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Poultry picnic

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Chickens come alive after they die. The aged laying hen I harvested squirmed long enough for me to wonder when she’d stop after her head came off in my left hand, thanks to some help from a serrated 12-inch blade.

The old gal didn’t run in circles, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. She was trapped upside down in a killing cone, a sort of metal funnel with one flat side strapped to a tree, and that kept the macabre to a minimum.

The killing cone was one piece of technology in the mobile chicken processing unit being demonstrated in a picnic area of the Lubrecht Experimental Forest on Fermentation Friday, the first day of Alternative Energy Resource Organization’s 31st Annual Meeting, which lasted Oct. 28 through 30. Most attendees were interested in generating cash flow through small-scale chicken husbandry; I’ve always liked taking stuff apart.

When the chicken I was disassembling simmered down, workshop leader Will Tusick went to fetch one of four birds destined to become poultry. My chicken and I scooted over to a cauldron of scalding water and a labor-saving spinning tub lined with rubber fingers called a plucker.

That’s when I learned that chickens aren’t hollow. I came into that information about the same time as Kolibri Drobish, a tiny towhead who gave her name as Bri and her age as “fhree” before settling her nose on the opposite edge of the evisceration table, about two feet from where I struggled to liberate the insides of a chicken from its skeleton.

Bri was quiet, once asking where the blood that seeped onto the table was coming from. “Chickens have blood just like people,” her dad told her. She nodded and turned back to watching me coat my hands with the yellow fat that filled what I’d previously thought of as the stuffing hole.

The 15 minutes Bri stayed interested was long enough for me to scrape the cavity clean, take a step back and start another bird. Bri—the last remnant of the original crowd—wandered off then, maybe to the homebrew workshop.

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