Children and Butchering

dethride(7a / 6b GA)February 3, 2009

Hi all, I've recently gotten the chicken bug and just ordered 10 hens - 5 Buff Orps, 5 Delawares. They are going to be my egg layers, but I'm ok with the idea of butchering these birds when they get close to 3 years old (remind me of this when it gets around that time!) and won't be naming them, but I'm concerned about exposing our 4 year-old twin girl grandkids to the fact that they are about to eat something that they are going to be around when they come up to the farm and visit. And who knows, considering the economic situation, they all may move in with us!

I feel like being straight up with them. It's the cycle of life, and better than the factory poultry. How do you address this with kids? Their mom is a slowly reforming vegetarian (thankfully!)and has started eating chicken, so hopefully she will help get the message across.

Our family has much to teach one another and I want to be sure that a consistent message comes from the "adults" as to real life and clean natural food. Please share any thoughts.


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RuthieG__TX(z8 TX)

I understand where you are coming from but if it were me, I'd give them some time. They are a little young to face the reality of it all. We had this issue with my daughter and her eating rabbits at her Grandparents farm....We just felt that she didn't need to learn that lesson so young.

She lived what was happening on the farm and in the end she didn't even have to be told but I'm glad when she was so young that we didn't "tell" her the truth. We talked over the time period about the whole process and I think at some point she got the picture and message and it was never an issue but although I don't really remember her age at the time...It was a good bit later.

It's a very individual thing though and I am sure that you can tell her in a manner that might not be offensive to her but be prepared for her never to eat chicken at your place ever again.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 3:35PM
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We slaughtered our first chickens when my daughter was 6 and my son 4. He went off crying saying they were his friends. My daughter picked up the heads, pushed them onto her fingers and made finger puppets. I surely wouldn't force them to watch. I'd talk to them from the day you get the chicks and just make it a matter of fact that chickens are great because you get eggs and meat. In three years when they're 7 it shouldn't be too traumatic. Just part of life. Tom

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 7:32PM
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garbird(zone6 KY)

I agree with Tom. I think it is important that kids learn where our food comes from, and how it is processed. I was taught very young that we harvest both plants and animals to produce food. I think I was lucky to have "country grown" parents that grew a garden and kept livestock. It was my job to tend to all of our animals needs from the time I was seven years old. At first it was very difficult for me to participate in butchering, because I spent so much time around the critters and got used to them as individuals. That may not make sense to you all , but not all animals behave exactly the same. I had to keep in my mind that there would always come the day of the harvest.
My sister always wanted to make pets out of everything,and was trying to pick out a name for the steer that my dad brought home one day. I had to explain that he already had a name. His name was Chuck ( Chuck Roast).She never went back to the barn as far as I can remember.
Just remember to teach the kids that you always take the best care of all of your animals, and there is no pleasure in killing any of them. It is just part of the process of making our food.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 11:13PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I learned very young and it is possible that it had a negative effect.

May seems like an odd addition, and I'll explain that. I never had any trepidation about the idea, I've never experienced remorse or sadness over eating meet (and I am non-religious, I belong to a subset of people that has a much higher percentage of animal rights folks who's hearts bleed at the thought of killing a living creature with a nervous system and muscles for food), it worked very well, I never had the opportunity to build up any feelings to the contrary, that fact of life was simply a fact of life; however, going back to the bleeding hearts I am seen as a cruel unfeeling person, while I have tremendous feelings of empathy for my fellow man and am very against animal cruelty I just have no feelings against eating animals, no reservations, no hangups, no concerns. If you were to look at my other posts on gardenweb you would probably notice (I think) that I come across as very cold and analytical, and perhaps it is simply a result of my nature that I do not trend with my peers on this issue, but I feel like it is possible that letting the children feel hurt by the idea could benefit them.

There are plenty of things that hold us back that also help us because they make us part of the in crowd. I feel like these things hold our society back and may ultimately lead to man blowing all advanced life off the face of the Earth, but I feel like It would be irresponsible of me to try and mislead you towards the option that looks best in my opinion (fact of life, you don't protect kids from the idea that they have to poop, why protect them from food, the number one cause of bowel movements). It's your life and yourdescision how you want to impact those around you.

Worst case scenario you make them into vegetarians by shocking them at the wrong time, even that isn't the worst thing in the world, they can life long productive lives no matter how you treat this issue.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 11:48PM
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dethride(7a / 6b GA)

Thanks for all the viewpoints on this. I agree that it should come out in a natural, matter-of-fact way. I've been searching my childhood memories on eating meat to get some perspective and remembered it was taught by example and as a fact of living. It came home in a grocery sack and we cooked it and ate it. There was no hand-wringing and dread, just presented as what we humans have to do to be healthy. And it was good eatin'!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 8:40AM
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When I grew up (many years ago ) our parents never gave it a second thought whether we were traumatized by butchering. It was fact of live. We raised it ,we killed it and then we ate ate it.Even if we gave them names we knew eventually they would be Sunday dinner.We had dinner not eating some pet or other.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 10:02AM
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kydaylilylady(z6 KY)

I don't particularly recall being traumatized by hog killing or beef killing. I will say that they took the hogs to a fellow who killed and scalded them and sent them back blocked out. We helped cut lard and grind the sausage. With the steers we never went to the field then Dad shot them but would be in the lot while they hung them up to dress them. Then we always went with them to my uncle's where we cut and wrapped them. As we were older we were there when my grandmother killed the chickens and we'd help gut them, then cut them up into pieces. It's kind of like Beegood said.

