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From the Beginning

June 25th, 2013

When we got our Muscovy ducklings last fall, we knew they’d eventually become food for our table. Some people have a hard time understanding how we can possibly slaughter an animal that we raised, particularly when they’re so cute as babies.
ducklings 3
Being meat eaters, we want to make sure that the meat we’re eating was raised with respect. Nowadays, it’s not difficult to find local farmers that raise their animals in the best conditions possible. Even with that, we’d rather do it ourselves if we can. By taking part in each step of the process I know exactly how that animal was treated and what it was fed.
When you first see sweet little ducklings, it can be hard to imagine that they’ll ever grace your table. But, as with most animals, the males start to grow up and nature takes over. They become aggressive towards each other and often towards you. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought to cull our male ducks, they were beating up on each other and occasionally trying to attack us.
ducks 2
We kept one gray male and the one remaining female (two of our females were lost to fox predation). The lady duck is currently sitting on a nest of eggs, we’re hoping she’ll hatch out a nice clutch of ducklings in early July.
ducks in kiddie pool
For the same reason I like to grow my own vegetables, I am raising my own meat. There’s just something about being involved from the beginning with what appears on your plate. When these ducks were small they were fed potatoes grown in my garden with greens harvested from the lawn. They lived happy lives splashing in a kiddie pool outside my kitchen window.   When the time came, they were slaughtered right here on the premises, no stressful travel to a processing facility. We wanted to take part in every part of the process to ensure it was done in a respectful way.
braised duck
duck breast prosciutto
After slaughter, they were seared, braised and salted & cured. I must say, they were delicious.  It’s certainly easier to let someone else handle the raising and slaughter of your animals, but I’m not one to go for ease and convenience.
ducks 3
Another reason to raise your own animals is because there are other benefits.  These ducks mowed the lawn and controlled insects while they were foraging. They also produced quality fertilizer for my garden in the process.   I also like knowing that 100% of the animal was used, their feathers were added to the compost pile, their bones were made into a nourishing stock for us and then converted to bone char to improve the soil in our garden.  Raising my own animals allows me to tighten the circle of my garden and it allows me to be 100% certain that everything that goes into my food was produced in the best way possible.
With lady duck sitting on a nest of eggs, the process will hopefully start all over again soon. We’re definitely looking forward to braised duck this coming winter! Even though raising animals from the beginning is more work than picking them up at the grocery store or the farmers market, they truly are a blessing to have around. These duckies provided us with lots of laughs along the way. I’m certainly glad we decided to keep ducks and there will always be a place for a small flock in the gardens of Chiot’s Run!

Have you ever raised an animal that ended up on your table?

32 Comments to “From the Beginning”
  1. Mich on June 25, 2013 at 5:44 am

    The first animals were the hardest to butcher…. I hand reared some bottle lambs and it nearly broke my heart to see them go.
    Since then I have kept/reared/eaten Gloucester old spot pigs, Dexter cattle and Jacob sheep.
    I also raised and enjoyed Muscovy ducks and various meat birds.

    Reply to Mich's comment

    • Susy on June 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      We love our Muscovies! And we’re hoping to possibly raise a few spot pigs in the future and maybe some Dexter cows too!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Sosae on June 25, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Loved this post! The idea of raising one’s own meat (ducks, chickens, etc.) sounds fantastic. Back to basics. It’s so unnatural buying meat wrapped in cello. Wish we weren’t city-folk. :)

    Reply to Sosae's comment

  3. Robin on June 25, 2013 at 6:16 am

    How did you char the bones? I’m guessing it’s done outdoors but honestly, I’m clueless. We butcher at least 25 chickens and sometimes turkeys and ducks, and give what’s left of the carcasses to the coyotes several miles away. I make stock but hadn’t thought of char.

    Reply to Robin's comment

    • Susy on June 25, 2013 at 6:42 am

      You can make a charcoal kiln, which we have plans to do this summer, but at the moment we just throw them in our woodburner in the winter.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Robin on June 27, 2013 at 6:20 am

        Thank you! I’ve been throwing bones in the wood stove to eliminate problems with dogs and the trash. We’ll be processing the birds in early October and it will be cool enough for a fire to burn the bones.

        to Robin's comment

  4. Jaye on June 25, 2013 at 6:43 am

    I haven’t eaten what I’ve raised and while I understand the conflict, I totally support what you’ve expressed here.

    I appreciate that you both embrace nature and all that it encompasses with respect.

    Reply to Jaye's comment

  5. Myra on June 25, 2013 at 7:46 am

    We have raised hogs, rabbits, chickens, and beef at different times. The meat is definitely better than store bought. The appreciation for the meat on our plates was definitely increased. The first beef we had was a beautiful Jersey that we raised on the bottle. We named him (which I know some people can’t eat it if it has a name and I understand that), but Abraham was deee-licous! (As were Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, and Ezekiel after him)

    Reply to Myra's comment

  6. Maria Zannini on June 25, 2013 at 8:39 am

    We eat all the livestock we raise. I’m curious. Do you hand-pluck your ducks?

