Chicken anyone?

Yesterday I went to a friend's house to learn how to kill and butcher a chicken. Having a broody hen this year meant we suddenly have 12 chickens, 4 of which seem to be boys... so I had to decide what to do with them. We can't keep them all as they fight and nobody wants to keep cockerels, so I thought, Ok, I'll give them to someone who will humanely kill and eat them. Then one chick, now called Limpy, had his little problems, or hers I should say (at least I think shes a lady) and after nursing her as much as I could (hot water bottles, fried eggs for breakfast) I realised I would be able to kill her if I had to...and if I had to, baby chick was probably quite tasty, and I thought, why are we giving the cockerels away! So, as a dress rehearsal and training session I went to the master butcher's house yesterday, and helped her kill a cockerel, by chopping his head off. Nasty, but fast.

As expected, the bird moved for several minutes after having his head removed.

After a dunk in hot water and being plucked, we went on to gut him. We cut off the legs, then took all the not-so-nice bits out and cleaned him out, ready for cooking after sitting in the fridge for a few days.

His gizzard was full of grass and stones, all bright green and surreal-looking.

We emptied it out and sliced it up with the heart, liver, and something like a testicle?! and fried the lot up with a little four spice mix - cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger and cloves.

It was delicious! I thought I would feel funny eating organs as my first brush with chicken in 19 years but it was surprisingly easy and tasty. The whole experience was surprisingly easy. It marked such a change in attitude for me - still marked by a sense of looking after the animal (only in the Al Pacino sense now...)

But joking aside, there was a real sense of care that this animal dies as easily as possible, with as little pain as possible. And a very different engagement with the animal than what I am used to - suddenly relating to the animal as a food source. It made me think of eating eggs too. By buying eggs I end up supporting the chicken industry in general and this means cockerels being killed, whether for animal or human food. I would much rather keep my own chickens and watch them live a happy life in the garden, and produce the most flavourful eggs. But a by-product of keeping chickens for eggs is too many cockerels - and it makes sense to me that this is actually a really good source of protein for me - if I am going to eat meat (which after many years of vegetarianism I seem to be craving with a bloodthirstyness not seen in many meat eaters.)

The whole experience was marked by a sense of respect for the life being taken and gratitude for what was received, which I can only wish is there for every animal being butchered.