Sunday was the day of reckoning for our brood of 105 broilers and 26 too-old-for-laying hens.
Ten of us worked from 8 am to 3 pm, killing, scalding, plucking, eviscerating, and cleaning the chickens.
I've posted a photo essay of the experience here (sorry for the slow loading), out of respect for folks who read this, but don't necessarily want to see the photos.
I had never killed a chicken before (the only thing similar in size was a salmon, and that was a much less technical, hands-on operation). I don't tend to be squeamish, so I expected it would be fine, and for the most part, it was. I tried my hand at cutting and bleeding the chickens -- sobering, and bloody, but not gross. I plucked feathers -- stinky, and sometimes unpleasant, but not unbearable.
Evisceration, even more than slitting the bird's throat, seemed like the most intimate and powerful part of the process. Picking up a cold chicken and sticking your hand into its warm guts, pulling out bits of grass, separating the organs, finding half-formed eggs: this is where it seemed like we were really transforming the bird from chicken to meat.
Despite the headiness, nothing about the sight or feel of the chicken disgusted me or made me feel queasy. It was only the smell that managed to turn my stomach a few times, and by three-o-clock, my sleeves drenched in chicken juices, I was definitely ready to be done.