    Reply to Maria Zannini's comment

    • Susy on June 25, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      Yep, hand plucking it is. The first one took forever, but we’re getting the hang of it and are learning to scald better. The other two have been much better.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. kristin @ going country on June 25, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Yup. Helping to deliver a lamb that you then cut up into chops in the fall is not for everybody, but it sure is cheaper, healthier, and more tasty than buying nasty meat at the store.

    So, in my opinion, butchering animals is gross, but then, so is chicken from the grocery store. It’s all a matter of which gross you want to deal with.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

    • Susy on June 25, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Well said!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. elizabeth on June 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I’m not a meat eater, but I totally agree with you. Raising and humanly killing your own animals for food is the best way. I have friends with goats and I enjoy making kefir and chevre from their milk. They do kill some goats for meat and the goats are not stressed in any way at killing time. Are you going to get goats?

    Reply to elizabeth's comment

    • Susy on June 25, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      We’ve discussed it, but for now we’re leaning more towards sheep and a couple cows.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. DebbieB on June 25, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I’m terrible with our animals (cats and fish, and in the past, dogs and birds) – I anthropomorphize them and couldn’t possibly eat anything I raised by hand. I’m such a wimp! But I wish all my meat was raised as peacefully, cleanly, healthily, and respectfully as yours. I live in a suburb of New Orleans with no apparent access to such meat, so mine comes from the grocery store, and that’s sad. When we eventually move to the mountains, I plan to find a local farmer to buy better meat from. Someone like you!

    Reply to DebbieB's comment

  10. tj on June 25, 2013 at 11:51 am

    …I am one who has voiced my opinions here regarding eating an animal that you’ve raised but I totally understand it, and approve. I know you & Mr. Chiots would only raise and process your animals humanely. I would love for one day to do the same, I would def’ have to put on my big girl panties to do it but I think I could. Right now I have a bantam hen who is a nut-job and everyday I could envision her in a stock pot. ;o)

    …Any chance in the future that you will show your slaughtering process?

    …Lovely photos as always. :o)

    …Enjoy your day!

    …Peace & blessings.

    Reply to tj's comment

  11. Ann on June 25, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    We are now raising ducks, chickens and rabbits. We will be doing our first harvest soon with the extra male ducks, chickens and then the baby rabbits when they are big enough. I know I will not find it easy. But for the same reasons as you, I choose this route to put food on our table. With the state of agriculture being what it is, I want to assure that what we eat is raised with respect to the animal and to the planet.

    Reply to Ann's comment

  12. amy on June 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Completely support you guys…..It is wonderful what you are doing…..I grew up on a very large farm and we raised gardens and animals for eating…..Consequently I grew up subsisting mainly on veg, dairy and eggs….I just could not bring myself to eat the animals….could not….would feel physically ill….when I did try…..I don’t know if this was just me being very sensitive….I am also an artist….so my imagination gets carried away…maybe that was the problem…..I love animals…so maybe that was the problem..:) I don’t know….I adore River Cottage and have watched all of the episodes especially regarding the ones where they raise and kill their own livestock…..I appreciate what they did but still recognize in myself that old nausea….I have wrestled with this dilemma because I so much want to be completely self sufficient…but this is definitely an area of weakness for me.

    Reply to amy's comment

  13. Jennifer Fisk on June 25, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    For a few years, I’ve been raising chickens, turkeys, and rabbits for meat. I am currently in the market for a pellet gun or .22 revolver to dispatch the rabbits. I’ve used the noose method but am not totally comfortable with it especially for the adult rabbits. My poultry is usually transported in a dog crate to a wonderful butcher shop 1.5 hours from here. I did process 3 Light Brahma Roosters last Dec. Someone asked about plucking. I hate plucking so with the roos I sacrificed the wings and skinned them. I stewed them and got wonderful meat and broth. This year, I have 5 Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys that will go to the butcher shop. I will have them cut 3 in half. The Heritage Turkeys will winter over. I really would like to try a pig or two but I don’t have pasture.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

    • Mr. Chiots on June 25, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Jennifer, I would recommend a Ruger 10/22 rifle. They range in price from $200 and up. This will be the most versatile choice as you can then use it for other purposes such as chasing away predators. Have you heard of the Rabbit Wringer? I have no experience but I have read good things.

