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November 15, 2010



Happy Birthday Abi! And any happy returns!

What an interesting way to celebrate, but very in keeping with the whole cycle of life thing.
I chose to stop eating meat because I did not want to partake in the mass production and consumption of unethically raised food animals, so I really admire and appreciate the sentiments you express in this post. Twenty years ago, ethical meats were not an option, but now that they are, I think that anyone who decides to remain omnivorous should make a conscious effort to minimise the suffering of the animals they eat. Raising and butchering one's own animals may not be an option for everyone, but it is an option.

Happy birthday, and may you (and your chickens) live a good life!


I meant to write 'Many happy returns!'


Thank you so much for sharing this! I am constantly dreaming and thinking of the home I want to have in the future, a home with a lot of room to give animals a decent place to live; a home with a lot of space to grow our own food; a home where our future children can grow up happily and learn to treat nature and animals with respect and love. While dreaming and planning all this, I have given the possibility of raising animals for meat a great deal of thought. And I am really not sure if I could do it, but I'm leaning towards "no". From reading your blog, I know that you love your animals dearly, so I am even more impressed by this brave and caring way to make sure that the animal you eat has truly had a good life before. And most importantly, to have the courage to see to it that the end is as decent and as pleasant as possible. I am happy that there are still people who care about such things, it makes a huge difference.


Thank you for such a thoughtful post. I have been a vegetarian for most of my life. One of the reasons that I do not eat meat is that I am totally unwilling to participate in the killing because I know I just couldn't handle it. I really respect people who realize how important it is to be willing to be involved in the entire process of where their food comes from.
I have been vegan for the past year. I recently found out that I cannot have gluten so I am contemplating the idea of eating eggs again because edible vegan and gluten free baking is not very easy. I am trying to find eggs from a small place where they are ethically treated but I daydream of the day when I can raise my own chickens for eggs. I am so processing through a lot of my beliefs about what I am ok with eating and what I am not. I so appreciate seeing someone else's thoughts about what we choose to eat and where it comes from.

Pam from Kansas

Thank you for your post. I am a meat eater as well but live in the country where I am able to get local meat. You are really very lucky to have this kind of experience that connects us with our humanity and the world. The modern is world is so removed from it all. It does take bravery when you're an animal lover but as you said, you raised them for food.

Oh - Happy Birthday, btw!


Happy Birthday! The only life I've taken so deliberately was a squirrel that I shot with my bow. I spent six months learning traditional archery and was trying for a deer, but decided a squirrel would do for the first one. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. All of my hard work practicing and my ethics about meat consumption sort of rolled into one I guess...Never slaughtered chickens though (planning on it for sure) Still haven't got a deer either, but going to try again for one next fall.


Thank you so much Dahlia, for the birthday wishes and for being so understanding. I know that this can be a touchy subject for all, vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Our birds were at the age they needed to be and should be to be processed. We were planning on bringing them to the butcher again but then this opportunity arose. It certainly wasn't a planned celebration :)


Happy Birthday, Abi! I hope the next year brings beautiful and further knowledge. And, FUN!


Oh Maike, you are so right. I am such a huge animal lover. It's very hard. But, after having gone through this, I feel worse about all the meat I have consumed that wasn't handled in a caring and thoughtful way. I know now how the end of a chickens life goes when it destined to be a food source. It is a deeply special and complex feeling to be able to handle your own meat production and one that I am incredibly grateful for.


Sara, I am gluten intolerant as well. There were many talks in our household this weekend about vegetarianism and vegan-ism. Greg and I were wondering what in the world I would do if I couldn't/chose not to eat animal products in addition to my gluten restriction. I completely relate to your dilemma and perhaps, in some way, even more so after processing our birds this weekend. If you ever have gluten questions don't hesitate to email. I have been GF for 8 years now.


