Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Squeaky Wheels get the Oil... or the Killing Cone

I know the phrase "killing cone" is a vulgar one, but it's really a contraption that allows the slaughter of poultry to be considerably quicker and cleaner. It's a cone (think ice cream, but large and plastic) that holds the birds upside down with it's head poking out of the bottom and with their wings snugged to their sides allowing whoever is processing the birds to kill them quickly with one knife stroke. The cone then holds the body of the bird while it bleeds out, and keeps it still while it's nervous system acknowledges it's demise.

You may know that we have a handful of ducks that live here with us. They provide us with amusement and duck eggs, as well as lots of mess to clean up. Unfortunately, when we had our one egg hatch last year it ended up being a young drake and now we have more drakes than ducks. Anyone who knows poultry (or livestock period) knows that in the farmyard, having more males than females is a bad ratio.

A few days ago, our drakes started to fight. This is common this time of year, often being referred to as "spring rage" in poultry. They weren't too bad at first, a pulled feather here and there, but not more much. On Valentine's day I came home from tapping maple trees to find one of our drake's had what is called "Foamy Eye". Foamy eye can result from all sorts of things; it's a symptom of eye irritation. In this case, one of the other drakes had pecked his eye, damaging the lid. It wasn't long before I discovered another drake also had an eye injury. The remaining drake was the victorious gent who was lounging with the lady-ducks, while the two injured boys looked on (or tried to) helplessly. Obviously he has his method down, and the two injured drakes will likely go blind in the eyes that have been damaged. Success for the little jerk.

It's difficult to think through this situation rationally. We raised our ducks from the time they were a week-old, and the younger drake from the day he was born. While I never intended to slaughter them for meat, it has crossed my mind a number of times since we have too many males. Seeing as we really would like to have chickens (and thus, chicks) this spring I have to start thinking ahead. Our two now-injured drakes used to make sport of grabbing the poor duckling by the neck and trying to pull him into pieces... and they're the nice drakes! I can't imagine coming home to find the yard littered with chick-bits just because the drakes got into the chicken's pen. Ew.

The plan is that I eventually will be slaughtering our own chickens for meat, but as we'll be raising very specific birds for meat, I'll be adjusted to the idea and I won't have given them names or gotten attached or anything. This is not the case for the drakes. So I'm at a stand still right now.

The drakes' days are numbered. They're likely going to kill each other even if I try to intervene, and in all honesty I'd rather have dead ducks in the freezer than dead ducks in the yard. However, since we raised them from ducklings I can't seem to bring myself to slaughter them myself, and all of the processing plants are closed this time of year. I'm left with three drakes, stressing me out and penned up separately and miserably, two of which have eyes that are now beginning to scar over and will likely be half blind. I'm willing to cater to this silliness a little while longer, but I have my feelers out for someone willing to slaughter them. I can handle dressing the birds myself, just not the act of killing the little buggers.


  1. I certainly don't envy your decision. No good answer... but maybe a delicious duck dinner? :/

  2. I'm in a similar situation. Good luck.