My chickens have never been great jumpers, probably because they are fairly lazy and spoiled. My neighbor’s chickens, however, are expert jumpers. It’s not uncommon for them to hop the fence into our yard to hang out, but lately they have started hopping their back fence into the nearby alleyway.

Tragedy struck last week when one of my neighbor’s beautiful Black Sexlinks hopped the fence into the alley. A neighborhood dog was running around off-leash and attacked the bird. It happened so fast that my neighbor didn’t have time to react. The bird died immediately.

I got a knock on my door a few minutes later from my neighbor Jesse asking what we should do with the bird: bury it or eat it? The dog was not rabid, so I did some internet searching and didn’t see anything wrong with eating it. So I grabbed my sharpest knife and went next door.

In their backyard we de-feathered the freshly killed bird. You can find step-by-step instructions on how to properly butcher a bird here, but basically it involved dipping the dead bird in near-boiling water for about 30 seconds, then pulling the feathers. It wasn’t until all the feathers were gone that we could even see the bite marks properly.

After the bird was cleaned and rinsed outside, it was time to clean the bird inside. Working at a different station, on a clean cutting board with a clean knife, I  gutted the bird. It’s the first time I’ve butchered a bird with a full crop and gizzard. Usually you don’t feed a bird about 24 hours before butchering them to keep things easy and cleaner. Everything went smoothly though – just a way bigger, fuller crop than I’ve ever seen.

We dipped the bird in a bowl of salt water for a couple minutes to wash out the bite wounds and insides, then rinsed the body inside and out with fresh, cold water. We bagged her up and she went immediately in the fridge until it was time to make dinner that evening.

I remember talking to a farmer once who raised meat animals, but got teary when he had to put his milk cow down. You form a different relationship with your livestock when they are raised for butchering vs. raised for a commodity like milk or eggs. And I think Jesse felt a little of that mixture of emotion as we ate the chicken later that night for dinner. We all felt just a bit more appreciative of the free-range, locally raised, organic chicken roasted before us.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson