Okeedokee- In a nutshell, here is Slaughtering Day at the farm:
The night before the scheduled slaughter I very wisely spent an hour catching the loose birds (who roosted in the trees or on the barn roof) and tossing them into the enclosed stalls of the barn. This way they would be a piece of cake to scoop up in the morning when it was their turn to meet the knife at the slaughtering cone.
There was a lot of squawking, chasing, and frustration. Roosters don't like to be caught.
After lots of time, sweat, and exertion, I finally had all the birds confined safely in the barn. I was scratched and tired, but thankful that I had remembered to catch them all when they were lethargic and slow-moving. I couldn't imagine trying to catch them during the day when they were alert and energetic.
I mentally patted myself on the back, imagining how easy the butchering would be in the morning.
Morning dawned bright and warm. We planned on butchering 20 roosters, followed with a BBQ picnic of fresh chicken cooked Peruvian-style with spicy cilantro sauce. We had scheduled enough time to clean up and shower before company arrived for lunch.
Nathan and I set up the back patio with all the necessary slaughter supplies: a work table draped in protective plastic, knives, work gloves, coolers filled with ice, a garbage bucket for the entrails, and a propane stove heating our largest stock pot filled with boiling water.
As we finished our preparations, I heard a terrible sound.
Dozens of wings were flapping and a hundred feet rustled the leaf litter as our flock stampeded out of the barn. One of our boys had forgotten to close the barn door behind himself after fetching tools for us. Oh. My. Goodness.
I frantically ran to the barn in an attempt to stem the flow of poultry streaming out of the building, but I was too far away. As I rounded the corner of the house, I saw 50 bright-colored poultry tails disappearing into the brush of the pasture.
Oh I was hopping mad. I was torn between laughing at the irony of it all or crying in frustration.
As a family we tried to corner some roosters and catch them for the slaughter, but the birds were too skittish for us to get close.
I'm sure it looked extremely comical.
We'd all stealthily flank the flock to trap the birds against a fenced corner of the yard. We'd close our lines as we approached closer, making a human fence to ensnare the roosters. When the flock panicked and tried to flee, we'd all attempt to catch a bird as they ran though our legs or flew over our heads. We usually ended up on the ground, with handfuls of feathers and scratched arms.
We spent an entire hour chasing birds before we caught our first two roosters (actually our dog Bella helped us and pinned down these birds.). We were out of breath and smudged with dirt and we hadn't even begun our butchering.
I could see my well-oiled plans for the day slipping away.
After this shaky start to the day, we managed to process only 7 birds that morning. It's better than nothing, but it also means we need to do another slaughter morning to dispatch the rest of the roosters. Ug.
We've slaughtered chickens before, but this was the first time we tried scalding and plucking them so they'd look nice on the grill. I definitely decided I prefer our old method of skinning them clean. Plucking takes for-ev-er to get the teensy bits of feathers off. Skinning is so quick and easy in comparison.
Some friends came over to learn the process and slaughter one of their own hens.
Maggie stayed perched a careful distance away from the butchering table while she encouraged her sweetheart to do the dirty work. I understand her reticence...butchering is always emotionally hard the first time.
Here's a quick look at lunch: chicken coated with seasonings and butterflied before grilling over coals. The sauce was epic. Jalapenos and cilantro pureed together with other seasonings in a creamy sauce. Oh my. I might never go back to Texas BBQ after tasting this Peruvian beauty.