Red is the Colour of Autumn

bloodI love the autumn – it is a time of beginnings and new projects (I blame the fact that I have always been in education and a new academic year starts in September). I love the excitement of new students and modules, the shift in the weather, the campsite and garden slowing down, the quietness of the smallholding. I also love the colours of autumn.

autumn colours2

But autumn is also a time of endings and death, especially here on the smallholding. Our pigs go to the abattoir and we kill the meat birds we hatched back in the spring.


Last Sunday we killed our Naked Neck cockerels.

Naked necks and hens

It is never easy, but they had a good life and a quiet death. They were lovely birds, they free-ranged and as they were heritage breeds they were not susceptible to the deformities of commercial breeds – they had sturdy, slow-grown bones. (Commercial breeds grow too quickly for their bones to support them, if they are not killed before they are a couple of months old their legs break).

No photos of us killing the birds, we were busy, there was no time. Jess helped out and together we plucked the birds, gutted and butchered them.

chicken carcass

Then I got busy making stock. There is plenty of celery in the garden and carrots.

celerystock veggies

The tiny onions I grew are perfect for popping in the stock pot. I made a lot of stock – slowly cooking the carcasses for hours with celery, carrot, onion, lemon, herbs and black pepper – there is no such thing as too much stock.


Before cooking

On Monday evening we had one of the birds roasted for dinner with friends. I popped it in a pot with tons of herbs and roasted it with the lid balanced on/and off for about an hour – it was delicious.

roast chicken

Thank you birds for feeding us – we have meat and stock for the winter – and Kainaat has lovely chicken feet for dinner.

N.B. The Naked Necks weighed in between 6-7 lbs. The Ixworths at about 4lbs.

N.B. The white bird above was an Ixworth cockerel that lost a fight with another one. He wasn’t too badly injured but we were planning on killing these this weekend so did him early instead – no point in waiting in case a worse fight happened.

3 responses to “Red is the Colour of Autumn

  1. We killed five. It doesn’t take too long to pluck them. I dry pluck by hand. All told the killing, plucking, gutting, butchering takes a few hours. We don’t rush the killing. We kill two and then I pluck them, then get another two etc etc. I am getting quicker with practice.

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