Saturday, January 29, 2011

Eating Chickens

This post was originally posted on my personal blog back in January 2010. I thought I would share it on this blog because once again-- almost exactly a year later-- my husband and I just spent the afternoon butchering chickens. All the same emotions I had the first time we butchered a chicken came flooding back to me and I didn't think I could say it any better than I did the first time... so here is again.

I've known for awhile that we had too many roosters (3) and too few hens (7) and that I would probably have to do something, eventually, before my boys started fighting each other or stressing the ladies out with their friskiness. I really didn't want to get rid of any of them and I guess I was hoping that they would all find a way to coexist in peace.

But alas, my dreams of chicken coop peace were shattered several days ago when my husband came back from the chicken coop with a bloodied up rooster. I guess there had been quite the cockfight in our little coop because the other rooster was pretty cut up as well. So we had to get rid of a rooster. I was all for selling him on craigslist but my husband was pretty adamant that we should eat him.

We'd half joked about eating our chickens when the time came but weren't really sure if we could do it. When the time finally came my husband said that if we couldn't kill and eat our own chicken then we had NO business being able to buy it nicely saran wrapped at the grocery store. He said that we only had two choices that wouldn't make us hypocrites... we'd either have to kill and eat the chicken or become vegetarians. He was dead serious about both.

So we ate the rooster.

My husband killed it and did most of the cleaning. I offered to help, cleaning birds doesn't really phase me much because in High School I had my falconry license, but I think he really needed to do it by himself. I think he was kind of testing himself. I really believe that if he couldn't have done it or if it had been too traumatizing for him that we would have become a vegetarians on the spot.

My husband said the experience was emotionally draining but that it wasn't as bad as he expected. The only weird part was that the chicken's skin was blue. I guess Silkie chickens are an exotic breed that have blue skin under their feathers and are considered to be a real delicacy in China. It kind of weirded him out but I didn't really mind.

It was actually a really humbling experience to eat our chicken. When I said the prayer over the food, for one of the first times in my life, I sincerely felt grateful. I was deeply grateful to this chicken who gave its life for us and grateful for the privileged to have food. Seeing first hand the sacrifice that went into my meal, and all the hard work involved to get it to the table, really changed the whole eating experience for me. Instead of being a blob of saran wrapped flesh at the grocery store that I was totally disconnected to, this was a living creature that I owed something to. I found myself less willing to let any of the chicken go to waste. We ate as much as we needed and then we boiled down the rest to make chicken soup with. Throwing the left overs in the garbage somehow seemed completely and utterly wrong. I think that if I was to be this connected to all my food, especially my meat, that I would eat less and be better at eating all things in moderation. The verse in D&C 89:12 keeps coming to mind:
"Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly."[emphasis added]
When our other chickens reach the end of their laying days (usually about 2 or 3 years old) we will probably eat them too. It really isn't the most fun job or one that we really look forward to but it seems like the right thing to do. This experience has really changed how I feel and look at my food and I don't think that I will ever be able to eat chicken, from the grocery store or my own yard, the same way again. I just feel so much more grateful and aware of the sacrifice animals make and our responsibility to be wise stewards over the earth and the animals God has given to us. This experience put the value of life into perspective for me and reminded me that I am a steward of the earth and not its master. It reminded me to be genuinely grateful for every mouthful of food I take... especially if that food sacrificed its life so that I could live.


  1. Heather, I love this post! It made me think about my younger years when we didn't have a lot of money, so every weekend my parents would always go out to some small farm and buy chickens or ducks from the farmer to bring home, kill, and cook -- that way we had more meat in the home and it was a lot cheaper, too (I'm sure you know that). It always saddened me that I couldn't keep them as pets, but aside from that topic, we always found it to be so enjoyable to eat what my parents have so diligently worked for. Thanks for sharing this post. It is definitely a thoughtful and spiritual food for the weekend.

  2. Great post. We too have chickens and we have eaten them as my hens stopped laying or when we a "hen" grow to be a rooster (living in the suburbs, can't have roosters). I experienced the same feelings. I so appreciate my food, especially meat, it has especially made me more thoughtful about where the meat I purchase comes from, how it was raised and butchered.

  3. That was a great post! I think we take so much for granted... This reminds me of the mormon video... Thanksgiving Daily; I love it! :D I posted it on my blog at the following link if you want to see it!

    How great it is to be able to live in thanksgiving daily. :D Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  4. I think this thought is a very important realization we need to make about our food. We are very removed from our food, our waste levels are terrible and we eat too much.

    This article is insightful as my family tries to return to a more whole and natural way of eating.