Emily Kerby

Uh oh! I need an adaptor.

My husband and I just processed a chicken for the first time.  We have several chickens that are not laying anymore, so for a while we’ve been planning to either eat them or give them away.  I felt like we should definitely learn to process chickens, because it’s a skill we may need in an emergency…but it seemed really intimidating, so I kept putting it off.

Finally, I gathered up some courage, and decided I was ready.  I sharpened a knife, I pulled out our brand new camp stove to set it up, and I persuaded my husband to come outside and give me moral support for the project.  (It was very comforting to have him there.)

We did it.

The experience wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be.  When it came to removing the organs, well, that was downright interesting.

I wasn’t planning to blog about this, but I’ve had a few thoughts tossing around in my head, and I keep thinking maybe someone else out there will benefit from the little lessons I learned about preparedness when we processed the chicken.

1.    Without practice, you may not realize you’re missing something important.

We were.  I knew that camp stoves are made to connect to little propane canisters—not regular propane cylinders.  I planned ahead by purchasing a special hose to connect them.  (I also bought a propane gauge, so we would know how much propane we have.)  When I went to set the stove up, the hose connected to the camp stove, but the other end didn’t fit the propane tank.  Why anyone would buy an 8-foot hose for a little propane thing is beyond me, but it didn’t matter—I needed an adaptor.  Thankfully, I had the foresight to try out the stove before we started processing the chicken, so we paused our project to go to Walmart for an adaptor.  It was easy to find, and it cost $8.  In an emergency, I guarantee that if you can even find someone with a spare adaptor, it will cost an awful lot more than $8.  But, without the adaptor, all of our propane would be totally useless.  Little missing things become obvious during practice, and they are much easier to remedy during practice, too.

2.    During practice, more resources are available to help you learn what you need to know.

As I actually began to butcher the chicken, I relied heavily upon a YouTube video that showed what to do.  The video was very helpful, and it made the process pretty straightforward.  I was able to go back and re-watch parts, and so forth.  In an actual emergency, there’s a good chance I may not be able to watch YouTube videos, but now it won’t matter, because I “get it” and I will feel totally confident processing chickens.  Without the same access to immediate, expert information, the experience would have been different.  In an emergency, I would have had to rely on a book (which usually means simple diagrams and lots of questions).  Or, I would have had to guess, and I may have ruptured the intestinal tract, and contaminated the meat.  I may have wasted parts that I didn’t know were edible.  So, any instruction we can get now is better than what we will have later.

3.    Practice helps you feel confident, so you can be more confident in an emergency. 

I am sure that I will already have plenty of things to worry about in an emergency.  If I hadn’t practiced processing a chicken before, the task would be intimidating, like it was now.  Except, in an emergency I would also feel the stress of needing to provide food, and worrying about potential problems, and the task could become overwhelming.  Now, if I need to prepared chicken, I know exactly what that entails, and I’m not at all worried about it.  If anything, I feel more confident about the task, because I know that we can eat good, nourishing food if we need it, and it is one more safety-net to keep us healthy in difficult times.  I’ll know what I need, or know what needs to be improvised, and I can move forward where others will worry or make mistakes.

What do you need to practice?

Since we have chickens, this type of practice was useful for me, but your practice may be totally different.  Are you planning to use dehydrated food meals?  How will you prepare them?  Do you have a water source? Stove? Practice!  Maybe you’ve forgotten matches, or your hand warmers don’t get hot enough to heat food, or you don’t have any utensils packed.  Do you plan to use a tent for shelter?  Set it up!  It took us a long time the first time we set up our tent, because our tent has poles in some weird places.  I can imagine a scenario where we would want our tent set up quickly; what if we needed to set it up in the rain?  Setting it up for the first time under miserable conditions would be awful, but things won’t be too bad now, because we know what we’re doing.  If you plan to stake your tent, you may want a hammer.  Practice helps us figure out what is missing.

Your homework:  Identify one emergency plan that you haven’t practiced, and do it this week.  If you haven’t practiced your family evacuation plan, that’s a great place to start.  Maybe you have plastic to cover your windows in case there’s an emergency that results in contaminated air—cut the plastic to the right sizes, and try taping it up.  (Maybe your tape won’t stick well!)  Or, try sprouting seeds, if you have sprouts in your food storage.  Use your imagination, and just choose anything that is already part of your plan.

Good luck!  Let us know what you practiced in the comments, and tell us what you learned.

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