Sunday, July 27, 2008

Silkie Roosters

We added 15 bantams to our backyard flock this spring. Five of them were black silkies. These are the coolest looking chickens. They look like a Jim Henson/George Lucas collaboration. We knew that when we ordered our bantams that we would end up with some roosters. Bantams don't come sexed so it is the luck of the draw. The plan was to butcher the roosters. Well out of 15 bantams only 3 seemed to be roosters. I thought we would have more than that! I butchered those 3 unlucky birds over a month ago. All seemed well in chickenville. Then the other morning we heard a strange noise. A cock-a-doodle-siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiighhhhh. Just a little noise. Cute really. We thought surely that wouldn't bother the neighbors. It wasn't very loud. We weren't even sure who was crowing and if they were really crowing. Maybe they were just pretending to be a rooster. Each day it got a bit louder and as the saying goes, practice makes perfect! My neighbors are way cool about our city flock and enjoy watching them and love the eggs but they aren't too keen on roosters. I knew this guy's days were numbered. The problem was I didn't know which bantam was the guilty one. Out of the 10 remaining bantams I was pretty sure it was one of the silkies. They are strange birds and I wasn't sure how to tell the difference between a rooster and a hen (or cockerel and pullet). Two seemed to have a slightly different comb and wattle. But wait, we only heard one crowing so maybe the strange comb wasn't the sign of a rooster. As I sat on the porch listening to my girls cackle over whose turn it was in the nest box I heard a cock-a-doodle-doooooooooooooooooooooo but mid doodle it seemed to start again. An echo? I don't think so, this is Texas, not a box canyon. Sure enough two late blooming roosters were trying to out doodle each other. The weird comb IS the sign of a rooster. I have butchered 18 chickens over the last 3 months. I don't have a problem with the butchering, I am farm girl, hear me squeal! I just wasn't looking forward to butchering the silkies. They are so fluffy and feathery. I wasn't sure what to do with all that fluff!

Might as well get to it. I wanted to take care of the crowing before it really annoyed our neighbors. I got into chicken butchering attire, pink rubber gloves that match my pink crocks. I gathered my knives and headed for the coop. I decided to use my lazy farm girl butchering technique. Bantams are smaller than regular chickens so it is a bit harder to dress them. The wings and back don't have a lot of meat and since silkies have fuzz all the way down to their extra fifth toe I knew I wasn't going to use the feet for broth. I decided I would skin them and just take the thigh, drumstick and breast. No need to gut or pluck. The silkies are known for their black skin (these are black silkies) and I considered plucking them just for the novelty of it but as the mosquitoes started fixing me in their sites, plucking seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Interesting FYI, their meat is darker too. The tendons, bone and meat are all dark gray. It is really strange. I wonder if it will taste like dark meat?

The other roosters I butchered were a bit stringy and tough. I decided to try brining these two to see if that would helped tenderize them. I used a brine mix that I found at Old World Market. It has rosemary, onion, garlic, cranberries and peppercorns. It is stronger flavored than what I usually make but I thought that if the meat is dark it might also have a stronger flavor and so the turkey brine might mellow it a bit. I mixed the brine with boiling water until the salt dissolved. Then I cooled it down and poured it over the chicken pieces. I put that in the frig and tomorrow we will throw them on the grill. Can't wait!

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