Young Children and Butchering

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by CarolynRenee, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. CarolynRenee

    CarolynRenee Well-Known Member

    Jan 30, 2008
    The Beautiful Ozarks
    Ok, I need to know other's opinions if I'm being a heartless mother & potentially traumatizing my daughter.

    Friends of ours were going to kill/butcher about a half dozen hogs this morning and DH & I were supposed to go help. I asked DH if we'd be bringing our 4 year old daughter along or drop her off at grandmas house. DH thought it wasn't a good idea to bring her along. I didn't really think much of it. It's not like I was going to sit her up on the side of the trailer and force her to watch the hogs get a bullet in the head & then bled out, I just figured we'd be "around" and if she saw something, then she saw something.

    Daughter has also been around" when we're butchering chickens (killing cone style, not lop the head off & watch them run around) and she'll glance over but didn't really seem to care one way or the other. She was more interested in blowing bubbles and playing with sticks. She "knows" that the white chickens (cornish cross) are eating chickens. She has also seen us gut and butcher deer this winter, although she never saw the actual killing shot. During the deer dressing, she was more curious as to what was this or what was that. When we told her we were going to eat it, she said she wanted fries with it.


    How young/old are your children when they first saw or participated in your homestead butchering? Were they witness to the actual moment of death, or just the processing of meat that still looked like the animal it once was? Do you think they've been "traumatized" by it?

    Elsbet likes this.
  2. gunsmithgirl

    gunsmithgirl Missin Sweet Home Alabama

    Sep 28, 2003
    My kids have been around it since they were old enough to walk. Never been a big deal, just another part of life.
    Wendy, Alice In TX/MO, Laura and 12 others like this.

  3. Vosey

    Vosey Well-Known Member

    Dec 8, 2012
    Southern Oregon
    I don't have kids, but would think that starting early is the best. A 7 or 8 year old girl is going to be much more traumatized than a 4 y.o. At 4 she's not really processing everything going on, by 8 she's into the "animals are so cute" and she relates all animals to her pets phase. My dad hid it all from us, but then when we got older (8-10 or so) wanted us to help clean and butcher his eider ducks, woodcocks etc. The timing was way off!
    Maura, AverageJo and farmerDale like this.
  4. fatrat

    fatrat Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    If the kids can't handle it then you might as well give up and give them to the brain washers in the government/public education system. I killed the chickens when I was a kid. It didn't hurt me one bit. The truth is if the chickens were big enough they would have eaten me. Instead I ate them.
  5. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 4, 2006
    Northern Michigan (U.P.)
    IMHO, the trama comes from making a big deal out of it.
    Before I had kids, I helped neighbors butcher chickens. While everyone was busy plucking, theit children had gathered up the heads and were playing sock puppets, with the heads on thei tiny fingers. Didn't seem to bother them.

    Euthinasia of a family pet is a whole different thing, to me. Kids don't need to watch Snowflake's last gasp.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  6. LoonyK

    LoonyK Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2009
    West Iowa
    I think I was around 4 when first remembering my mom butchering the goats, wasn't going to school yet, and mom had to watch me, so I had to be with her. If anything, affected me positively because I like killing and eating my meat. :bdh:
    farmerDale likes this.
  7. grasser

    grasser Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2012
    Whitley County, IN
    Like others have said, it's not a big deal if you don't make it one.
    Killing animals is not fun, but neither is shucking sweet corn, but they both result in food on the table.
    Sonshine, Narshalla, mekasmom and 2 others like this.
  8. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jun 6, 2004
    Michigan's thumb
    I think most children should be exposed earlier rather than later, as above. But, you have to know your child. I also wouldn't start with family "pets", and children need to know up front that "the white chickens are for eating". As for the hogs at someone else's place, I don't think I would have brought DD along. It's someone else's place, you are there to work not watch the child. You don't have control over somebody else's set up (or relatives).
  9. Kel T

    Kel T Well-Known Member

    Aug 19, 2011
    Haypoint is right. It's only a big deal if you make a big deal of it to her. Don't worry about making it a 'learning experience' or trying to rationalize it. Just do it matter of fact, every day life and that is how she'll see it. That is how we were raised on the farm. It was the job of the little kids to chase down the headless chickens. My daughters' made a quarter a chicken for gutting when they were little, their hand fit better than mine.
  10. katheh

    katheh Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2012
    I too killed the chickens when I was a kid. But my grandparents had the type of farm where my gpa before he cut the throat of whatever's number was up would pray "PleaseGodBlessThisAnimalWhatFeedsUsAndSteadyTheKnifeThankYouForYourBlessingsInJesusNameAmen"

    We always had the understanding that those animals were making our life possible, and that by their sacrifice we would be fed and that our stock were in a way noble and sacred.

