Yesterday morning, Jae went into the chicken coop and found one of our roosters dead on the floor. The poor guy had been having some problems – the day after Christmas he had become horribly chilled and couldn’t get himself warm again. Jae brought him inside and warmed him up over the heat register, and soon he was back to his lively little self. He seemed fine for a few days, but when we got another cold snap the rooster went downhill again.
The ground here is frozen solid right now, so burying the rooster was not an option. Jae decided to take the opportunity to learn how to remove the feathers and butcher the bird. He brought the poor roo into the garage and feathered it, much to our puppy’s delight. Then he set to work with our sharpest knife (not nearly the right kind of knife for this job!) trying to take the rooster apart. It was tougher than he anticipated!
I’ll save you the gory details. The long and short of it is, Jae removed the legs and baked drumsticks in the oven with the intention of feeding one to each of the dogs. As the legs went into the oven, the children and I said a blessing on the rooster, honouring his life and the short time he spent here with us. We thanked him for the food he was providing to nourish other farm creatures and we talked a bit about the circle of life.
We have been vegetarian for over a decade, and though we have contemplated the idea of eating our own birds, it hasn’t happened. When Jae pulled the drumsticks out of the oven, he decided they were too good to throw to the dogs. So he ate them himself! Wow, was I surprised – and the kids were delighted. They thought that it was just the funniest thing to ever have happened, Daddy eating a dead chicken. Though when they were asked if they would like to have some, there were squeals and shouts of “No way!” all around.
I must admit, I was so squeamish when Jae first came in to announce the rooster’s death. Then, when I knew he was out in the garage taking the thing apart, I was nearly beside myself. But by the time Jae had the drumsticks in the oven, I had gotten a hold of myself and was in a more rational frame of mind. The whole experience was a blessing, a chance for us to talk about life and death with our children and a chance for me to face my extreme uneasiness with dead things. It was also an opportunity for me to see how my children really felt about eating animals when confronted with the possibility of doing so. They opted out and both expressed a desire to remain vegetarian, but we talked about the possibility of eating animals in the future when we live in a more secluded, rugged, off-the-grid place than where we are now – when we won’t necessarily have the convenience of a grocery store ten minutes away.
I learned a lot yesterday with the death of our rooster. I am so grateful for our chickens and the relationship our family has with them, so grateful for everything they have taught me, and so grateful to be a part of this great web of life.