Anyone who has tried to raise laying hens from tiny yellow chicks has most likely experienced the rooster dilemma. No matter how hard you try to sex baby chicks it seems there will always be one too many roosters. In our last batch of twenty-five so called laying hens in a matter of months seven of them let loose with adolescent sounding crows. Nancy had been telling me I needed to butcher them before they reached maturity, but one day turned into another until the hen house turned into a mad house. Where there are seven testosterone filled roosters, pecking orders and turf wars strike terror and anxiety into young hens trying to lay their first eggs. All this to say – one way or the other six of the seven roosters had to go.
Every time the” too many roosters” dilemma occurs I come up against three issues that cause me to procrastinate the inevitable day of reckoning. One; most everyone you talk to will say that if a rooster is old enough to crow and fight he is too old and tough to be worthy of the stew pot. Second; by the time they have grown up to maturity I have built a relationship with them; especially Bard-rock roosters which are very non-aggressive and in fact downright friendly. Not only that, but the more time you spend with them the more personality you realize they have. And finally, it seems wasteful to me to do in huge beautiful birds and just throw them in a ditch, especially after feeding them for six or seven months.
As only fate would have it the week we were contemplating all this Nancy read the featured comment in Februarys addition of Grit Magazine and came upon a short article where a reader had shared her experience with the same “too many rooster” issue.
That same week a friend of mine reminded me that for years we had hunted and shot old rooster pheasants and thought they were delicious even after picking number four lead shot out of our teeth. How much worse could a domestic rooster be that had never even flown across the barnyard? In addition to that he reminded us that even and old boot can be made tender enough to eat if it was cooked long enough in a traditional pressure cooker.
By the time we finally decided to go ahead and butcher them Nancy had given three of the luckier roosters away. In addition to that we needed one to fertilize the eggs which left only three who pulled the short straws.
One Saturday morning I sharpened the butcher knife and went to work. Lily our gentle little white lab who rarely does anything wrong was at my side. Looking back on the event
I think she must have been excited with the idea that we were about to break the “no- kill chicken mandate”. It’s hard to understand what goes on in a little dogs head or how things are interpreted through their limited worldview, but as I was finishing up with the three deceased roosters I heard Nancy shouting from the house inquiring if it was in fact a dead hen in Lily’s mouth. It was! All I can figure is she had come to believe that the rules did in fact change and it had become open season on chickens in general. It was a misunderstanding quickly rectified with loud angry sounding shouts of “bad dog” and a short deliberate beating with the remains of a half eaten hen.
Nancy did the rest. She took the cut up rooster meat and did the fine finish cleaning putting the meat to rest in the refrigerator for 48 hours. She then put them in her pressure cooker with spices, onions and carrots cooking them until the meat fell off the bone. She froze the broth and meat in one gallon freezer bags and has already started using them to make rooster soup on these past cold winter days.