WARNING! This post contains graphic descriptions of killing/butchering chickens. Reader discretion is advised.
Have you ever heard of a kill cone before?
Sure, it’s kind of a barbaric name, but it really is a very simple contraption. At its most basic level, a kill cone is just a funnel that’s used to hold the chicken steady while you bleed it out.
Kill cones are growing in popularity too. A lot of people swear by ’em (the folks at Grit Magazine, The Elliott Homestead, and even old Joel Salatin, just to name a few), but with all the butchering I’ve done, I’d never actually used a kill cone before; I’d always just used a hatchet — until last Saturday, that is…
Because of my status as “The Chicken Guy,” I found myself with a gnarly old rooster at my disposal. A real tough old bird. And I decided that this was my chance to check out what all the hype was about.
Now, I could have gone out and bought a fancy-pants metal kill cone like this one, but I elected to make one instead (a real shocker there).
Just an old plastic milk carton and an arm’s length of recycled baling twine, and we were ready for business!
Setting “Old Chantecler” into the kill cone calmed him right down, just like I’d been told it would — and slitting his throat was quick and simple.
All in all, it was a very quiet affair.
But I have to admit, I really wasn’t prepared for how disturbing the whole process was gonna be.
I’ve dispatched a LOT of chickens in my day, and it’s always a sobering experience. It’s always kinda sad (and even a little bit sickening) to take a life.
And y’know, I think it’s SUPPOSED to be that way.
If the day ever comes that I butcher an animal and I DON’T feel bad about it, I think I might need to take a step back and re-evaluate myself. Life is such a sacred thing, and I want to always give it the reverence it deserves — even if it is “just” a chicken.
But it really pulled at my heartstrings, when I reached down there, slit the rooster’s throat, and watched him as he watched his own life bleed away before his eyes.
He didn’t appear to be in pain or upset by it. On the contrary, he was actually very calm as he hung there, upside-down. The poor old rooster seemed to have totally given up the fight; he had resigned himself to his fate. But at the same time, it was like he wanted to watch; it was as if he didn’t want to miss seeing a single drop as it poured out and splattered into a crimson puddle on the ground.
Bleeding him out didn’t take too long though. Just a few deep, steady breaths (it almost looked like he was “sighing”), and then he was gone.
It was all so calm and somber and quiet.
Nothing like the flapping and ruckus that comes when using a hatchet (they don’t use the phrase “running like a chicken with its head cut off” for nothing!) — but it was the look in that old rooster’s eyes as he watched his life slip away from him that disturbed me the most. I just can’t get over it.
There are some things you just can’t un-see…
And that’s actually why I’m writing this article — not to disturb you, or to criticize or demonize the people who use kill cones — but to give you my honest personal opinion on dispatching chickens. Sure, kill cones work. They work very well, as a matter of fact. But I think I’ll stick with my trusty old hatchet.
It just feels better that way.