Killing chooks, the other side of things. When meat doesn’t come from the supermarket.

by Veronica on September 22, 2010

in Animals

Warning, this post talks about things that some readers may find distasteful. Please don’t read it if you can’t get your head around animals being slaughtered for food.

This is a repost from a while back on my food blog.


There is a feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you kill an animal. It’s that sinking feeling as you hit a wallaby in your car, that drop when you have to kill something for it’s own good.

These are the things I thought about as I held a flapping dead chook in my hand this afternoon.

3 hours previously:

Walking to collect the eggs, I entered the shed with the laying boxes and spooked one of my hens – she wasn’t laying, but she bolted when she saw me.

Another hen was laying at the time, curled up in her nesting box as I went down the row, collecting duck eggs and a chook egg.


Is that a peck hole? In my egg shell? Fuck.

It was, a suspicious peck in an egg – done recently as there was no dirt or grit around the entrance. As recently as me walking into the chook shed.

Fuck it.

Some chooks, they eat eggs. Something happens and they discover what is inside an egg and they start pecking all the eggs to pieces. If left, they’ll teach the other hens how to eat eggs and it will end up terribly. No eggs = no baby chickens = no reason for keeping chooks.

There is only one cure for an egg eating hen, and that is a quick death.

A few days ago, I’d found a duck egg broken in the bottom of the nest. I thought it odd at the time, knowing how tough the shells on my eggs are and I wasn’t sure a duck standing on the egg would have broken it.

I didn’t clean it up at the time, planning to come back and clean the straw and broken mess out of the bottom of the nest when I got a chance. So this morning when I found the pecked egg, I remembered the broken duck egg and went over to clean the nest.

Only to find the entire egg was gone, shell and all.

An egg eater, for sure. A possum or rat, well, they would have taken eggs from the other nests as well and made a right mess.

At this point, I was fairly sure that the chook I’d seen disappear when I walked into the chook shed was my culprit. She didn’t make an alarm call of ‘I was laying and PREDATOR’ or act like the other hens, quietly clucking at me in distaste when I bothered them.

AND she was standing leaning into the nest with the pecked egg.

So, we did what you do with an egg eater.

We caught her and killed her, humanely and fast. One chop and she went from upside down and relaxed in my hand, to dead. It was fast and it was painless for her, over in less than a moment. Slightly more traumatic for me, as my stomach dropped and I felt the feelings that come with slaughtering something.

But this is how it works when you’re making an effort to live more sustainably and only wanting to eat happy, ethical chickens. No one likes killing, (no one normal anyway), but it’s a fact of life.

Once she stopped flapping the death flaps and relaxed, we strung her up by a leg and did what you do – skinning, gutting, cleaning. It took a little while, as it was the first chook I’d done myself. I watched plenty of times as a child, but the actual act of doing, well, slow and steady and all that. There are things I’d never asked my father, like ‘how do you get the lungs out?’ and ‘how do you make sure you’ve got all the unborn eggs and kidneys out?’ but no matter, I worked it out myself. Me and my sharp knife and Nathan chatting to me while I worked. It was okay once I started, less like killing and more like processing meat. No different to gutting and filleting fish – a regular part of my growing up.

And then I brought the meat inside and chopped it into pieces for soup – which is bubbling nicely at the moment.

Tonight when we eat, I will silently thank the chook for living a good life and enabling me to eat ethical meat my way and I will know that this chook, she had the best life possible before she died and that her death wasn’t traumatic, for anyone other than Nat and I. Amy walked outside just after we’d chopped the hen’s head off and we talked about it.

That this is where meat comes from. We don’t get meat from the supermarket, meat comes from animals and our job is to give animals a happy life and ethical humane death.

Half way through skinning a chicken

Note the yellow fat? Proper free range healthy chooks have yellow fat and skin. Supermarket chooks have generally been bleached to make them more ‘attractive’. Personally, I’ll take bright yellow over covered in bleach any day.

This is once I’d broken it down and was browning in olive oil.

Recipe for chicken and potato soup:

Take your chicken, make sure it’s free range and break it down into it’s various elements. Take off the breasts, chop the legs down close to the carcass and remove them from the body. Brown everything in olive oil, including the carcass.

When everything is well browned, add 5 roughly chopped onions and a leek. Let them colour a little. Don’t burn anything!

Deglaze the pot with some white wine if you’re organised, or if you’re me, deglaze with warm water.

Cover the chicken pieces with water and bring to a simmer.

Add 4 large potatoes, chopped.

Cook until the meat falls from the bones and the potato falls apart.

