One of our biggest goals when we moved to our off-grid property in Idaho a year ago was to learn how to become more self-sufficient. This word can mean so many different things to people, but for us it means being in control of the important factors that govern our own lives like food, water and shelter.
In the past year we've been working hard getting our off-grid water system functioning and have hand-built plenty of structures on our property, but food was the one category of self sufficiency that we weren't equipped to fully address.
Recently, we got some first-time butchering experience when we slaughtered some roosters from a neighbor. It was an extremely educational experience that taught us a lot. Killing animals for meat was definitely intimidating at first, but surprisingly enough, it's not as difficult as we previously thought it was going to be!
If you haven't had the chance to butcher your own livestock but are eager to try someday, our experience might give you encouragement that even inexperienced first timers can figure it out.
An Unexpected Opportunity
A few days back, we got a call from a neighbor that had some extra roosters that he was willing to give us if we wanted to butcher them. Our philosophy in life is to always say yes to unexpected opportunities, so we quickly accepted his generous offer.
Now that we had roosters available, we needed to figure out what we were going to do with them. As is our nature, we hopped online and looked through Youtube videos on how to humanely kill chickens. It quickly became clear that having a real person mentor us would be a lot more helpful than watching the process through a screen, but because of the circumstances we decided to make do and set out to learn this new skill through experience alone.
Preparing Our Work Space
Before we picked up the birds, we took the time to properly prepare our butchering station. This involved running some equipment errands and spending money to buy a kill cone, but we are always happy to invest in our homesteading education.
Taking the Roosters to Their Final Home
Getting the roosters from their cage into the kill cone seemed like an easy enough process, but one of our birds managed to escape, causing us to spend the good part of an hour chasing it up and down our hillside.
Finally it became clear we weren't going to catch this speedy bird with our bare hands, so Jesse resorted to rooster hunting. Thankfully his first shot connected with the rooster's head, and after some dramatic back flips down our hillside, it was dead. Though we accomplished our goal of getting a dead bird, this wasn't at all how we were hoping to do it.
With renewed resolve to get the task done right, we grabbed the second rooster and tried to fit his head through the kill cone. It took some finagling to get everything in place, but eventually we were ready to make our cut.
Making a deep enough cut was difficult for us as first time butcherers, but after a few attempts we succeeded, and the rooster was dead.
Post-Processing Our Birds
Processing the roosters was the easiest part of the whole ordeal for us. We submerged each bird in a pot of scalding water followed by cool water and then worked to pluck off their feathers.
Making internal cuts and pulling out the organs was made much easier through the help of another Youtube video, and we set aside the feet and throats for bone broth, while feeding the heart, liver and lung to our very happy cats.
After we were done, the roosters were packed into Ziploc baggies and stuck in the freezer to be cooked up on another day. Our first butchering experience had been a success.
Our Thoughts on the Process
The reality of homesteading isn't as glamorous as magazines sometimes make it look; oftentimes the jobs we have to do are messy, brutal, and very time intensive. Though not everything went as we would have liked, we are immensely proud of ourselves for taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.
Knowing that we have fresh meat in the freezer that we provided for ourselves gives us a better feeling than any grocery store meal can compare to. We love this lifestyle and the way it constantly presents new challenges to us, and we can't wait to see what tasks we can learn about next.
Who knows, maybe next year we'll be raising and butchering our very own chickens!
Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off grid homestead from scratch. She is blogging about the journey from start to finish in hopes of inspiring others that wish to take a similar path. Follow Alyssa on her blog Pure Living for Life, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. View Alyssa’s other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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