      Reply to Mr. Chiots's comment

      • Jennifer Fisk on June 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm

        I have my Mothers Remington .22 rifle however I don’t want to be that far away from the rabbit when I pull the trigger. I’d like it to be relaxed on a bale of hay and then curtains. I talked to someone who used the rabbit wringer and he wasn’t comfortable with how it went with the bigger rabbits. I have a friend who uses a club and that is definitely outside my comfort zone.

        to Jennifer Fisk's comment

      • jules on July 17, 2013 at 6:29 pm

        We are raising rabbits to eat. We have tried the hand killing, a broomstick, and a .22. All are very hard to do. My DH does the killing, and I help with the rest of the harvest. We broke down and bought the Rabbit Zinger, at the same website as the Rabbit Wringer. Sal is a very nice guy, but I think he is the only one that works on them so delivery is a bit slow. Pre-order earlier than you need to use it. There was a 2 month lead time on our Zinger. All that to say, we are pleased with the Zinger. It’s all dirty work, and not fun at all, but we are happier with it than all the other methods, so far.

        The trouble we have is explaining to folks how we can kill and eat ‘those cute little bunnies”. There is definitely a block in folks mind when it comes to eating rabbit. They say “I don’t like rabbit.” I ask “have you ever eaten domestic rabbit?” They say no, but with that horrified look in their eyes. I try to explain that it’s a very nice, white, mild meat that is good for you. They are still horrified that we kill our ‘bunnies’. “How can you kill something you raised?” I tell them that we love and care for our bunnies, they get attention 5 times a day, with treats, good hay, plenty of water and wonderful growing conditions. When they persist, I ask them if they know how the chicken they buy at the store is raised and killed. I know, it’s a bad thing to do, but it definitely gets them to thinking. Then I say “wouldn’t you rather eat one of our rabbits now?”

        We haven’t bought chicken in over a year.

        to jules's comment

  14. Maybelline on June 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    No way.

    There is no way I could raise any animal to slaughter. Don’t get me wrong. I eat meat. I simply could not know the animal that I am eating.

    Blame it on Disney.

    Reply to Maybelline's comment

    • DebbieB on June 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      I agree about the “blame it on Disney” – I think here in America, especially us city-folk, kids are raised on picture books and cartoons where the animals talk and wear clothes and are essentially people. We’re brainwashed, I tell ya!

      My dad was a hunter, and I was happy to participate in the butchering and packaging of the deer he brought home for the freezer. But it wasn’t raised in my backyard, so I didn’t have any sort of emotional connection to it whatsoever.

      Reply to DebbieB's comment

      • Trish on June 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm

        agree too about ‘blame it on Disney’. I dislike the idea of meat eating people being squeamish about killing animals for food. I hope to one day raise some of my own meat. Most animals are raised so inhumanely. I don’t know why people scream about foie gras – if they ever saw a confinement hog operation they would be horrified. I avoid pork products for the most part. Except the odd bit of bacon.

        to Trish's comment

    • Jennifer Fisk on June 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      Hopefully, the meat you eat has been raised in the best way possible and it was humanely saughtered. As Joel Salatin says, the best husbandry practices allows each animal to express who they are rather than be in CAFO situations.

      Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

    • Mr. Chiots on June 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Disney is to blame in large part. There is definitely a separation in my mind between our pets and our animals. It is true that you never name something you are going to eat. Once you begin to anthropomorphize your animals it becomes much more difficult to slaughter them. It does become easier with each animal you kill but I hope I never become brazen or blasé about the act. You are taking a creature’s life but that creature lived a truly full life up until the end.

      Reply to Mr. Chiots's comment

  15. Megan on June 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    We raise beef, chickens, turkeys and soon pigs! We butcher our own chickens and turkeys for home but have the chickens processed at a facility so I can legally sell it by the piece. People don’t want to cook whole chickens these days. Every time we have a new calf born or get some chicks my kids always ask right away if we are going to eat it. They know not to get too attached to those animals.

    Reply to Megan's comment

  16. Ken Toney on June 25, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    We have raised rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pigs, ducks, goats and beef for the past 7 years. I have butchered all of them myself except for the beef. It’s to big to deal with and grass fed beef needs to age for 21 days in a cooler. It is very rewarding to raise the meat that my family eats. I love all of them and always have to be in the right mindset when butchering time comes. It can be tough but I know they were raised in a healthy humane environment. The only downside is that my 4 year old is now asking if we can get some pigs and keep them. Oh my!

    Reply to Ken Toney's comment

  17. Elyse on June 26, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Great post. We’ve not raised any meat animals yet, but I’d like to see it in our future! Have to convince DH. :)

    Reply to Elyse's comment

  18. Norma on June 27, 2013 at 9:30 am

    In Australia there are lots of rabbits. My husband dispatches them by hand………no special tool. Hold round back of neck and holding back legs tightly and just pull. Takes a bit of confidence…but works well and quick. Hope this helps.

    Reply to Norma's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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