We'd been planning to empty out the meat chicken tractor this coming Saturday morning. We'd move the layers into the laying pen and "harvest" the rest (doesn't "harvest" sound much better than "slaughter" or "butcher"?).
But, a couple days ago, cousin and fellow homesteader Lauren texted us to let us know that her hens (sisters of our hens) had laid their first tiny eggs this week. Yikes! That's early!
Anyway, we really didn't want ours to start laying while in the meat tractor (for several reasons that are probably only interesting to me, so I'll spare you.), so we moved them in with the big gals. (More on how they're adjusting in a later post.)
Then, after carefully analyzing the, shall we say, egg-laying anatomy of the yellow chickens, we selected 4 of them to keep as layers as well.
The rest of the yellow Buff Orpington's were headed for the restraining cone.
Here are some tidbits from today's harvest:
1. Our kids watched a chicken lose its head. Seeing it through their eyes was very interesting. Little Boy looked on with interest. Girl 2 had her eyes trained on her knife-wielding dad, as if to say, "How can you be doing this?" Girl 1 thought it was pretty interdsting. She even stuck around for the anatomy lesson involved in the rest of the processing, "This is kinda like dissecting a frog on the iPad!"
2. Hearing a headless chicken's squawk is disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as hearing it's head squawk a reply on its way to the trashcan.
3. This breed may not work for us in the future. Here's part of the reason why:
Do those look familiar? Look a lot like egg yolks, don't they?
Here are some more, in varying sizes, inside the body cavity of the bird I was cleaning out.
Looks even more like an egg yolk now that it's been popped.
This chicken probably would've laid an egg this next week. When you're raising chickens for meat, you really don't want them coming of laying age before slaughter. But, this hybrid heritage breed grows so slowly that the hens only just now big enough to slaughter.
In fact, this particular chicken could've provided us more calories through the eggs she'd lay us in her first month of laying than she will provide us through her meat. Thinking about that made me pretty sad.
We may have to rethink our breed selection in the future.
4. I really like my husband. I wouldn't rather have anyone else by my side for chicken slaughter. ;) I loved how he took a minute with the kids before slaughtering that chicken today to explain to them how he always breathes a prayer before making the cut-- a prayer of thankfulness for the chicken's life and the food she will provide us. Love that sentimental farmer!