Thanks Pam, for the birthday wishes and for your thoughts :)


Don't tell Jorn but he's getting an archery set for his birthday tomorrow! ;) I have never shot anything with a bow and arrow but archery used to be one of my favorite activities.


Thanks so much Kathy!


Oh how I appreciate your post! We had wanted to raise a few meat birds this summer but didn't think we had room with all the new chicks that we let hatch. We did however end up with a few roosters which couldn't stay. We processed only one. I didn't intend to cook him. He was a small thing, but a friend of mine who was over at the time said, "why don't you put him in your crock pot?" So there I stood in my kitchen, tears running down my face as I held this handsome rooster. Then outside we went to process him. Most people don't realize the mass of emotions that go through you during such an event. I don't like to kill either, but it's how nature works. In the end, I couldn't eat him (partly because I wasn't sure if we processed him right). But my dog sure enjoyed him for a few days! =) Next year we will try again for the meat chickens specifically. I wonder, when did we become so removed from where our food comes from? I'm determined to get get back to the basics of growing, processing, and storing our own food. This year was a pretty good start!

Oh! And we finally got our first alpaca! Go see her! (sprouttherightbrainedbean.blogspot.com) She's such a sweetheart. She is expecting her second cria next September and I couldn't be more excited!

Happy Belated Birthday!


I completely relate Rachael. We have four roosters that we intended to process and we just couldn't take care of them on Sunday (we were running out of light and steam). They were sent along from the hatchery in late summer when we bought some more chicks and now they are ours to 'deal' with. Meat birds aren't easier to deal with per say but you when you chose to raise them you accept that you really have no choice. They can't live very long and die a painful death if left to grow. Whereas our friend had a rooster that lived for 7 years until this summer when a fox got to him!

Congrats on Bracken! Oh, she is SO beautiful. I bet my boys would really dig her ;) Those eyes! Can you stand it? I literally turn into a pile of mush every time I go out to the boys. They are just the sweetest things. How exciting that you'll be having a cria too!

Thanks for the birthday wishes as well!


What an amazing post. I don't know if people wrote/talked about these things years ago. Folks used to process their own meat, but were they worried about feelings/pain/etc? We became detached from our meat processing but now, as people like yourself return to it, there is a whole different paradigm in which they are processed. I don't think I could do it. I eat a lot of meat, but I've never been comfortable processing chicken because it looks too much like it's original self. It feels wrong. But I like meat.
We've tried to eat organic and more humane meat/eggs/dairy, but the cost is quite high and sometimes I'm conflicted between financial realities and acknowledging that I'm putting a living things humanity behind my pocketbook. It's probably why I prefer, right now, to eat less meat, because I'd rather go without than think about it. I'm really hoping at some point that we will live somewhere it will be easier to get locally produced meats. And, there is some stuff that I just will not eat, now that I know how it's achieved (veal).
Anyway. Happy Birthday. I hope you got other presents besides chicken processing! And I truly can't believe that Jorn is going to be eight tomorrow!


Hi, I've been reading your blog for a little while--not sure how I came across it--but I enjoy it. The interesting thing is , there are two different arguments going on here: #1 is whether or not it's ethical to eat meat at all. #2 is whether or not it's ethical to eat meat that is prepared through the current commercial mass-production system.

I think that arguing about #1 never does any good--no one is ever swayed by the other side. But #2 is a very valid discussion to have. And I agree with you that the ethical treatment of animals raised and slaughtered for meat must become more valued in today's society. Some people don't want to get into the argument because they just want to eat their shopping-club-sized bags of "white meat" without even recognizing that it came from an animal in the first place, not to mention what happens to the rest of the parts of the animal that they're too picky to eat.

We choose to eat small amounts of meat as a part of an omnivorous diet. I commend you for participating in raising and slaughtering your own chickens. We've done one: http://www.jeanetics.net/2009/07/reflections.html --A laying chick that ended up being a rooster. It left me with a greater appreciation for my ancestors who had to participate in a lot more of this a lot more regularly to provide food for their families. And I definitely have a more humble attitude about eating meat, and have worked on using whole chickens in my kitchen recognizing the waste that comes from buying breasts only.

