Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart. If you are the squeamish type, go elsewhere.
Back last February when we bought chicks I refused to name any of them for fear we would grow too attached to them and they’d die.
We paid for pullet chicks, and got them – for the most part.
But then there was Clyde.
Clyde was a beautiful red rooster with iridescent green and black tail feathers. He announced his presence at around 4:30 a.m. each morning. Sometimes as early as 3:30 a.m. He was a confused bird.
Clyde grew meaner over the last few months. He had attacked Ethan a time or two and he had attacked me.
Yesterday, Greg and I went out to move the coop and Clyde tore into Greg.
Really, it was one of the few times I lost myself in gales of laughter. Clyde was rushing Greg, and Greg was yelling, “Oh, no! He’s attacking me, sweetie!”
I was laughing so hard I couldn’t move.
After collecting myself we worked to get Clyde back in his pen, but he was having none of it and absconded to the woods behind our house, where he sat two houses down in the thick brambles and crowed loudly. Greg couldn’t stand it. He worried about the noise, he worried that Clyde would attack a neighbor child. He’s a bit of a worrier.
“If someone approaches that rooster, they deserve it,” I said. “And it’s not like the neighbors don’t know we have a friggin’ rooster, what with all the racket he makes.”
I figured Clyde would eventually come back to roost, if not before. We discussed what to do when he did, and decided it was probably time for Clyde to go. He’d gotten mean, he was prone to escaping, and he eats a lot of food without producing eggs.
I had mixed feelings about it.
Pretty soon our neighbor came to the door to let us know Clyde was in his yard. And so began a rousing round of Catch the Chicken, wherein the three of us chased Clyde all over the neighborhood with a fishing net ready to throw over him. After several near catches, Clyde was cornered in a cellar staircase. Greg cast the net over him and that was all she wrote.
I carried Clyde back to our house in my arms, and doing so made me really sad because he was so calm – scared to death, I’m sure – and his weight and warmth reminded me of a baby. It’s as if he knew we were making The Decision.
Greg and I stood on the back patio for a few minutes debating whether we could really go through with the planned execution. After all, slaughtering a chicken is by nature a very hands-on procedure. I knew I wasn’t going to do it. Greg thought he probably could if he had to but I don’t think he relished the prospect.
Reluctantly, I made the call to go forward with it.
I didn’t really want to watch it, but told myself I had to. After all, I was the one who wanted the chickens and knew at the time this might be part of it. Greg did the deed. I am not ashamed to admit that as Clyde lost his life for no other sin than being a rooster, I cried. I had a soft spot for Clyde, even if he did wake us at all hours of the morning and fight us when we messed with his home.
Then we had to decide whether to eat him.
By the time we got to that point I wasn’t in such bad shape. Now I was feeling more adventurous – I’d never slaughtered a chicken before, and now the hardest part was over. At this point it was more a matter of, “Hey, here’s something we’ve never done before, now if we go ahead and do it, we can say we’ve done it.” So we sallied forth with our knife and the book I call the “Chicken Bible” telling us just how to proceed. The Chicken Bible led us step by step through the process, and Clyde is now sitting in the refrigerator downstairs, skinless (we don’t usually eat the skin), his meat ageing for better flavor. I imagine that on Thursday or Friday he’ll be roasted up or made into chicken and noodles, with a likely casserole to follow.
This morning it was awfully quiet out in the chicken pen. I do sort of miss Clyde. I feel a twinge of regret, but I’m sure that will pass. After all, one reason I got the chickens to begin with was so the kids would know something about how their food arrives. Witnessing this ordeal, they certainly learned a lot about that. They also learned about respect for the dead. When Ethan wanted to chuck rocks at poor dead Clyde, Greg put a stern stop to it with a warning to have respect for the animal who died so you could eat.
Which is more than most kids know.