Monday, 14 March 2011


Thank you to everyone for all the great and funny name suggestions. I will be referring to your list to name our future dogs for years to come. Feeling a bit homesick for New England, I settled on a good Bostonian name: Quincy. I can shorten it to Quince and, with her tiny head and fat puppy bottom, she's the same lumpy shape (as the fruit, not Jack Klugman) -

Quincy is growing by the day and she's already showing working dog tendencies. Beside carrying around a little stuffed pheasant toy, she helps me with the dishes -

Quincy has already worked out that if she climbs in the dishwasher while I'm loading it that she can lick the bowls and mugs on the top shelf above her head. Someone once told me that a labrador only has legs so that it can move its stomach about. I agree that they are easy to feed. Quincy eats everything from leftover oatmeal to daffodil flowers, if I don't keep a close eye on her.

However, Quincy's main job seems to be as a trip hazard. She's ankle high and tries to chew my shoes while I'm still wearing them. I've already got a fat lip from being headbutted by a lamb today (it objected to its injections) but I could do without a concussion to go with it. It's animal abuse, but in reverse. And the animals are winning.

Unless you're a chicken.

The next batch of meat chickens was ready for harvesting. The last batch had a lot of bruising around the breast which we decided was from flapping its wings during the killing process. A poultry killing cone holds the wings into the body, as well as holding the chicken up while it drains of blood. A proper poultry cone is made of stainless steel and costs lots of money, so we decided to make our own.

We upcycled a road cone (pinched from a skip, not the road) which we cut to fit. We banged 3 wooden posts on the ground and the cone sat nicely on top. It didn't even need securing. If you build one, make sure to leave enough room that you can reach in to stun your bird, and that you can fit a bucket underneath to catch what comes out. As always, the rubber dungarees are optional.

I've plucked 8 of the 10 birds already and no sign of bruising. I give the cone a big thumbs up.

It will be hard not to post lots of cute puppy pictures, but I promise that for every picture of Quincy in the dishwasher I will address the balance with pictures of all the less savoury aspects of our life. And if that doesn't put you off, just think of the rubber dungarees.


Maria said...

Well, I for one am happy to suffer through plenty of cute puppy pictures :o) haha, she is sweet.
I like the line about labs only having legs so they can move their stomachs.

Poppy Cottage said...

Lovely name Jen. She really does look adorable.

Did try to ring today.

Terry Scoville said...

Congratulations on your new puppy. Quincy is a wonderful name and quite Bostonian too. I love your pictures of the chickens and what a great sense of humor you have. Thanks for putting a smile on my face and a laugh in my belly!

Paula said...

I am sticking with puppies being the perk of farm living, no matter how awful that might get. Yep- puppies are perks.

Bumbling Bushman said...

As a former Miltonite who grew up adjacent to said Quincy, I heartily approve of this name. The little clam shack on the beach (Clam Haven) still serves the best fried clam platter I've ever eaten. Nice looking dog by the way.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

We use the cone system, and find it works very well. We made ours out of a piece of sheet metal, and attached it to a piece of wood nailed to two trees. The Cone of Silence, we call it.

And I have to admit, for a working lab, Quincy is probably a better name than Tamar.

ocbchick said...

I so enjoy your blog, even the rubber dungarees! Your life may seem normal to you, but to one who sits at a computer all day and revises documents, you are a breath of fresh air (and maybe a little whiff of manure!)

Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

We do the cone method as well. We call it the "killing cone of death" around these parts! I like the stand, brilliant! We will have to try that. My job is to hold the cone, so the stand is something I would fully endorse. Quincy is super cute. How do you stun your birds?

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - I'm sure I will oblige you with more pictures, if I can get her to sit still long enough!

PC - I don't know how you came up with enough names for Lily's entire litter.

Terry - If I remember, you should be taking on your own little black lab pup shortly? Have you got a name picked out? Check out the inspired list of ideas from comments on the last post if you get stuck.

Paula - Mike is a puppy fiend too. I could do without the tiny puddles that are appearing around the house but otherwise, pups are wonderful.

Jennifer Montero said...

BB - I lived for a year in Braintree but that seemed a terrible name for a dog ;-) The pup is chewing my toes right now, so I'd be amenable to a swap - pup for a plate a fried clams.

Tamar - No namesake dog for you. You get the honor of sharing your name with step daughter's pony. and a good fly fishing river of course.

