Seventy-eight may be a good innings for an English cricketer but in days of life for a commercial meat chook it is mere fantasy - two lifetimes in one. Conventionally turned into a 1kg broiler at 35-40 days our aged chooks were well past their use-by-date. However since the rainy period ended last weekend, all nineteen remaining chooks staggered successfully through to today.
Up at 5am I headed for the chook run to attempt to catch all of them ,put them in plastic boxes and stow them in the back of the ute. I knew that running away was not as prized a genetic trait as flabby breasts but I was still concerned that I might have do a fair bit of chasing once there was a cackle up. I placed the first box on the ute tray and entered the yard. As usual for these chooks they came towards me so grabbing the first one was easy. In the box she goes and a brick placed on the wooden lid while I fetch the second. They are a little warier but still no problems. However just before the second chook is ready to go into the box it tips over onto the ground releasing the first chook. A desperate grab - lucky there is plenty to get hold of - plenty of wing flapping and squawking later both chooks are in the box and the lid secured.
Despite my fumbling first attempts the rest of the chooks didn't seem too fazed and joined their comrades in the boxes without incident. I borrowed the boxes from a friend who processed fifty-five chooks and reckoned on four to a box. Ours were a squeeze with two.
The forecast was for 34 degrees so leaving at 6am was a must. Getting four young children up and ready by then was more of a challenge than boxing chooks but the bribe of a bakery breakfast and a trip to the beach proved suffice to chivvy them out of slumber and into the car.
When we arrived at the abattoir two hours later we were met by a man whose job on the processing line was knocking out rabbits with a large metal stick. A moment of qualm at the prospect of being responsible for the demise of nineteen creatures I had been nursing from birth into a corpulent old age passed uncomfortably. Twenty-seven years of being a vegetarian is not forgotten too easily but these chooks represented a weekly roast for almost six months. For a man who has only eaten three chicken meals in twenty nine years this was a powerful incentive. They had a good innings, plenty of fresh air and twice as long in this world as their chickmates.
Six hours later we returned, salty and windburnt from the tremendous onshore breeze at the beach, and packed nineteen carcasses in ice for the return journey. The heaviest was a whopping 3.7kg with the smallest being 2.5kg.
Breeding these chooks has been a real learning curve. Breeding chooks for the table we plan to do again. Breeding this genetically modified breed of chooks again - no thank you. There has to be a more natural way.