I may have mentioned my mom was a very good cook. When we were very young, mom raised poultry from chicks – both to ensure tasty chicken dishes from well-fed hens, and to save some money in the process.
I remember squatting in the corner of the kitchen where the chicks were housed. Usually we would start with 12 of them – bright yellow round blobs and chirpy. They were kept indoors in a cage with fine wire mesh so that cats, rats and snakes could not get at them. My duty was to change the water and newspaper and feed them. When they got larger, they were transferred to the chicken coop at the back of the house. Occasionally we collected eggs, and the hen’s first eggs were considered special and saved for us kids to eat.
Sometimes mom would let a couple of them free range in the garden (well before the days of carpet grass of course). Now and then, she would say, go catch a chicken for dinner… and we would chase the poor bird squawking and flapping all round the garden. She would always have to come out and capture the chicken herself.
The next part of this blog may be a bit too graphic for animal lovers, so please be warned, and feel free to click away now.
Killing the chickens was a job normally left to the adults. In my memory, my paternal grandma was just masterful at this, and mom learned the method from her. One day, grandma felt I was ready to help out and she held the chicken with neck stretched out for me. I could only make a few tentative slices with the knife and grandma had to execute the coup de grace.
The next time, grandma decided I was going to be useless with the knife and asked me to hold the chicken for her instead. Mind you, she could do everything with her own two hands, but she saw I was eager to learn and so she let me participate.
I was to hold the hen’s wings with my left hand, and grab the head with my right. After grandma had made the necessary slit, I was supposed to tilt the chicken so that the blood would flow out the neck and into a bowl. I was also to spill some of it on the prayer paper next to the bowl.
So I held on to the chicken and told grandma I was ready. She made the slit. And the chicken struggled and struggled, and first my left hand lost its grip and then my right hand let go. Flapping and bleeding, the chicken “jumped” away from me and got further and further. Grandma yelled, put down the knife, and went after the chicken. In the end, there was some blood in the bowl, about one-third as much as expected, and to top it off, it was contaminated with blades of grass.
I was never asked to help out again.
In any case, we lost so many chicks and young hens to snakes, rats and cats that mom decided it was not worth the trouble raising our own poultry. She “progressed” to buying them from the market plucked and cleaned, ready for cooking.
(P/s to read a funnier account of the chicken that got away, read Eric Alagan’s blog post here)