Thanks for writing.


AMEN. (did i spell that right?)


thank you for sharing jeanette!




Happy Birthday Lady! Thanks for sharing this. I think people were less conflicted years ago because there was less choice - decisions are easier to make when your family is hungry and you have no choice but to kill the chicken. Good for you for choosing the more difficult - but humane - way to process your hens in a time when you have the choice to go a simpler route.

Thank you again for all the wisdom that you took the time to share with me when i had no idea what i was doing. I think of your generosity often.

Hope you took the time to enjoy some cake on your birthday too!


Happy belated Birthday!


happy birthday. i am almost 34! less than a month.

i appreciate your honesty here. it is a tricky debatable topic. our own honesty is all we've got really. i feel like i get how that meal was so satisfying. you really did the whole thing. i am glad for you it worked, and you happily had a hearty whole meal.


Happy, happy birthday Abi! Wishing you a year of peace and happiness!


Oh Abi, Happy Birthday! And thank you for such a thoughtful post about your chickens. We raised a handful of meat chickens last year and Narragansett turkeys this year. It was such a deeply profound experience for our family. Our turkeys lived the life! Here's a visit they paid to our neighbor: http://cowgirlgoods.typepad.com/cowgirl_goods/2010/10/well-hello-there.html


I hope you know I was thinking of you all day on your birthday. I commend you for writing about what you did and learned that day. As you know I was a vegetarian for more than 20 years but with multiple food intolerances I reached a point a year ago where I needed to start eating meat again. I am always very aware of what I eat anyway, and am thankful for any and all food that I get to enjoy. However I must say I don't think I'll ever be able to go as far as you, and I am grateful that there are people like you and Greg that are willing and able to do the "processing". I can't afford organic meat all the time, but try to be as conscientious as possible with all my food choices as possible.

Amy Higgins Stambaugh

Hi Abi,
I stumbled upon your blog and found this post to be most appreciated. My husband and I are raising a simple flock for eggs consumption and found ourselves with three roosters amongst twelve ladies. We decided to butcher two of the roosters ourselves. It was an intense and thought provoking experience. We ate them that evening for dinner and it was kind of off putting. I don't know if it was the thoughts racing through my head or the fact that they were roosters that affected the culinary experience. We are thinking of raising some meat birds with a group of friends and butchering them ourselves. Has this process gotten any easier for you? Do you enjoy the taste of your homegrown birds? I have bought locally raised birds from folks and been pleased with them but I wonder if all my experiences of eating birds I raised will be the same?


Hi Amy :) It's always hard when you have to "manage" your roosters. When you butcher a chicken you really can't and shouldn't cook it the same day. It won't taste good at all. Freshly butchered meat should be refrigerated for at least 24 hours before it is prepared. That would be my first guess as to why your experience was sort of off putting. Also, the breed of your roosters may not have been suitable for meat production/lightweight breed. Then, when you find yourself with too many roosters, you are stuck with the choice of just dispatching them or re-homing them. You could always just prepare them for stock but it's a lot to go through for a bird not intended for meat production.

I love raising meat birds! After many different tries I found that the Jumbo Cornish X from Murrary McMurray hatchery are my favorite. I order only roosters, raise to roughly 8 weeks and they butcher out at an average of 7.2 lbs. This is ideal because my kids are heavy eaters. You could butcher earlier for a lighter bird but you should select a breed specifically for meat if you would like the best taste and quality.

The process gets "easier" in a logistical sense, meaning I have the experience to do it rather quickly and efficiently now, but I am not desensitized at all to the emotional aspect of it. That's good though. It makes for an incredibly grateful and humbling dining experience when we roast or grill a bird.

I'm happy to answer more questions if you have them :)

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