Yesterday when I left for work, I saw a fox running across our road, barely visible in the overcast dawn light. An hour later I got a text from Pearl to say that one of our chickens had been taken. I guess when I saw it, the fox was on its way back for seconds.
The fox had gotten into the orchard under the fence, and then rolled aside one of the rocks we had holding down the 'skirt' of the chooks' night-time pen. We'd thought it was fox-proof. Not quite.
The idea of the skirt is that you lay 50cm of chicken wire on the ground around the pen, so the fox can't dig its way under (they won't dig that far). We've had success with the skirt in the past, but this time we underestimated the fox's ability to roll aside the rocks holding the skirt onto the ground.
The chook we lost was one of the baby 'flares' - the bantams that came to us as babies, but were now starting to crow. He was on his way to the stock pot anyway, but it's still sad to think of him being dragged off by a fox. The chicken he was penned in with - also a rooster, also on his way to the stock pot - was injured in the fray, so his stock-time came early.
Pearl was a little apprehensive about eating a fox-injured bird. She was also a little freaked because this pair had both become our pet-like avians, as they regularly visited us. Basically they were being harassed by our larger rooster, John Howard, and escaped the orchard every day to get away from him, coming down to peck around and inside the house, cleaning up after the kids.
The fox-contamination concern was allayed by a call to our friend Wise David. "If you're really worried, just don't eat the injured wing. But really it'll be fine". The friend concern was allayed by the fact that he had been injured, and the only thing to do was to euthanase him. I really didn't want to waste the chook, so after putting him out of his misery (I'm back on the axe method, which was super quick. I'm pretty sure he had no idea what was going on), and plucking and gutting him (remarkably easier and quicker than last time), we boiled him up with some onions, peppercorns, carrot and bay leaves.
The resultant stock was made into this evening's dinner - a seasonal-garden-abundance adaptation of Jude Blereau's ultra-delicious Healing Chicken soup (incidentally, this was what we made with our very first ever home chicken kill, when we lived in Sydney), which is in her book, Wholefoods. In some ways there's not much else that can be done with chickens older than 18 weeks.
|Veggies and chopped chicken (stripped from the carcass after making the stock) frying up in a bit of olive oil...
The soup is hearty and delicious and warming and super-healthy! Along with Jude's recommendations of lots of ginger and garlic and seaweed and carrot and sweet potato and leek and sage and thyme (mostly, delightfully, from our own or our friends' gardens - yay!), we also packed it with leftover cooked brown rice, and curly kale and zucchini, which we have insane amounts of in the garden right now.
The chicken was a bantam (I used to jokingly call them the spatchcocks) so there wasn't a whole lot of meat. I'd read that bantams can be quite tough and gamey, and are better for stock than for roasting). The leg meat, in particular, was dark and quite tough, but the breasts, though tiny, were alright! If you did roast a bantam, it's only be a roast for one not very hungry person. Once I'd made the stock I stripped the meat off and ended up wit about a cup of meat. Not tons, but definitely enough for soup like this. Served with some finely chopped chilli, we were all delighted. Even the kids.
|Nasturtiums, chilli, a little salt and some hearty chicken soup. A feast.