    Earlier the better. Little toddlers are curious, school-age girls will be grossed out. A bit of explanation beforehand helps.
    Narshalla and countryfied2011 like this.
  11. larryfoster

    larryfoster Well-Known Member

    May 15, 2009
    We raised our own meat and butchered it when I was a kid.
    I knew what the purpose of those animals was.

    I know I was pretty young helping to scald and scrape hogs
  12. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    I was raised with it and my kids were raised with it. It's never too early to know where food comes from. It's also called Anatomy Lessons. It's okay to poke and pick through the guts and identify parts with the kids. Many parts are edible.

    Personally, I enjoy slaughter day as long as they are clean kills. I enjoy working with friends and neighbors, getting a job done and putting food in the freezer. Knowing the animals had a good life, and seeing they are happy, healthy and dispatched properly makes a big difference to me. Oh, and there are always little kids around watching and learning, and running off to do other things when they've had enough.
    Wendy likes this.
  13. chickenista

    chickenista Original recipe! Supporter

    Mar 24, 2007
    NC foothills
    Haypoint is right!
    If the parents do that whole,' I know you are going to be upset adn this IS horrible, but we eat these chickens blah, blah,blah" and fawn over the kids the entire time, then yes, they will think that it is something that should be very upsetting and will react the way they are being told to react.

    If you treat it matter of factly and do what you have to do etc..then the kids will be fine.
    DS was 3 when I let him 'practice' plucking on a small chicken that drowned in the rain barrel.
    For all most all of his memory we have butchered birds and other animals.
    That's where the food comes from.
    Elsbet and Sparkie like this.
  14. COWS

    COWS Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2012
    # 2 on what chickenista said.

    Wife and I didn't have chickens or hogs when our children were small. When I was small parents had chickens and hogs, that was a fact of life for subsistence farming. They didn't make a big deal about it and I wasn't traumatized. I remember helping cut up pork on the kitchen table. Knives get dull fairly quickly when cutting meat. Did you know that grinding pepper to put in sausage will make your hands sting?

  15. FarmboyBill

    FarmboyBill Well-Known Member Supporter

    Aug 19, 2005
    I was picking chickens before I starterd grade school. Dad or grandpa would cut one and hand it back behind him where we took it. I saw them whacked at around 5. Dad never butchered anything else. When he did, he took it to the locker plant in town. Dad must have done this for a long time b efore me cause he mentioned hauling a hog or cow to the plant in a wagon behind a tractor. likely it was a hog. He also mentioned hauling a cow in a 1/4 ton Ford pk. He said that the cow slobbered onto the windshield.
  16. opportunity

    opportunity Well-Known Member

    Mar 31, 2012
    My son started helping with the chicken plucking right after he turned 2. He knows we eat the cows and the pigs and the chickens. The only things that has bothered him is that we only seem to eat boys and he is a boy so would we eat him. He knows we will eat his bottle calf and his piggy.
    kasilofhome likes this.
  17. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, there anybody in there.....? Supporter

    Jul 12, 2006
    Eastern North Carolina
    Personally, I wouldn't take her simply because a 4 year old will be in the way of getting the actual work done

    It's hard to "help" if you're babysitting
    DamnearaFarm and lathermaker like this.
  18. AverageJo

    AverageJo Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 24, 2010
    Northwestern Illinois
    All depends on the child and how he/she was raised. Our children grew up knowing that the food on our table was once a living creature. They know that death is just a part of live and that we will all die sometime, including family and pets. Our daughter had a favorite goat that got too aggressive as he got older. We tried to find someone that wanted him for breeding but he eventually went to the butcher. She said 'goodby' as he was loaded up on the trailer; she hugged the frozen meat when we got it back from the butcher; .... and she said, "Mikey tastes really good!" when we ate him. She was about 4 then, too. :D
    gone-a-milkin likes this.
  19. bja105

    bja105 Well-Known Member

    Aug 24, 2009
    Western PA, USA
    Take the kids, I think they need to see that. My kids all help or watch us butcher deer and chickens. My daughter helped me cut up a horse last week. No crying, no acting funny.

    Kids take their cues from their parents. Act normal, they will act normal.
  20. Liberty'sGirl

    Liberty'sGirl Well-Known Member

    Jul 7, 2012
    Was five or six when we dressed my grandparent's chickens. That was one of the most fascinating memories of my life, especially the eggs that hadn't been laid. Obviously the hens were not my animals, nor were they mammals obviously, which may have made a difference.

    Eventually kids will take biology and do dissecting, not the same, but butchering can be a learning experience. As someone mentioned, don't make a big deal about it and the kids will take it as a fact of country life.