Short story: My DH and I butchered approx 20 bantie laying hens on Sunday. We are complete amateurs and it took a long time but now we have the basis for a winter's worth of kick-ass chicken soup stock.
Long Story: After reading Salatin's Pastured Poultry Profit book my DH and I were excited. We had the opportunity to 'flock-share' my dad's laying hens. He did not have the time or energy to care for them full time this summer and had planned on giving them away or otherwise getting rid of them in May of this year. Summer was approaching, along with my reduced work schedule and extra time camping out there. We decided to go for it. We built chicken tractors and became part-time farmers (is there such a thing?). I didn't expect for my husband to become so enthralled with the chickens. I could see his brain ticking every time we cared for them; how do we make this more efficient, what do they like to eat, their behavior. My beer drinking, red-necked, wild man; recently turned yuppie desk jockey was turning over yet another new leaf-heck a whole new tree!
Unfortunately summer ends and schedules return, the chickens were back in the original predicament. We can't bring them back to the suburbs- even our 2 rabbits are outlaws. It was a great experience and has whetted our appetite for what is possible. We found a home for the 8 leghorns who were each producing a jumbo+ egg daily, but the banties were low producers-even if they were our own flock-I would not have fed them all over the winter. They had to go and we couldn't see just throwing them away because they were not convenient anymore. Their little bodies were not disposable, not just waste. Perhaps it was part penance part education, but Sunday morning (and into afternoon) Tom and I wrung necks, skinned (no scalding tanks or feather plucker's available), and eviscerated approx 20 banties and 1 very large rooster. We have their little carcasses (three to a gallon Ziploc) in the freezer awaiting chicken soup stock.
Not a fun way to end our summer of part-time farming, but it was REAL. It will be remembered for a long time. For the winter we will go back to being regular suburbanites, but now we have a vision. Next summer we will be building our own place on property adjacent to my fathers. Chickens are part of the first year plan, along with some multigenerational farming.