Sunday Dinner

Posted on June 24th, 2012 by Tonia 14 Comments

{Alternate Title: One Chicken Down}

Dear Vegetarian and vegan readers, please proceed with caution…

The meat chickens are big enough to eat, and Sunday seemed like as good a time as any. We invited Jen and Trevor over to taste our first home-raised bird.

Mike did the honors.

He strung the bird up by the feet and waited for it to relax {the blood rushing to its head causes it to stop flapping around}, and cut its head off with one clean stroke. The heart pumped the blood out of the body through the neck, leaving a clean carcass. He then dipped the bird in a pot of boiling water and rinsed it in cold, to loosen the feathers before plucking. Once plucked, the bird looks just like a store-bought chicken. Except, this one had been walking around ten mins prior…

Mike gutted the bird and cut the feet off, and threw the discards to Jack. He had a smile on his face for days {chicken feet are a delicacy for dogs.}

Ready for cookin’! We brought it inside, rinsed and dried it off and seasoned it with salt and pepper. We don’t have a scale, but we estimated it was 6 lbs.

This chicken made three meals, plus three mason jars of chicken stock! We made French Potted Chicken {Cook’s Illustrated} the first night, BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches the second night, and chicken chili the third night. I used the bones and leftover scraps to make the stock.

It’s very simple: You place the chicken bones in a crock pot and add enough water to cover the bones. Cook on “low” overnight or for at least 6 hours. Skim any fat that rises to the surface if you wish. The next morning, add any chopped vegetables that you want {I had carrots, celery and onion in the house so that’s what I used} and salt/pepper to taste {I kept mine fairly bland, because I prefer to be able to season whatever it is I am cooking with the stock rather than have the stock already seasoned.} Cook for another few hours to infuse the flavors of the vegetables and then strain out the chunks and pour the liquid into jars. Freeze or can with a pressure canner {I froze these}.

Here’s the thing….it wasn’t easy for me to watch Mike kill the chicken. And it wasn’t easy for Mike to do it. But after I saw how every part of that animal went to use {nothing was wasted…unless you consider feeding your dog the intestines and feet a waste}, I felt better. That animal’s energy became our energy, and we’re using that energy to contribute to the world. We fed our friends and ourselves three meals. And- what makes me feel good about the whole thing above all else- that chicken had a very nice life right up until the moment she was hung upside down.

I forced myself to watch the whole thing because I wanted to feel and internalize what it really means to be a meat-eater. It’s so easy to just buy a frozen piece of meat at the grocery store and never have to think about what that animal’s life was like, or what is really involved from when that animal was born to when it sits on our table at dinner. And then it’s so easy to push our plates away and say “I’m full” and scrape our leftovers into the garbage without a second thought to the animal that gave up its life in order to provide us with the energy that we’re so frivolously throwing away.

There was no way I was going to let any part of that chicken be wasted because I had fed, watered and cleaned its home every day since it was two days old, and I had watched it die so that I could eat.

Phew. What an experience! I’m so grateful that we can go through this and try living this way. It feels right.  It feels like the way things should be. But I can’t even begin to think about killing my sweet turkeys. :(


  1. Pam says:

    I always feel protective of the chickens once we’ve harvested them. Like you, I make sure not to waste a scrap. Haven’t made bone broth before (I just throw all the parts in after we’ve eaten all the meat) but am going to have to try it. I also didn’t think the dog could eat the feet…next time. Good for you (and Mike).

  2. Peter Shaffer says:

    Hey there,
    We have egg layers but we want to venture into broilers. Where did you learn to slaughter or did you read some books? Our friends use a kill cone. I guess it works real well. thanks.

  3. Tonia says:

    We learned from other chicken farmers in the area. I have never seen the cone method before…might have to YouTube it and check it out!

  4. Trish says:

    I think it’s a really brave and important thing to do, raise an animal and then slaughter it. It obviously made an impact with you, particularly in that you worked hard to use every part of the chicken. I wish more americans would consider nose to tail eating, as it is called. A farmer who butchers cows gave me a tongue, which I have yet to try, but I am going to.

    we have so much wealth in this country that people don’t feel the need to go to any lengths to respect an animal and utilise all its parts. In the fall I cash in on deer liver from hunting friends – no one wants it. I don’t know how to say what I am trying to say without sounding mushy, but I think what you did is so important, for a carnivore.

  5. Tonia says:

    Thanks for the support, Trish!

  6. Cally Brown says:

    Vegetarian speaking here but not to criticise :) A couple of years ago I went on a tour of permaculture properties and at one we were shown how to kill, pluck, and butcher a chicken. They use an upended road cone attached to a post. The point was cut off just big enough for the head and neck to fit through, the bird was dropped down into the cone instantly still, and the one quick cut with the knife did the job. I was really impressed with how this worked, and at how the bird had so very little time to become distressed. I have had to kill a dog attacked chicken to put it out of it’s misery and it wasn’t nearly as easy as this even when it was half dead already. If I was going to eat my chickens, I’d be getting a road cone first.

  7. Mike says:

    Hi Peter, Mike here…

    The kill cone is a great way to go. It keeps the bird from moving around too much. It is basically the same idea as tying it upside down. I prefer tying because it requires no cleaning of anything. The kill cone will offer greater speed though if you’re processing multiple birds.

    I would suggest doing a YouTube search, watch a 3 minute video, and you’ll be ready to go. Once you’ve done it once you won’t forget it. It is very easy to do. We’ll post a video within a couple weeks here showing how we do it.


  8. Tricia says:

    Well done Mike. and good on you Tonia for watching.

    I want to be able to kill and prepare one of our home-grown chickens one day. I’m still not certain i’ll be able to do it. I plan on watching others do it first. Thank you for sharing your experience honestly.

  9. amanda mae says:

    Good for you guys! You’re doing it right. I love it.

  10. Barb. says:

    What sort of knive did he use please. I’m thinkling it would need to be very sharp to get through the bone in one cut. Interested as it seems quicker that how husband does it.


  11. Zoa says:

    Hey Tonia – next time you make broth, consider adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to help draw out the minerals and good stuff in the bones. Your taste buds will not even notice the difference and the nutritional content of the broth will skyrocket!

  12. Tonia says:

    Awesome, thanks Zoa!! I’m really happy to know that trick!!

  13. […] It felt a little like a factory assembly line, and I didn’t like that. I much prefer the one-off approach where we could take the time to thank the bird for its life and really process what was […]

  14. […] a life that minimizes their impact on the world. Such as by raising their own chickens for eggs and for slaughter. Owning pigs. Canning […]

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