The price of eggs is that at some point cockerels must die. Fifty percent of all eggs that hatch are cockerels and you can only use hens for egg production. When we let the silkies sit on eggs earlier this year (see here) we knew at some point we would have to kill any cockerels. We can’t let them all live as they tend to fight – we have seen this before when a friend gave us some Pekin chicks and a few were cockerels.
I looked around for homes for our gorgeous silkie cockerels, but there were no takers – people don’t really want cockerels. To be honest I see their point, many are obstreperous, aggressive and not particularly pleasant. Our silkies were lovely boys though – as is their dad. On the up side our silkie cockerels were not discarded and gassed as day old chicks they enjoyed a full summer (6 months) running around the front garden having a great time. They had however started a crowing competition that started at 3.30am and last much of the day, they were fighting with each other, and were seriously harassing the hens until we removed them last weekend.
This Sunday was silkie killing day. We left the silkies in their coop and took them out one at a time. I would hold the silkie until it was calm – this didn’t take long as they had nothing to fear. Then holding their wings tightly so they feel safe I turn them upside down and hold their legs which also helps to sooth them. We then pop them in the cone. James stuns them with this and then cuts their heads off.
All I can say is that they were calm and not distressed when we killed them – they didn’t know anything bad would happen. The most distressing thing for me is that the body continues to thrash about after the head has been cut off – I continue to hold the legs until it is all over. In some circumstances it will start to make noises as well. They do not make noises before we kill them and when we stun them – not if they are calm to start with. They only seem to make noises after the head has been cut off. This happened with the last bird – no head, but the body made a noise – this is very very disconcerting.
After we killed all three we put them in a pan of hot water for about 90 seconds to loosen the feathers and then I plucked them. Silkies are blue-black – I didn’t know this.
I then gutted and prepared the birds. I fried the liver and hearts for my lunch. The intestines and other bits and pieces were eaten by Daisy Dog. As I am training Kainaat to track I thought as a treat I would put some lungs in a pot for him to find at the end of a track. He found them, looked at me with a mixture of disappointment and incredulity that I would expect him to eat them and wandered off! Kainaat is happy to eat pig lungs but apparently you do not eat silkie cockerel lungs – silly me. Daisy loved them.
After thoroughly cleaning them I then stuffed the birds with lemon and herbs and roasted them for dinner. James, like Kainaat was not hugely keen on eating them especially when he saw that not only the skin but some of the flesh was blue-black as well. However, we did eat them and they were delicious. We actually got quite a bit of meat off them. Below is the leftover meat.
I gave some of the chicken to Psyche our neighbour Shirley’s elderly greyhound who was staying with us for a couple of days (she loved it) and the rest we will eat later in the week or freeze. I made stock with the carcasses – there is no waste here especially when we have raised and killed the animal.
N.B see here for more about our attitude towards raising animals, life and death.