Killing Day is a story recounting a childhood memory of mine – a time from long, long ago! A time before animal rights groups would protest loudly against such practises. I was brought up on a poultry farm and along with the daily task of collecting eggs (yes, from caged hens, heaven forbid!) every so often, old chooks who no longer produced eggs, were culled.
By Lorraine Brockbank
The old hens huddled in the wooden crates, awaiting their fate. One at a time, my Dad grabbed a pair of legs, momentarily clasped the hen to his chest, clenched the scrawny neck with his hand and with a quick expert twist, broke the neck and dropped the hen to the ground. The hen flapped around the dusty soil in a frantic St Vitus dance until still.
Five at a time, the hens were positioned in the conical shapes dad had fashioned from scrap roofing iron, attached to the side of the shed. Their necks hung through the narrow opening. With a swift swish of his butchers knife, Dad sliced off their heads. Thick blood trickled into an old feeding trough below.
Then Mum dunked the headless chooks in the hot tub ready for de-feathering. Once, the arduous task of de-feathering was done by hand. Not any more. Darth Vader, dad’s new invention, performed this task. The crude machine, fashioned from an old washing machine bowl turned on it’s side, with rubber fingers fixed at intervals around the circumference. As each carcass was held by it’s legs, the whirling machine effectively whipped off the feathers and plucked it nearly clean. Mum was the de-featherer. The wall behind Darth Vader became a thick carpet of feathers.
I was the fine feather plucker, plucking those little feathers from around the legs left by Darth Vader. A tedious job.
Gutting was the worst job of all. Wrenching the slimy innards from each carcass, thankfully, was my brother’s job. He also chopped off the claws. As the day wore on and he became bored, my brother would tease us girls by chasing us with handfuls of innards or scratchy claws until mum or dad yelled at him to stop.
My older sister packed each carcass into plastic bags ready for the freezer.
My younger sister didn’t do much at all other than dance around the yard with the flapping hens or poke sticks into the trough of thick congealing blood to smear on her clothes or paint the shed wall.
I recall killing days with great fondness. A day when our family bonded over the demise of old chooks.