I like the Cone of Silence. We must be the 'Road Cone of Silence' then. If this cone didn't work, we were going to fashion one out of metal. Did you rivet the sheet metal together, or weld it, or use another method?

ocbchick - There's an incredible amount of paperwork that goes with our life: flock records, soil management records, exposure level records for spraying, etc. We don't escape the drudgery of doing it, but I can spare you the boredom of reading about it. Good call on the manure smell difference though!

HKS - I can recommend the posts, and they don't have to be even, just high enough that you can work comfortably.

We stun ours the old fashioned way: a blow to the head. I'm not advocating it as the best way. As we process more poultry, I would like to get an electric stunner. Research by Compassion in World Farming(CIWF) shows that stunning often kills the bird (cardiac arrest) so there's less chance of them regaining consciouness during the bleeding process.

I saw a hand-held version, like paddles on the end of a pair of tongs, on a TV program. They were being used by a mobile slaughterman. I've not been able to find out where to buy them. Most stunners I find online are commercial machines.

Jessica said...

Your blog looks so interesting! Actually I am surprised how many do-it-yourselfers there are out there. Thanks for posting!

Megan said...

Fabulous choice of name, I love it! And I wish you every success with staying upright with a puppy around... ;)

Jennifer Montero said...

Jessica - I often get on line and seek advice from other do-it-yourselfers when I undertake a new project. It's like having immediate access to everyone else's experience (and mistakes!)

Megan - So far I'm still upright, and even the sleep deprivation is getting less so all's well.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Jen -- We made our cone (and by 'we,' I mean 'Kevin') from a sheet of galvanized metal that was intended for a heating duct. *We* formed a cone and then used one sheet metal screw at the bottom, and clipped off the other side. Easy. Cheap.

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Love the name, love the dog, love the Cone of Death. So far, we have only experienced (well, not me personally, but the dogs, the Cone of Shame from the vet's office...) I won't show them this post. It might freak them out a bit. I am only working with my egg laying flock, but hope to branch out eventually into eating chickens too, so I will try to remember this!

megan said...

don't know if you'll see this, back here in the archives. I helped process my first batch of meat birds yesterday. Not my farm and not my birds. They used a traffic cone bolted to a table. What disturbed me was how much the birds thrashed. Wondering if that is normal, or preventable. The did not do any kind of stunning, just put the bird in (who was already riled, despite being held upside down) and poked the jugular. There was a lot of wing flapping and struggle and vocalization even with the cone. Totally distressing. They said it was "just muscle spasms" and that the bird was already dead, but that was not dead. You cut a human like that and they thrash around, you will not pretend they're dead. Ahem. So - I trust your judgment and directions on all things killing - what can be done differently? I did a you tube/internet search, but couldn't find any useful bits of information.

Anonymous said...

Jen@M&T says:

Megan - What a terrible experience, for you and the birds. In my opinion (and I asked a couple others I know, butchers and farmers, for a consensus) No. Slitting the throat without stunning is not the most humane way. The birds will be conscious while their blood drains out and they lose consciousness from bleeding, which best case scenario with a good quick cut could still take a minute plus.

Unnecessary thrashing will bruise the meat around the neck and breasts which renders it less valuable from the butcher's point of view. There will be some wing flapping, even with stunning, and that is nerves, but thrashing and vocalisation sounds like stress to me, which will also taint the meat.

It's easy to deliver a quick blow to the head, so I would argue for not much effort you could make doubly sure the bird wasn't distressed.

megan said...

Thank you. It looked and sounded like stress to me. They were told this was the most humane way "unless you are a professional and have really sharp knives." Right. So - quick blows to the head - in the cone, or before the cone? My apologies for be a wee clueless on this. I don't know how to do it correctly, I'm just spot on at seeing what's not right! I work on a farm (different from where I was) and will ask tomorrow how they slaughter their birds. They used to run a teaching farm, so I bet they have a better method. My job during bird slaughter day was to do the butchering - I think I really love it. Precision cuts are so satisfying.

Anonymous said...

Jen @M&T says:

Megan - Even if you're new to something you can trust your gut, as in this case.

I put the chicken in the cone, then stun, then bleed. There are usually 3 of us on the job so we each take one aspect of the process, to be quick about it.

Even better than stunning with a swift blow, there is an electrical stunner that you put either side of the bird's head. According to Compassion in World Farming, that's the most humane way.

I know what you mean about the enjoyment of butchering and breaking down. Are you considering a job change?!?