My kids have helped dress and cut up deer. When the butcher comes to kill a cow for us if they don't want to watch, as my youngest daughter doesn't, she just stays in the house until they get it killed. Then she doesn't have any problems coming out to help or watch them skin it out. Sometimes I wonder if we make too big a deal out of it, therefore, the kids think about it more and make a bigger deal out of it than's necessary.

We were lucky in that we had dairy cows and kept all the heifers so I had plenty of calves to turn into pets. We usually didn't make pets out of the steers we were planning to sell or eat. I didn't personally like hogs or chickens unless they were pork chops or drumsticks so seeing them butchered didn't bother me.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 10:39AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

If they are Disney fans, they have no doubt seen 'The Lion King' which helps explain the circle of life. You could make the comparison to them, telling them that this is part of it--the birds have a good home where they are well cared for and protected, and nothing is going to waste. The birds are treated with care and respect during their lives and in the killing and processing of the meat, and the family is appreciative of the meal their chicken provides them.

If you treat it as a natural thing, without any long talks or lectures, and approach the subject calmly and openly, it may help. Sitting in the grass watching the chickens on a summer day, while talking casually about how the grass absorbs sun, bugs eat the grass, the chickens eat bugs and grass both, we eat the eggs and the meat from the chickens, etc. may be the way to go about it. All of the info doesn't have to come out at the same time in one momentous event. Small doses are better, with time to absorb and mull it over in between talks.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 11:54AM
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We name every animal on our farm. My kids typically pick out the names. Our first steer was named by my youngest daughter when she was 3. She named him "hangaburger" becasue she could pronounce hamburger correctly.
I have tried to teach all of kids that "it's fun to friends with your food". My steers eat out of hand, come running to play. I see no reason why they cannot have a good life while they are on my farm, just because I am going to eat them. It also makes slaughtering a lot easier. I do not have to chase anything.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 3:47PM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

There was no discussion in our family, the chickens were slaughtered and that was it. Every child had their own response. The brother who had to do the butchering - starting when he was 12, when our father died - never ate chicken again, and he's sixty now. In fact he's been almost a lifelong vegetarian. My sisters, who did the plucking etc, eat chicken and meat, but in small quantities. I'm a born-again vegetarian, although I still eat meat when we go out and I'm offered it. Except for chicken. Since we got our own hens, I'm off chicken.

If it's a fact of life at your place then I think the less discussion, if any, the better. But you don't have to butcher their pets before their eyes.

I wouldn't discourage vegetarianism either; it's generally healthier for the body and the environment.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 7:55PM
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mxbarbie(pnw BC 5)

I've made no secret of the fact that chickens are for eating, My 3 yr old daughter has known that since age 2. She also knows the difference between the layers and the "meat birds" as she calls them. However, I have them butchered off site and will only expose her to that process if she wants to see. Same situation with the pig.
When we picked up our side of beef from friends this year, they were in the process of skinning a cow, My girl wanted to watch...then asked me if we could have steak for dinner.
If you ask her 'what happens to the chickens?' she slices her thumb across her throat and sticks out her tongue while rolling her head to the side.
My sisters girls quit eating meat when they figured out where it came from at about age 6 and 8... So I wanted mine to understand early. I think it entirely depends on the kid, and definatly don't make a bigger deal about it than it needs to be.
My conversation with my 2 yr old daughter went like this:
'Mum, where is that guy taking our chickens?'
I replied 'he's going to cook them and eat them.'
'HE's GOING TO COOK THEM AND EAT THEM?!?!' she asked incredulously
I said 'yes. Where do you think your chicken dinner comes from?'
she said 'huh.'
That was it. No drama at all.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 1:35AM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

It depends on the kids of course some are more sensitive than others I was about 4 the first time we buchered chickens and will never forget mom chopping there heads off and the horrible smells of scalding the feathers later the stench of the remains funny I don't really remember the chickens before or after that we only had them for a short time though not for eggs

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 8:49PM
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I lived in RI and a Loation neighbor took me with her to slaughter a chicken and show me how to do it. It totally grossed me out. I never got the heart. basically some people are fine with it and some not. I imagine it is the same with kids. I do not think it would be a problem with them knowing where it came from as long as it is presented in a matter of fact way. Kids are born with compassion though and they might not like the idea of eating them. I am going to have to ask my grand daughter what she thinks of that. I am really curious to know now.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 8:03PM
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