Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Growing up I had an entertaining little book entitled You know you're an MK when..., including entries like "You can't answer the question "Where are you from?" and "You grew up with a maid". Somewhere in that list is (or ought to be) "You have strong views on the best way to kill a chicken".

My introduction to chicken killing was as at age six, peeking from behind a bush as my Dad swung a hen by its legs, set it down, and chopped off its head (this was a part of 3 months of training in the bush shortly after we moved to Kenya, which would prepare my parents for 15 years of umm...living in Nairobi). Despite how alarming the experience was for me at age six, I was thankful this morning that I watched.

Warning - what follows is a bit grim.

One of my hens got sick about a month ago and never really recovered. She lost a lot of weight and motor control, and I had noticed her deteriorating particularly in the last few days. This morning I found her upside-down in the coop, bleeding from where she scratched herself while trying in vain to get back on her feet. I've known for weeks that I would eventually have to kill this chicken, and this morning I knew it had to be today.

A visiting farmer friend dispatched yet another one of our sick chickens last week (yes, my chicken mortality rate is pretty dismal) by wringing its neck. After digging a hole and with verbal instructions from Erynn (who watched the last time - I was away from the farm that day) I tried it. I swung the chicken a couple of times and I screamed and dropped it and it wasn't dead. As Erynn noted, it didn't even look particularly fazed.

What followed was a grim discussion of various other chicken killing methods, as Kat, Erynn and I stood around the little chicken (who had ended up in her grave-to-be). We debated the merits of milk cartons, axes, and even the bag-and-exhaust-pipe, before settling on what I had saw my dad do 17 years ago.

We did it. I swung the hen by her legs for about 30 seconds to make her dizzy and still, and Kat held her down while I cut her throat with our sharpest knife (which, horribly, was not very sharp). I can tell the story with a little humor, but the truth is I was sobbing when it was finally done.

But I did it. I was involved in every part of that chicken's life - from choosing her at the feed store to ending her life when she was clearly suffering. As difficult as it was, and as much I hope I'll never have to do that again, it somehow feels complete.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. i think at age six i could have told you how to kill a chicken.

    and yes, i'm not an mk, but i've had several conversations overseas on how to kill a chicken. but canNOT say that i've done so myself.

    and to that end, i give to both you and kat my respect. for whatever it's worth.

    from a guy who spent his childhood in the woods of northwestern PA,