Monday, March 04, 2013

Country Girl Merit Badge : Rooster for Supper

Charlie the Rooster
Last Sunday, the handsome and fierce rooster pictured above became supper for me and my family.  I won't get into the gory details - there are plenty of youtube videos and websites that can give you that if you are so inclined - but I will say that I have a new found respect for chicken.  

Charlie, who came with his name, was a craigslist rooster I found when Broody Hen first started sitting back in early October.  In my excitement, I didn't think about the fact that Charlie was at that point only 3 months old and too young to breed my hens for fertilized eggs.  In fact, he didn't even cock-a-doodle-doo until early January; he figured out the mating part shortly after that.  Up until then he was a good rooster and I was happy to have him.  I thought that a rooster would help to protect my flock, give us fertilized eggs, and wake us up in the morning like on a proper farm.  I did not consider the negatives - primarily that roosters are often mean and that they can be a danger to young children.  

Charlie first challenged me just a week or two after finding his voice.  After letting everyone out of the coop in the morning I was walking back to the house and felt a big thump against my calf.  I stopped and turned around to see Charlie standing about 4 feet away.  I thought about it for a second, and deciding that it had to be him since no meteorites were nearby, I kicked him.  In hindsight I realize that maybe that wasn't the best thing to do, especially according to this guy.  At the moment, though, I felt that I had been challenged and that I needed to show him that I am the head rooster.  In my defense, there are articles and message boards all over the internet encouraging this ''head rooster" idea.  Obviously I have read them all.  

Charlie didn't get the hint the first time, and a few days later he did it again.  Once again I attempted a kick, but this time he knew the game and dodged my foot.  A stick made the contact that my foot couldn't manage.  I didn't have any problems for a few weeks and I hoped that was the end of it, but of course it wasn't.  

One day the kids and I were headed outside to play; Lincoln was the first one down the steps while Audrey and I were still on the porch getting shoes on.  Then it happened... Charlie attacked Lincoln.  He had his feathers all fluffed out and he was standing nearly as tall as Lincoln squawking and looking mean ("he looks like a lion!!" Lincoln said).  Lincoln hadn't done anything to Charlie to challenge him, at least in Lincoln's eyes, and he was of course crying and scared.  I ran down and chased Charlie around the house throwing sticks and yelling and crowing at him.  I was pretty much acting like a mad woman, and had I caught him we would have likely had him for supper that night.  

Finally I calmed down and got Lincoln settled (he was not hurt, just scared).  I was pretty certain that Charlie had sealed his fate, but I had some doubts.  Lincoln likes to chase the chickens and can sometimes be a little intimidating to the poor birds.  I couldn't help but wonder if he had done something that caused Charlie to attack.  A few days later Charlie erased my doubt and any chance of his survival by attacking Audrey.  She ran down the stairs, ignoring me when I told her to wait, and headed under the porch to the power-wheels jeep.  She fell down when she was running and then I heard her start screaming and crying, and I heard Charlie.  I ran down and scooped her up (she wasn't hurt, either) and, following that guy's advice, I just stood there and tried to calm myself.  He settled down in a few seconds and we both walked away.  After that I knew without a doubt what we were having for supper the next weekend.  

Last Saturday Wes killed him and I cleaned him.  I didn't time it, but I am guessing it took me 30-45 minutes to do the whole business, not including clean-up.  I am sure a serious chicken farmer would scoff at that, but it was only my second time and the first doesn't really count (that story is crazy and involves a baseball bat, a dull knife, scissors, and 3 stunned hens... I'll save it for another time).  My original plan was to skin him, thus avoiding the whole messy plucking deal, but when I tried to pull the skin back I got a handful of feathers so I commenced plucking.  After it was all done he looked pretty much like a supermarket chicken, just not as supple; I'm not sure if this was because he was a tough old rooster (8 months old compared to the typical 2 months for most meat birds) or because it took me so long to clean him that rigor mortis had set in...

Me butchering the bird.  I blurred Charlie, so as to not offend anyone ;)

I put him in a brine till Sunday morning, then into the crockpot for the day with some potatoes, onions, and carrots.  Sunday evening we ate him, or at least tried to.  He actually tasted really good, but the problem for us all (except Audrey, who ate with abandon) was that it was Charlie.  Don't get me wrong, none of us are on the verge of vegetarianism, but with every bite I could picture Charlie roaming in the yard and it slightly tainted the enjoyment of my otherwise tasty meal.  

I have no guilt for killing him; he was mean and was not suitable for our flock, and not worth the trouble of craigslisting him off to the likely cock-fighters that would want him.  I think the lesson from this first (really second) chicken slaughter is respect for what we eat.  Despite the concern I feel when I see or read things about animal cruelty or conditions in factory farms, I admit that it rarely crosses my mind when I am eating a chicken leg, and when it does I am not distressed by it.  Charlie, however, invoked a stir of some emotion, I like to think it was thankfulness, with every bite.  We have 3 or 4 roosters from our Broody Hen hatch that we plan to eat and we are now excited at the prospect.  I am happy to think that these roosters, like Charlie, will have lived a good life with lots of sunshine, bugs to eat, and hens to mount.  We have also learned the important lesson that so many before us have learned and warned us of: don't name what you plan to eat.  


  1. We plan to butcher our three extra roosters this week-end (sister-in-law Linda coming down with her special equipment, i.e. bucket with a hole in it). I have not killed chickens since your mother and I did some back in 1976 (!) and I'm sure none of them were named. Ours are not named either. I wish there was some means to only hatch out hens, I tried hatching the "round" ended eggs vs. the "pointed" ended eggs. Blows that theory. Will let you know how it turns out. Your blog is great.

  2. Thanks Carol!!! I hope the butchering goes well. It is nice you will have someone there with a little more recent experience :). I hear ya about hatching out only hens. I guess the only sure way is to buy them already hatched, but even that is not foolproof, as that is how we got our first rooster in CA. At least they provide some good meat! Please do let me know how it goes!

  3. That is a great story and pictures. I very much enjoyed it!

    When I was a child we had a mean rooster who flogged me a couple of times. The last time he flogged me was a doozie and when I came into the house crying my father went into the other room and got his shotgun and shells. He asked me to walk outside with him and told me we were going to take care of the rooster. He calmly explained the logic in the process and proceeded to instruct me on what was about to happen. We went into the barn lot and I stood while he knelt beside me, rooster out front. He placed the shotgun firmly up against my shoulder and helped me aim. The trouble with the rooster ended and I walked back up to the house proud with a shoulder hurting worse than the rooster flogging.