Duck Slaughter

by Angela aka Farmer Jane on September 12, 2011 · 9 comments

The time is quickly approaching where we will be slaughtering ducks for the first time. We have never done it before, so this is going to be both a learning experience and a heart breaking experience. I’m not going to lie about it, I love our ducks, but the total count as of this weekend are nine drakes and six ducks. Because we only have six ducks, we need to lower the number of drakes we have or separate them. They are being raised for meat and eggs, as well as for breeding, but I get this twinge in my stomach as Dom and I watch endless videos on how to slaughter a duck. I knew this time would be coming, and intellectually its always easier to handle than the actual execution of the task, but it does need to be done. We’re raising them with the intention of eating them…the question is, are you all ready to see what it takes to raise ducklings so sweet and peeping all over the place, to slaughtering them and finally preparing them and eating them…from our back courtyard to our plate?

I’ll be documenting everything with both video and photo. I believe that it’s so important for people to understand where our food comes from, whether we are raising our animals as food or you get your meat from the refrigerated section of the store, all animals meet their death so we can eat, I just want to give my animals the very best life before they die. I’ll post a warning on our blog the day before I actually post the slaughter video and photos.

Today Dom and I will be deciding the temporary location for us to slaughter. We will be building a slaughter house, but that won’t be for awhile, so we need to have something else in place in the mean time. If you are a homesteader and have slaughtered your ducks for food, please leave a comment with any wisdom you may have on the subject. We want to do this right!

Here are a few photos of the pond in progress…its a slow but steady process!

The forms were taken off, and Dom filled the inner area with dirt and tamped it down. The same will be done with the exterior and the concrete half wall will be buried, adding strength so we don’t blow out the wall with the weight of the water.

Simmi looking adoringly at her Poppie!

The ducks are gonna love their new home when its complete!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Autumn September 12, 2011 at 8:34 am

I have had duck before, and it was badly cooked, so it smelled like the back end of something gross. Apparently, when perfectly cooked, duck is absolutely delicious! I think your ducks are gorgeous.

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Angela aka Farmer Jane September 12, 2011 at 8:41 am

Thanks Autumn, we really adore them so much. I’ve had duck that was prepared horribly, and also the most scrumptious duck that melts in your mouth. Around here, duck costs $65.00…frozen. I’m looking forward preparing it and also making a few inspirational French recipes.

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Heather September 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I’ve never slaughtered ducks, although we have had to euthanize one or two. We did raise quail for meat for a while, though, and did our own “harvesting.”

And I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. I was shaking so badly on the first one I was afraid I’d cut myself with the knife I was using to skin them. It’s a little gruesome if you think too hard about it–there are details I wasn’t emotionally prepared for, which I’m about to talk about so if you’re reading this comment and feeling squeamish you may want to skip to the next one…

Some of the difficult details: the way it moves around after the head is gone, and the times when the head doesn’t come off cleanly, and the time when I picked one up to skin it and it started jumping around again after I stuck the knife in it (it was headless). And, when you’re first getting started, the fact that you are likely to make mistakes and one or two may not go as smoothly as you would like, and there may be suffering involved. It’s easy to feel really awful and guilty about it too, because you know if you had only been more skillful or quicker or stronger that the death would have been quick and painless…

I only say all of that because I wanted to know ahead of time what I might be in for.

Once I got into the rhythm of it, it went quickly and the trauma passed. I believe that spirit never dies, and that death is merely a passage for any living thing, so there is no guilt for me around the actual death. But it’s still very hard.

A few things I did right: We made sure the quail who were lined up for slaughter could not see the actual process. They were calm and unaware right up until the moment of death. We had all our stuff in place–ice water bucket, tools, etc.–before we got started. We let the kids know ahead of time what was going on and gave them the option to watch or not watch. When they came out to see things, I showed them the insides of the birds and told them what some of the parts were and they found it fascinating.

A few things I did wrong: I let the three-year-old watch. He spent the next several days wondering about things like whether we were going to cut his head off. He was cheerful about it but still, it was disconcerting. Also, I worried that he would think it was okay to use pruning shears to cut the heads off of things as a general rule, and that he might get ahold of a pair and try it himself. I didn’t bring anything to wash my hands with or drainage for the hose, so we just had a hose running into the grass the whole time we were doing it. I didn’t wear gloves or somehow protect my hands while working with the sharp knife. It is no big deal to me to cut myself a bit occasionally, but rather unpleasant to do so when the hands are covered with guts and gore.

