The omnivorous gardener: Taking out Paolo

As chicken keepers, we have what I like to say is an omnivorous garden. Not only do we get to eat delicious veggies and the occasional accidentally ingested caterpillar, we also eat eggs. Up until recently, the "chicken gardening" has been part of the cycle in a very warm and fuzzy kind of way; we feed the chickens our weeds, kitchen scraps, and thinnings, and they in turn produce eggs. Everyone is happy, nobody gets hurt.

We average 5 eggs a day in summertime

But about two months ago something happened that I think will forever change the system. Our friends that live in downtown Missoula discovered that one of their chicks that was supposed to mature into a laying hen was actually a rooster. This is a big problem in the city- it is illegal to own a rooster in the city limits. My friends wanted to find a new home for him, so I told them he could seek political asylum at our house, which is just out of the city limits. They said we could eat him if he pissed us off.

When he arrived, we promptly renamed him Paolo (he was a Brazilian breed mix) and stuck him in a separate enclosure to keep our adult hens from attacking the newcomer. He promptly escaped, so we reluctantly dumped him in with the big girls. He got the tar kicked out of him for a few days by our large, dominant hens, but then they left him alone. As an added bonus, he stopped crowing, presumably because the big hens were bossing him around something fierce.

Paolo as a handsome young rooster

For a while he lived in harmony with the hens, and he was fun to look at, and so we let him live peacefully with us. But it didn't last.

Paolo started pooping in the nest box. This is ultra gross. A fresh egg is a spotless, gorgeous creation. Our hens instinctively keep the nest box fresh and beautiful, not pooping in it or sleeping in it. Roosters, we came to find out, are not fastidious. Heck, they don't lay eggs, why should they care?

The last straw came on Wednesday when my husband was feeling overwhelmed with home improvement, baby care, and gardening all at once. He stomped into the kitchen as I was cooking dinner and holding the baby. In his hand were several poop-covered chicken eggs.

"I can't take this anymore. We need to kill the rooster."

My response shocked even me. "OK dear, next time the baby takes a long nap I'll do it," I said.

This stopped my spouse dead in his tracks. But I meant it. Let's face it: Organic chicken feed ain't getting any cheaper lately, and he was plenty big. I wanted to eat him. So after dinner, while my husband was on a bike ride and the baby was sleeping very soundly, I made a plan that started with finding a sharp knife, and then proceeded to catching the rooster, and ended with Thursday's chicken dinner.

I eventually caught him, but not without some serious effort

But of course, we didn't raise Paolo, so he didn't trust me one bit. I didn't take a video of my 15 minutes of trying to catch him, but for your amusement here is a video of me this past winter, six months pregnant, showing how 6 of our hens are cute, obedient and trusting, and the seventh is totally insane.

After I caught the darn rooster, it was easy. I immobilized him with a tightly wrapped bath towel and killed him very quickly. I've killed many animals in the past - for my job, not for fun - and I have to say that killing a rooster was relatively simple.

As I was settling in to skin and gut the bird, my husband rolled up on his bike. His first words were, "You didn't let the ladies see you do that, did you?"

"No dear, I killed him out of view of the hens. But remember, they are just chickens."

After getting over his initial shock that I had followed through on this, my husband looked up a nice slow-cooker recipe on the internet for Paolo, and we feasted on him the next night. Lots of fresh herbs from our herb garden were tossed in, to delectable effect. All the photos I took of the bird in a nicely roasted and cooked state came out horribly out-of-focus for some reason, so here is a shot of some of what ended up in the broth pot.

Paolo, you were very tasty. Thanks, feathery little dude.


Brian and Dianne said...

Love the video - that scene has been replayed in my NC yard (minus the snow) many times. Does anyone remember the Rocky movie where he has to catch the chicken as part of his training? I like to hum the Rocky theme while chasing/herding our chickens.

I'm amazed that your chickens and dog appear to live peacefully together. Even after six months our dog treats every trip we make to the coop as a chicken dinner in the making.

.... said...

Thank you for this post it was so much fun to read and watch. I will be smiling all day. My grandmother raised geese and once in awhile one graced the table for dinner. I would ask if it was Sophia, my favorite bird, and my Grandma said no. I think she was fibbing. Sophia was also delicious.

Joshua McNichols said...

This was a great post.

I love your crazy hen's little "hat."