instant chicken teriyaki

August 12. We started a total of 200 chicks this spring, which means dealing with way more cockerels than we’d want to eat in a year. My favorite strategy has turned out to be the Willits Chinese Buffet. No, Bob isn’t serving them in the restaurant – too many regulatory complications for that – but he loves birds, is an expert cook, and has a nice set-up way out back for his chickens and pigeons and quail. We dropped off a batch of boys a couple months ago and in due course received a succulent meal of the biggest one. Then last week we took in 16 more – 15 from the youngest batch plus a one-year-old Orloff we’d been saving as a back-up rooster in case our main Orloff died suddenly. The replacement guy was nice enough but small, and one of the new chicks, from a slightly bigger gene pool, is turning out to be a gigantic handsome fellow, so when Bob’s wife Susan asked if we had a full-sized bird she could immediately turn into a medicinal soup to aid her recovery from the flu, the yearling’s number came up. Bob and Susan knew when we were coming, so they got busy. As soon as we unloaded the birds, they handed us a big tray of teriyaki chicken – two more of the first batch transformed. It was a dizzy moment, to go from rowdy teenage cockerels to savory meat instantaneously.

Cubalaya feathers

My relaxed rule for myself is that I only eat animals I knew personally or am convinced had a good life and were humanely killed. Around here that means it’s possible to eat beef, buffalo, pork, and lamb, even in some restaurants, with a clear conscience. The economics of meat chickens remain mired in factory production, though. Especially this year we’ve had people want to buy ready-to-cook chickens from us, but the labor and costs involved would put the price of a fryer higher than we want to go. Plus butchering is intense, prayerful, focused work for me, and I want to keep it that way by doing it only very occasionally. Last year I arranged for friends who also raise chickens to slaughter our meat birds and return half of them to us plucked and cleaned. That worked. Tasty healthy meat that was not recognizable as a particular bird we’d gotten fond of but couldn’t keep. Of course, this time of year it gets easier to decide to slaughter them, as the volume goes up on the crowing and the testosterone behavior kicks in.

By the way, the varmint who gnawed the heads off a total of five 3-month-old chicks turned out to be a skunk. Not the big fellow who snuffles around for cat food crumbs but a dainty creature a third his size. We cornered her on two occasions and set up the live trap so she’d have to go into it – we thought – only to come out in the morning to an empty trap. Disgusted with the evidence that we had been outsmarted, twice, by a very small skunk, I set the trap aside, still open but not baited, and forgot about it. The next morning Lin noticed the skunk, caught, curled up in a nest she’d made of grasses she’d pulled into the trap. Not a snarl nor a whiff when we carried the cage to the back of the truck and transported her to a new home, a lovely spot on the bank of a creek far enough from here. I left an egg for her – one last meal from Chicken World to start off her new life.