This time every year Dad would sharpen the axe, I’d be told to light the fire and the ritual began. The boys would drag the old wringer out from under the house, stand it near the laundry pouring quite a few buckets of water into it. I’d go into the neighbour’s backyards to gather kindling and firewood to light the fire underneath.

Dad would select the plumpest non-layer and with a quick neat whack her head was off down the back corner on his chopping block. Us kids would scream and dance as the headless bloody chook would race around the yard. When it finally fell over dead our job was to pluck and gut it.

A gruesome task but one we’d grown up with. So in our bathers, summer here remember, we’d get the task completed quickly. To get hosed down, cos we were hot and dirty, once the job was done. Then Mum’s cooked the chook to have it cold on Christmas day.

Sad part was I loved every one of those chooks, named them just like Santa’s reindeer and they would come when called. They’d follow me about the yard cos I was the one who fed them and raked out their yard. Then the next door neighbour would make a foul smelling fertiliser as I ladled buckets of waste over the fence into his 44 gallon drum and he’d add ingredients whilst we’d wear hankies tied to cover our nose and mouth as the potion was potent.

But most of all I loved their fresh eggs …


  1. A gruesome story, well-told, Kate! As well as having a huge garden, my father hunted and fished to put food on the table. I learned to clean wild game when I was young.

    Farmers used to give us chickens when I was 4-5 years old. They couldn’t afford to pay their preacher very much, but they shared their food. I remember riding home with a chicken in my lap. My mother, who was raised on a farm, hung the chicken upside down from the clothesline to cut off its head. I also remember a time when the hallway was piled high with eggs. My mother was a good cook, so I am sure she found many ways to prepare them. 🙂

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  2. I keep chooks for eggs, and occasionally for meat but they’re usually too stringy for anything except soup. We also have a pet Berkshire pig – the kids still want to turn her into ham. Having tried Berkshire ham at a farmers market recently, I can see their point…


  3. Oh dear such a vivid memory kate. Its wonderful how families used to raise their own chicken back then for eggs and chicken meat. Now, however we rely on farm raised tastelesa chicken.

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  4. Your wonderful story takes me back to my childhood, Kate! You explain it in all its yukky glory! I remember plucking chickens that were scalded and in a tub of hot water. What a slimy job! As you said, we grew up with it an never gave it much thought. I loved all the details!

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  5. I can imagine it was a hardship, to rear and care for an animal like that to then kill it for the table… I guess that’s how life was?

    Hope you’re keeping good 🙂

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  6. Oh my goodness, that brought back memories. Mum was the one doing the hacking of the neck, I had to run away, I couldn’t handle the stench. But they all had a good life.
    Must admit now I miss my chooks. It’s been a few years and I loved them, they were great to have in the backyard and it was great having fresh eggs.

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  7. My mother had a pet chicken. One day it went missing but the neighbors had fried chicken for dinner. This was during the depression and NO ONE had meat… And then my mother’s family didn’t have eggs. She found the chicken’s head in the alley and buried it in a match box.

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  8. You could be telling my story, except, we kids did everything from the chasing of the chicken to slaughtering it (sorry guys), to plucking and cooking lol. The meat is so yummy compared to the ones bought at a grocery store, at least I think. It is what I eat every other day when I go back home.
    Kate, I loved your story. 🙂

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  9. My grandparents raised chicken and I’d help my grandmama like you did your dad My parents also raised chickens, pigs and even a cow or two to butcher eat. It made me a bit sad but we needed food and we knew from the beginning they’d become lunch or supper. We also raised nubian goats and those were pets…never to be eaten (though we used their milk) and a turkey that was a pet. That helped. 😉

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  10. Great story. Ha ha.
    I buy organic eggs myself, straight from the farmer, because they come from hens running around the lawn and are grain-fed. I don’t buy caged ones.
    I like reading your stories.

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  11. Always had chooks. We would do the same as a regular Sunday lunch as well at special times. Never let the chook run around though. Hot water and feathers is a smell I will always remember

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  12. I know these memories are vivid for you, SweetKate!

    By the time I was born into my family my parents were still raising chickens for the eggs, but within a few years they started buying eggs from a little market close to us. My parents wanted to support the family that owned and ran the market…the family was from China. 🙂
    🥚 🐥 🐔 🐓 🥚 🐥 🐔 🐥 🐓 🥚
    You are a good egg, MyFriend! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I spent an hour yesterday researching how you kill a chicken, Kate. If only I’d know I could ask you. People have become very removed from reality when it comes to food which is why we are now so squeamish. When you grow up with it, it’s just normal.

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