What with the locavore movement, the organic food craze, survivalism, and the need to pinch pennies, lots of people have started raising chickens. Even in big cities and suburbia. Here in the D.C. area, counties and municipalities have revised local ordinances to allow chicken coops in back yards. I salute those ventures. But if you breed chickens, you are going to wind up with some males of the species. Roosters don’t lay eggs; they aren’t cute enough to serve as pets; they tend to be mean; they fight if there are more than one of them; and–worst of all for city dwellers–they crow really loud early in the morning. So now animal rescue agencies, animal control centers, and the Humane Society are getting overwhelmed by people bringing in roosters.
I think it’s great that people want to be farmers. But if you are going to be a farmer, if only on a microscopic scale, you’ve got to think and act like a farmer. What has been done with unneeded roosters, from time immemorial, is to eat them!In the immortal words of Stephen Foster, referring to Susanna,”We will kill the old red rooster when she comes, when she comes.” And then the next verse, “We will have chicken ‘n’ dumplings when she comes.” [Sorry! It isn’t Susanna or Stephen Foster. As Todd points out in the comments, “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” is a completely different song.] That last point acknowledges that roosters can be tough and so need to be stewed, but they can still be very delicious, and wound count as local, organic, homegrown food too.
I do understand the problem of squeamishness in wringing necks and chopping off heads–something that seems not to have been a problem with our forebears, however gentle and mild-mannered in other parts of their lives (I remember accounts of my sainted grandmother twisting the heads off of chickens)–but this could be an opportunity for a revival of another classic profession that would be local and a humane alternative to the factory-scale meat industry: namely, the local butcher.