My mother might have laughed at my discomfort about killing my own chickens for food. She preferred to buy live birds and prepare them for the table herself. At this, she was quick and efficient.
But today it’s different, and not many have the ability nor the desire to butcher chickens. For most, there is no necessity either.
For me, it makes practical sense. I raise chickens, and cannot hold on to birds past their egg-laying years. And then if any of my chicks end up as roosters, Auckland Council will not allow me to keep them as I live in a non-rural area.
Summer, my welsummer, has ascites, probably from a heart condition. In a previous post, I mentioned how we literally saved her life. Since then she had been chirpy and happy. She has not laid eggs after that, and as such, she is a liability, and I don’t mind that. But today, I noticed that she is again finding it a little hard to walk. Instead of pricking her and draining her with a syringe, I can simply prepare her for the table.
How can I even bear the thought? Well, I do not approach this in a callous way. Life has value, even that of a bird. But God has given us the permission to kill for food. To pick up a packet of meat from the supermarket is easy to do. One hardly even realises that an animal or bird has had to die. To have to kill the chicken makes me realise the value of the meat.
Not a sparrow falls without the Father’s knowledge. And yet, in this post-fall world, the shedding of blood, albeit for food, is still a constant reminder of our sin and the consequences endured by all of creation. The Bible tells us that creation itself groans as it waits for the last day, after which the earth will be renewed. We too long for that day when Jesus will return to usher in the “new heaven and new earth.”
Abraham served the fatted calf to the angelic visitors among whom was the Lord Himself. The Lord partook of the meal, and He would have known that calf even better than I know Summer.
But knowing an animal marked for slaughter intimately would not have been uncommon. For instance, when the lamb without blemish was offered by Jewish families in Biblical times, they placed their hands on the head of the animal. Often times, it would have been a lamb they had raised at home. There would have been a realisation that it was their sin that the animal was bearing. I imagine that children would have felt that pang acutely but would have become desensitised over time. Of course we are told that the blood of bulls and goats (and chickens) cannot forgive sins. Those sacrifices pointed to the cross, where the only efficacious sacrifice was made once and for all. We have digressed from the subject of home kills.
It is hard to explain, but I feel that the killing of the chicken will impress on me, in yet another way, the consequences of the curse. And that the meat we eat—though provision—always comes to us with a cost.
My hope is that I will be grateful for this provision and learn to be as humane as possible. Also, I would like to be able to look past the grimness of the process and be able to gratefully enjoy the flavourful meat too.