Season with salt and pepper.

Amy September 22, 2010 at 7:07 am

Great story and recipe. I’d like the idea of fresh meat. Sounds like a yum combination of soup!

I’d be a bit shaky after killing an animal, too!

red September 22, 2010 at 8:00 am

You have grown up to be a wonderful mum , a wonderful person and a wondrous, chook wrangler

Jayne September 22, 2010 at 9:59 am

Good on you, I admire your ability to process your own food like this 🙂

taz September 22, 2010 at 11:30 am


i went to an agricultural high school i remember them teaching me that if you had a hen that would peck at the eggs. the best way too stop her would be to file the top of there peak not enough to bleed but enough so she couldnt crack the eggs.. my great aunt did it to her hens and it worked instantly..

the cooked meat does look yummy though

sharon September 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

You are one tough, determined, ethical woman Veronica. I know I couldn’t do that, and would be vegetarian if I had to actually kill for meat and fish, but good for you for living your lives on your own terms.

Veronica September 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Amy – the soup was great!

Red – well, I was brought up very well. Hehehe. Ducks next, want to come and help with the slaughter then?

Jayne – thanks, I dislike doing it, but I’m proud of the fact I *can*.

Taz – I’d find filing their beak to be more cruel than a quick death, how are they meant to peck snails out of their shells, or kill beetles if you’ve filed their beak?

Sharon – I really dislike doing it, but then, I think that means I’m a sane human being. It’s one of those things though, as much as I hate the killing, I like knowing where my meat came from and that it had a happy life while it was alive.

achelois September 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm

yummy. we used to keep chickens and do the necessary then eat them when I was growing up – you now in that big house with the lots of land. Now unfortunately not enough room. tasty mmmmm….. lucky you.

katef September 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm

We ate our two new roosters the other night (they were bantam crosses and smallish so we needed two for a meal). This is the third time we’ve killed and eaten our own chickens and each time we get better at it and each time we marvel over how different they look and taste to store bought chook.

I never EVER thought I would ever be growing our own meat… but it is life affirming in a strange way isn’t it…..sombre but not sad, messy but not gruesome and sort of grounds you in a strange way.

Maggie September 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Very good post. I wish more people thought and acted like you do.

Kim (frogponsrock) September 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Well done you, your father is very proud of you ( as am I)

river September 22, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Sadly, I’m stuck with store bought chicken, but I no longer buy it from the supermarkets. Even their free range stuff is not so much different form the rest. I used to buy from Lenards, a shop that specialises in just chicken, but they’ve developed a whole range of preprepared chicken products, usually covered in I don’t know what, and their plain chicken is tasting more like supermarket chicken. Now I get my chicken from a small Asian shop in the mall across the road from where I work or from Feast, which costs more but a lot of the meat and chicken there is truly free range and so much tasier.
Your soup looks delicious, but I know if it was me I couldn’t resist adding carrots.

BendyGirl September 23, 2010 at 12:18 am

Great post V! We all need to understand where the meat we eat comes from. I hate seeing animals being transported to slaughter, surely it’s more ethical to kill them where they live rather than subject them to the trauma of a lorry? BG Xx

Megan @ Writing Out Loud September 23, 2010 at 5:45 am

I really enjoyed reading this, Veronica. Such a great way to eat – knowing exactly what’s going into your system. We have a friend who has sheep on her farm and she recently offered us one. She had the butcher guy there, chopping up all the meat and we went along and helped pack it and told him what cuts of meat we wanted. I thought I’d hate that, but it was actually really great – although there was no blood or guts by that stage! – and the meat was the best!

taz September 23, 2010 at 8:34 am

how far do ya file it down?

my great aunt said its basically ready to get rid of the sharp bit that puts pecks in the eggs..

Veronica September 23, 2010 at 9:25 am

Achelois – I think our land makes up for the fact our (tiny) house is falling down. Heh.

Kate – it’s spooky how different they look isn’t it? Makes me wonder how the supposedly ‘free range’ chicken at the supermarket is raised.

Maggie – so do I!

Frogponds – Hehehehe. Hopefully the next time we’ve got to kill, the weather will be more pleasant than recently!

River – the only reason I didn’t add carrots was because we’d run out of them! Otherwise I would have added carrot and celery too.

Bendy – I agree, I keep harping on about ethical and humane treatment, but at the end of the day, I can only change what we do.

Megan – lucky you! I’m looking for someone nearby to do the same thing with us.

Taz – if you file their beak even a little, you reduce how well they can feed. Taking the point off means they can’t pick things up off the ground as easily. I think it’s cruel.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: