals for a year. No one gets names in the next generation.
After the hens are killed, you need to plunge them in a bucket of boiling hot water, to relax their pores so you can pluck the feathers. This is a tedious job, and it smells like wet animal. The head has to stay down so the blood drains in the rest of the body. Once the animal is plucked, you can cut the head and remove the bits of blood.
After that, you open a whole around the rectum, and pull out the intestines of the chicken. That is the most disgusting part. Then you go find the heart, the liver, the kidneys and the throat, that you can eat. You need to clean them properly, and put them apart.
Last, you make a hole around the neck of the chicken to remove another bag where they keep their food, that you need to tear apart from the chicken. Another clean, and it is ready to go!
Cost of eating your own chickens
You can read about the cost of running a chicken coop here, where I crunch the numbers mostly about eggs. The thing is, we haven’t had eggs for a while as the weather has been cold and it looks like there is a disease in the village and many families lost all their animals. Thankfully, we gave ours a shot before going to Europe and none has died, but having no eggs means we spend $40 a month on chicken food and get no reward.
A free range adult hen or rooster costs $12-$15 in the village. Out of this, we make a soup with vegetables that lasts for two to three days, or six adult portions. It is pretty cheap but there isn’t a lot of meat either. A free range chicken is maybe half the size of a hormone pumped industrial chicken.
We have been without eggs or barely for the past 4 months, meaning it has cost us $160 and we got 5 hens, and 5 roosters, at a cost of $16 each. This is more expensive than buying our own, and this model is only viable when the hens reproduce and lay eggs properly.
During the laying months, we get free eggs, free chickens, and the eggs hatch to give even more chicks.
We were up to 40 animals from an initial 10, so this investment has quadrupled in a year, however, with the high cost of bird feed, I think we are barely breaking even if they don’t start laying soon.
Cost of eating a village pig
Another thing that we have been doing is buying a whole pig in the village and have the handyman and his girlfriend kill it and sell it back to us as meat.
Pork meat costs $3 a pound at the butcher’s, 6 miles away. You never know where the pig comes from, while the village pig has only been eating around in the village and is usually healthier.
An adult pig was for sale at $75, so we bought it and gave it to the couple to process it.
We said we would pay the same price to them, for 20 pounds of meat, we bought half pig: one leg, one arm, one rib and one filet mignon that goes along the spine. Our order was $60.
So the couple was left with half the pig to sell, which should bring them another $60, they need to give us back $15 to adjust the purchase price of the live animal, and keep $45, which is a pretty nice payday in the village.
On top of the other half, they also get to keep the head (pork tongue is a delicacy here), liver, heart, kidneys, and they fry the skin to make chicharrones, another loved dish here, that when you fry the skin releases a few gallons of fat, that is then sold for cooking.
Anyway, they were happy too, as they got to sell quite a bit of meat and kept the rest to make snacks for workers the next day and earn a bit more. Plus the whole family had pig meat all weekend, when they rarely eat meat.
For us, it seems like a neutral operation, we got to buy meat at market price, but we got better meat, we got dibs on the best cuts, and we also got to help our employees make a little extra cash.
Would you kill your own meat if you had to or rather go vegetarian?
This post was featured on the Frugal Farmer, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, thank you!
My Wealth Desire says
Though it is high cholesterol for pig fry skin, its very yummy to eat chicharon as we called it. I love to eat chicken and pork that came from the village. Mostly the are feed from natural feeds, no chemicals and processed foods.
yes, they taste so much better than industrial meat.
This is one of the reasons that I don’t eat meat. I could never do this and I don’t want to pay someone else to do it. You can keep your chickens, Pauline!!! =)
Well done on keeping your decision, so many people eat meat but couldn’t see the animal it came from.
DC @ Young Adult Money says
I’d like to think I’d be willing to eat animals that I have to kill and prep myself, but so far I haven’t had to do it so I guess I can’t say until I’m faced with the situation haha.
Until now as a survivng choice I think I would have gone vegetarian. I am happy to know how to do it, however if I had to kill every animal I eat I think I would rarely eat meat.
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Thanks so much for writing this, Pauline. We struggle lots with the decision to get our own chickens, for this very reason. We are huge animal lovers, but really don’t want to keep them after they’re done laying, and I”m not sure any of us have the heart to kill them afterward, yet, if we’re going to get chickens, I feel it’s something we need to be willing to do. Not sure if I can answer your question yet, but you’ve definitely given me more to think about.
The first time is tough but you get used to it. I just have a hard time doing it to eat the same day so I froze them to eat later on.
That is actually one of the reasons why I don’t eat anything with a face. I couldn’t kill one and don’t want anyone else to do the dirty work for me. Also, I get very attached to any kind of animal and I couldn’t bring myself to end their life just because they have no use for me anymore. Being my slaves/ suppliers/ food not their purpose in life, so who am I to take it away from them? To me, the life of no one, human or animal, has a deadline.
Ah well, but that’s just my approach.
Hey Andrea, I think that’s great you are sticking to your decision and not eating meat as a result. Many people eat meat but would be unable to process their food. I got attached to the turkey and couldn’t eat it but one duck was really means and aggressive and I had no problem slaughtering it.
John S @ Frugal Rules says
I still have to laugh at the names you gave them. 🙂 I’d like to think I would not have a problem will raising animals to kill them, but I’d definitely have to do it without the kids around. I think it would traumatize them at their current ages. 😉
As I told William, the kids here watch and help from a very young age, but they are probably used to it for as far as they can remember. Doing it for the first time with a 6 year old, especially if you are unsure of your moves and showing distress yourself is certainly a bad idea.
William @ Drop Dead Money says
I was about 6 or so and spent Christmas with my grandparents on their farm. Came time to kill a cow for the next year’s meat supply and I was invited to come and watch. Quick, bullet to the head. But I was so traumatized I vowed never to kill anything unless it was charging me. So I live in Colorado and don’t hunt — that’s like living in New York and never seeing a show, I guess.
I don’t even eat fish or shrimp if they still have eyes looking back at me! But that doesn’t stop me from devouring patties hiding between two or three half-buns. I love America, where the animals come asleep in styrofoam trays or drive-thru bags! 🙂
haha, makes things much easier to have it cut and packed for you. I don’t mind the fish, although I remember one that had particularly blaming eyes. Here the kids help when the pig is slaughtered, so they are used to it since they are able to walk. I can imagine what a traumatic experience it is when you are older on your first time.
Matt Becker says
Wow, now that’s some detail! I’ve never done anything like that and I’ll freely admit that it would be hard for me too. I much prefer just being able to pick it up from the grocery store.
Yeah, it is pretty graphic when you DIY.
I love meat but there is no way I could kill my own food. City life has made me soft; I know. 🙂
haha, reminds me of a funny cartoon of city kids thinking a real life chicken was a small nuggets with two legs and two eyes.
Done by Forty says
Good on you for killing your own meat. I’ve never done so, except with fish I caught way back as a kid.
We kick around the idea of raising chickens here, as it seems both cool and rewarding. But when I run the numbers I can’t see it being the right move financially. From the experience perspective though, maybe it’s worthwhile, just to own the decision, as you say.
You have to compare corn grown free range chickens’ price to the cost of raising chickens. Not a factory chicken, which are 2-3 times cheaper. Plus the cost of free range organic eggs.
If you manage to reproduce them properly it can be worth it, I struggle a bit with reproduction so they come out more expensive. Then if you value your time it is probably better to just buy them. I like knowing exactly where they came from and what they ate though.
Erin @ My Alternate Life says
I know this makes me a hypocrite, but I’m a meat eater who could never kill my own food. I’m not an animal lover (nor am I a sociopathic animal hater, I’m just indifferent I guess), I’m just too squeamish. If I had to kill my own food, I’d be a vegetarian. Maybe a pescatarian, killing fish is way easier and seemingly less traumatizing.
I don’t think that makes you a hypocrite, after all that is one perk of modern convenience. Two or three generations ago it would have been normal, like in my village the women kill the chickens and the men slaughter pigs and bigger animals.
Tonya@Budget and the Beach says
That is a very tough question. I admire your courage and your reasoning behind wanting to kill your own animals for meat to eat. I really honestly hope I’m never faced with that decision because I probably would go vegetarian. I realize I’m one of those people kind of burying my head in the sand because I do eat meat, however, this just gives me more motivation to know, as much as can anyway, about how my meat was killed. And try to buy meat from a vendor which treated their animals well while they lived. And I agree with Erin…I’d probably just eat fish because I don’t have a problem fishing.
My first time fishing I was completely helpless with the fish moving on the floor, I couldn’t grab it and saw it was struggling and dying slowly so I grabbed the rope with the hook and banged the poor fish against a rock until it died… Then I got used to it, and to emptying its intestines. It takes some getting used to, but like the hens it is just a matter of practice.
You had a hen named Lunch?!?!
I definitely could not kill anything, so I’d have to go vegetarian. Which would mean I’d be eating every two hours and eating all the carbs I could get my hands on.
Yes, the first three to join the coop were named Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner as an attempt to get less emotional and treat them like food on legs… didn’t work, I ended up getting attached.
PS – I think you’re awesome. Do you think having spent time with the hens beforehand makes it easier or harder?