Good luck. I’ll be very interested to read your experiences. I know it’s a very hard thing to do, but I absolutely agree that it is very important, valuable work. Your ducks have had a happy, wonderful life. Their death will be far better than what they would get in the wild or in a slaughterhouse. And you will have a new appreciation for the meat you eat. I’m now very particular about not wasting meat, because I know on a visceral level the sacrifice that was made in order for me to eat it.

Blessings!

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Angela aka Farmer Jane September 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Thank you Heather for all your wonderful input! It is so appreciated. The videos we watched of other homesteaders slaughtering the ducks all basically showed what you were talking about with the duck (other fowl too) moving around after the head is gone. One video we watched, the duck’s body was still moving for about two minutes.

I don’t think we’ll be letting Simmi watch us take any animals down to kill. I made the mistake about a month ago of telling her to finish eating her chicken, and she immediately looked out the back window to see where the chickens were! She understands on some very basic level. After she saw that her chickens were still in the back courtyard, she looked at her dish, pushed it away and said “uh? no thank you!” LOL We just say its “meat” now. When she is old enough to understand, we will let her witness the process, and when she is emotionally able to cope, we’ll have her help us. I know my son is looking forward to helping us do it.

I have a feeling she might think what your son thought about cutting off the head, only she can not articulate things very well verbally. I know she understands though.

As I’ve done some research on humane slaughter, I found that some people actually use the CO2 to render the animals unconscious first, and then they can slit the throat to allow the blood to drain and the animal never wakes up. I like the idea of doing it that way, especially when it comes time to slaughter bigger animals like goats, pigs, sheep and lambs. Either way though, it won’t be easy the first few times we do it.

We’re looking at slaughtering our first two drakes the first week in October. I know the time is going to creep up on us! I’m nervous already.

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Heather September 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I totally agree that it’s important to judge whether the child is emotionally ready. We knew the 7- and 10-year-olds were, but for some reason we didn’t foresee that the three-year-old would have more issues. It ended up fine–he never did try any slaughtering on his own (thank goodness!!), and he never seemed all that bothered by any of it–just curious. My 7-year-old, who is an extremely sensitive, compassionate soul, became a vegetarian for about three months after our first slaughter day. My 10-year-old just kind of thought it was cool and then went back to his video games. :D Obviously, you know Simmi very well and know what’s best for her.

I love the idea of the CO2–it’s commonly used in euthanizing small pet animals (like mice and rats), but I don’t know how you’d do it for larger animals. A chamber, maybe? And would it be expensive?

I look forward to hearing your tales!

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Jen September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Make sure if it’s “off with the head” that you have a good sharp knife and pull back the neck feathers, the are thicker than it looks and hinders getting a good clean slice. Learned that lesson the hard way and had the unfortunate experience of making a few suffer because of my lack of knowledge.

As far as the kiddos, if it’s a new experience, I’d go easy on the hands on or visual, maybe have them watch some slaughters on youtube. Gauge their reaction. Some do fine, like mine, who fight over who plucks and who cleans the guts (all wanting to do it!!) One of my kids even insists that she’s the one to hold the chickens feet while their heads are getting chopped off and they make a game of chasing around the body while it’s still twitching.

Happy Harvest! I love duck :)

http://narrowwaywife.blogspot.com

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Angela aka Farmer Jane September 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Thanks for the advice Jen, the last thing I want is to cause any undue harm or pain to our animals. I’m glad to see that your kids can’t wait to help with the most intimate part of dinner prep. From the video you’ve shared with me, I can see how much they enjoy handling the animals and being involved in the process.

Here’s a video that we watched…I like the way he set up the noose to hold the duck’s head (Caution to anyone reading this, the video is GRAPHIC and shows what happens to a duck when it’s head is chopped off):

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Eli September 17, 2011 at 7:53 am

Boy…. I raise ducks and i could not do that… I use their eggs,feathers, and manure but i couldnt do that to my ducks

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Angela aka Farmer Jane September 17, 2011 at 7:57 am

Hi Eli,
In my mind, I *think* I can, but doing it will be very difficult for me. We haven’t slaughtered any yet, but in the next few weeks we will be.

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