Aug 11, 2012

Killing Chickens

I’m not much the sentimental type but when it came time to thin the herd I had little practical experience, and even less enthusiasm.

My wife told me to just knock it’s head against something, but to hold on to it after I did so. Made sense to me, the cook at the restaurant in China used to just give a quick whack with the knife handle to the back of the head of the rabbit he was cooking for dinner. Seemed quick and painless. Of course when I opened the coop the chickens all hid under the laying house where I couldn’t get them. Maybe it was the glint in my eye.

Later that week a friend of my wife’s came by and together while the children were inside they did the deed, slitting the neck, saving the blood, and boiling the plucked chicken to share in their mid week mom feast. Our herd of five had been whittled down to a more manageable four.

I have to admit a bit of squeamishness over killing domesticated livestock. Too much premeditation, too close to murder. I’m ok shooting deer or elk and even prairie dogs or coyotes which don’t get eaten but are traditionally shot in the rural west. Chickens seemed much more up close and personal.

My daughter often feeds the chickens pieces of grass through the cage. She knows which one is which, and when she came in saying they were pecking each other I went out to take a look. Sure enough a spot of blood on one of the black one’s neck. My daughter reported that Rosie the red one had pecked Black Black when Blacky Black was passing by. 

Thipalada and Rosy

If I’m squeamish about killing chickens I’m nuts over any animal experiencing pain. The fact that they were pecking each other too. Too many chickens too small a coop I figured. We had to be somewhat discreet as our town doesn’t allow chicken ranching.

The next morning my wife cut up some pieces of yarn, told the kids to stay inside and told me to come help. Sometimes when things need doing she decides to do them. She got in the coop, then confirmed with Thipalada, who had followed us out anyway, which ones were the pecker and peckee. She would first pick them up by the foot tie a piece of yarn around both feet then around the tips of both wings. Trussed up they were in no pain but they just lay there.

This is the condition you often see chickens in when being brought to market in Asia. Usually slung by the feet over the back of a motorcycle.

Once when I was the guest of honor at a suk wan at my sister in laws house, I remember a chicken being trussed up similarly. Bien had gotten the chicken early so that when the time came she wouldn’t have to chase it around the yard to catch it. While helping to set up the chairs and tables, every once in a while I’d hear a plaintive falorn squawk from the doomed prisoner. 

Suk wan ceremonies are quasi religious affairs left over from the days before Buddhism. Something to do with making sure spirits and ghosts are all where they should be and ones who aren’t supposed to be around get gone. I remarked that I wasn’t so worried about my ghosts but about the chicken’s ghost and that maybe we should have a suk wan for it. My inlaws thought this was pretty funny. It’s well known how sensitive the foreigners are about animals, and there is no such thing as chickens having spirits.

Recently when I asked why always chickens at suk wans and why always boiled I was told it’s because boiled chicken is a sign of luxury, all meat, no vegetables.

After both chickens were secured Thipalada helped bring them to the back door and mum got a pot of water boiling at her outdoor stove. I freaked when I saw ST hold the chicken down and pluck the feathers from it’s neck, but watching closely the chicken showed no signs of pain. Seems like docility is bred into them.

I held the legs and the wings with the head pointed downhill while ST carefully nicked the throat such that the blood ran down into a bowl of fish sauce. The blood is mixed with the fish sauce so that when it congeals it makes a tasty solid, kind of like the luet in kow piak. The only signs of discomfort on the part of the chicken came at the very end when it’s blood pressure was probably about zero. It thrashed a little but I’d been forewarned to hold tight.

When I got back from work all was in the freezer already except a delicious ope made from the livers, intestines, unhatched eggs, etc. It was delicious, none of that factory taste. Clean like game but not elk.

Later I noticed two hand lettered plaques by the hose. Rosie chicken pecker, and Blacky Black chicken pecker. We’d found peck marks on both. Don’t know what’s up with the markers, never did discuss death and dying with Thipalada, but then kids understand those kinds of things anyway. She eats the chickens with gusto unlike her brother who was slightly uneasy over the entire project.


Laos Travel said...

Cannot deny that chicken is one of the most popular and tasty food in all over the world, but the killing scene… hmm somehow I try to get rid of watching and witnessing it. Just eat :)
Laos Tour

Ashley Milena said...

Sabaide! I am Laos too and I saw my uncle kill a duck in the back yard when I was little. I accepted the fate of the animals now. haha I like your page. I feel in tune with my culture reading it :)

Bryce Canyon Inn said...

Great stuff, thank you for sharing this useful information and the chicken was the most delicious dish specially roasted, or would be the slaughter it goes well.

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