At the begining I didn’t know how to handle them, or catch them, I barely wanted to touch them. Having them around made me used to it so it was probably better to gather the strength to kill them. However you can’t treat them as pets or it gets really hard. The turkey was brought for Christmas 2012 but he escaped one day before so we didn’t eat it, and I started treating it like a pet, he would sleep near my room and this Christmas it was just impossible to kill him. The hens since there were 30 or so it was easier not to get too sentimental with one in particular.
I really like the idea of raising your own food, and I’d have no problem preparing and eating it, but I could not kill it. I really don’t like birds at all, and I have a strange irrational fear of chickens, especially multiple ones, so they would probably sense that and peck out my eyes. If it was a matter of feeding my family, though, you bet I’d wring it’s neck.
her every cent counts says
Wow, that’s pretty hardcore. I was a vegetarian for years but started eating meat again a while ago. I always said if you can’t kill it yourself then don’t eat it… but I never had the ability to bring myself to killing an animal. It sounds terrible. And I don’t even like animals! Too bad about the eggs, sounds like it’s not even a good investment.
GREAT POST– My son helped process 10 chickens when he was six or seven- this was not a trauma to him and once he started hunting venison for food he also learned to field dress and butcher with no issues. I think it was that he was exposed to the process while young in a small scale ( backyard) and very humane way of bringing food to the table. If individuals have this type of connection to what they eat, I think they would honor food and have much less waste- just my humble opinion.
Raising your own food is a great idea! You can eat nutritious and fresh meat. I was planning to make a simple poultry farm and start eating healthy.
The taste is much better and it is healthier, that is if you can kill them!
KK @ Student Debt Survivor says
I used to be a vegetarian for exactly the reasons you mentioned (If I can’t kill my own animals why would I want to pay someone else to do it for me?). It’s something I still struggle with now. I don’t eat pork or beef but I still eat chicken and turkey. I think I could kill a chicken if I had to, but I definitely wouldn’t want to kill one that I was personally attached too. Food for thought or vice versa, for sure!
That’s hard when you’ve had them around for a year. Now I put the coop at the back of the house and don’t give them names.
If my choices were to go vegetarian or kill something, I’d also be raising chickens. I would also go the bloody route with the machete since it’s faster (my great-grandparents had a butcher’s shop, and that was a part that didn’t make me flinch). I’d miss steak…a lot. But I don’t ever see myself being able to kill and break down a cow myself, so I’d have to give it up. Thankfully, I don’t mind buying all of our meat ready-to-go from Kroger, lol.
I want to give the bloody route a try, but I’d say you have to be two, one to hold and one to chop. Same for the cow, here they usually do it between 3-4 men.
Stephanie @ Six Figures Under says
How is the meat of an old-layer? I’m sure it tastes different than a young whole chicken you get at the store.
Our hens are nearing the end of their laying career, so it’s about time for them to go, but I’m not sure if we should eat them or just bury them.
It is a bit dryer, the bones are much stronger and it fills you more than the same weight of supermarket chicken. Would you kill them and bury them or wait for them to die? Apparently they only lay for a year but can live 4-5 years after that so if could be costly to have so many mouths to feed.
Stephanie @ Six Figures Under says
We would kill them and bury them. It would be too expensive to keep them if they aren’t laying. I’ll see what my husband and inlaws think about eating them. I usre don’t want to to “the deed” but my husband and father-in-law are fine with it.
These hens were chicks nearly 2 years ago, so they’ve been laying for a good year and half. We’ll get some new chicks soon 🙂
101 Centavos says
Regretfully, we’re not able to keep chickens, ducks or geese at our house. Would if we could, but HOA covenants are what they are. If you’re partial to goose meat, it can be had for the cost of a well-trimmed grass lawn (if you have a grass lawn).
I have a couple of geese, the lady only laid one egg in a year which she later ate… I was waiting for them to reproduce before considering eating them (yum!) but it looks like a lost cause. And they completely ruined the lawn, which is now bare and sad. If they didn’t looked so lovely when they swim in the lake they’d probably be eaten by now, they make a lot of noise too which can get annoying when I have guests.
Anne @ Unique Gifter says
We’ve been buying whole lambs for the past two years for the freezer. One we got from my friend’s relative, and I have been to their farm before. The second one we got from the place my spouse’s aunt buys them and they are raised by the Hutterites, which are kind of like Amish people (very similar).
I have never plucked a chicken before. We get grouse here, but there is so little meat on them that the most common way to clean them is to stand on their wings and pull on their legs. all of the outside feather bits come off, then you cut off the breasts and get rid of the rest. I have to wear thick gloves to do it because it totally grosses me out, but I also like to “own” eating meat. (I prefer to eat a vegetarian diet, aside from stuff that lives wild here… but I end up eating a lot of meat in addition to that.)
The taste is so much better, and it feels fuller to eat “real” meat, a supermarket chicken does 2 meals and a local one 3 in spite of being smaller. I imagine the Hutterites meat is delicious too!