Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Memoirs - Life Cycle of a Laying Hen

Chickens have always played a large role in my family. What an odd statement. But true nonetheless. There's my dad holding a chicken in his arms at age 4. He lived almost 80 more years and raised countless chickens.

Unfortunately not all of my experiences with our chickens were pleasant. I have memories of one flapping around me when I was about 3 and digging its talons into my bare back. Not a happy memory. And I was always a little hesitant opening up the henhouse door when I had to collect the eggs. Hesitant was good because if I opened the door suddenly all the hens would fly up and flap their wings and the air would be full of squawking and feathers. Tiptoeing in was better and gently gliding my hand under their bums in one smooth quick movement to clutch and grab the still warm eggs.

I have to admit there was a certain fascination for me in watching my dad select an old hen for the stewing pot. He had a long metal hook and would reach with it into the chicken coop and give a quick yank on the neck of one of the older hens. Then he would chop its head off with an axe and yes, I have seen them run around headless, but not for long. Then he would dunk it into boiling water and pull out the feathers.

Now for the insides. Dad would spread newspaper over the picnic table and carefully explain to me each organ as he would remove it - I was spellbound but in no way did the experience make me want to be a vet or a doctor. It was more an interest in the whole process - from a live chicken in the coop to a simmering chicken pot pie in the oven. Yum.

I never remember feeling sorry for the chicken, I do remember feeling "lucky me"! Chicken for supper! I mean, that's the way it was. We eked out our diet by raising chickens and growing a large garden. The chickens roamed free most of the time, had a good life laying eggs and scratching about in the dirt, then when they were old and couldn't lay eggs anymore, sacrificed their lives to give us one more meal.

I just can't feel sad about that!


creme brulee aka GH said...

just finished reading another 15 - 20 pages of The Omnivore's Dilemma. the author shot his own wild pig and a friend cleaned it for him. interesting reading re preparing his own meat, his reactions to it, his feelings of gratitude toward the animal. much different than filling the grocery cart with items from the meat section at Wal-Mart without thinking about the process involved to get it there.

i don't think I'd have any trouble shooting a rabbit or other wild animal as long as it was used for food. makes more sense than salt- and sugar-infused ham from Maple Leaf etc.


Hazel Nut said...

I used to go skating every Saturday and when I got home I'd look to see if there were any rabbits on the back patio as Dad would have gone hunting with Les Snow. I was always glad when there was one or two (Kazi would be horrified to know this so don't tell her!).