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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Entry 56: 1963 Butchering Chickens

             We used to have a "dressing day" for chickens every summer. We would prepare about three hundred chickens for the coming winter.   I'm not sure why it's called dressing a chicken when you strip it of its feathers, gut it, and package it.  It would make more sense to call it an "undressing." 
             Dad would gently hold each chicken by the neck at the chopping block.  He'd tell each one if they'd do their part and hold still he would do his part and make the end for them come quick.  Next dad's face would stiffen and with the loud thud of the axe hitting the chopping block through the chicken's neck, off would come it's head.  
            Next, dad tossed the chickens, one by one, to the grass patch by Grandma.  He'd kill about five at a time giving everyone else a chance to keep up with their jobs.  I think people who have never lived on a farm or raised their own food might have a hard time realizing just how hard it is to kill the farm animals.  Many times I got "the speech" about how we gave them the best life they could possibly have and now it was their time to serve us  by being our food.  Many a time during a chicken harvest day or when the butcher would visit I would catch dad with red eyes or salt streaks on his cheeks.  
        Grandma’s job was to dunk the chickens in boiling water and pluck out their  feathers.  The boiling water made the skin loose and the feathers easier to pull.   Dad stepped in at that point and held the chicken over a wood fire to singe any remaining feathers.  Next mom gutted the chickens. 

        When grandma would get ahead a little she’d come into the kitchen where she and mom would rinse the finished chickens and put them into freezer bags.  

I remember the flopping chickens, the smell of the gut buckets, the closed blue eyelids of the dead chicken heads.  I also remember how proud mom and dad were when we drove the pickup full of prepared chickens to the Hughson freezer where we rented a locker.  I remember how dad stacked the bags in the locker in neat rows to take advantage of space.

The butcher would always come to the truck to help dad unload and carry in the boxes.  He always told dad our chickens looked better than any others when they arrived.  I remember him saying our bags were clean and not sticky, our chickens were whole and unbruised, and inside the bags was free of blood puddles. 
We had to walk through the cooling  room to get to the lockers.  The cooling room had cows and pigs hanging waiting to be processed. 


  1. excellent post coming from one farm raised girl to another it couldn't be written or said better,, excellent,, your Dad was or is and amazing man as are you.Wonerful morals and standards,, thats the way we also were raised,, if we are going to eat meat we should not be hypocrites. (sp?). If we eat it we should know all the facts and you just put them out there!good for you,, wonderful post!!

  2. Thanks Laurie...I do so appreciate you reading my posts and your comments always make me feel it is worth the time....have a great weekend!


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