Good bye city life! Our family designed and built an industrial but old fashioned farmhouse on nine acres. Now we are building our homestead ~ or is it building us? Grab your boots and join us on our journey to country living.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Harvesting (aka Butchering) Chickens

I'm told that's the correct term now.  Our oldest goes to an agriculture college where they talk about such things.  After the work that went into raising our Freedom Rangers, we wouldn't want to butcher them, would we?  Actually, we did!  We were concerned about being too sympathetic about the killing process but we were so ready to rid ourselves of the messy things, we were looking forward to it.  Weird, huh?
Really, it wasn't as bad as it was cracked up to be.

The rams are going to miss their chicken-tv.
These birds were 11 weeks old at harvest and some were a little big weighing in at 6 pounds.  I think if we do this again we will plan on 9-10 weeks.  It's amazing how fast they grow!


We set up an area outside in the shade with a super clean stainless steel table. 

For our killing area, we used the hitching post.  We opted for the hang upside down method.  We tied nooses, one for each leg, with buckets under them.

Warning, if you don't want to see dead chickens, scroll no further!



The guys transported them from the pen to the hitching post.
Once they figured out how to do it, it moved along fairly quickly.  That first one was tough though.
You need a VERY sharp knife.  A long blade for one swipe is best.


Once the chickens are upside down, they become pretty calm.  When the dirty deed was done, we lowered them into 5 gallon buckets. These were weighted with gravel in the bottom and lined with large black trash bags.  This way when the nervous system takes over, they don't tip over the bucket & we didn't have to watch them bleed.

Of course, I was standing a good distance away so I didn't have to watch them bleed anyway.
Yes, I was chicken!


We did a few at a time to get an assembly line going.  After the hitching post, the birds were rinsed thoroughly with a water hose.  We were told this helped with the smell for the next part. 


Into the scalding pot for one minute to loosen the feathers.  When you can easily pull out a large wing feather, it's ready to be plucked. 


In the garage, we tied nooses from the garage door and put a wheelbarrow underneath.  This held the birds at a good working level.  Working with both hands we raked our hands down the chickens and the feathers fell into the wheelbarrow below.  It wasn't a pleasant job but not the worst part if you ask me.  Some of us liked plucking less than others.  My hubby plucked most of the 25 birds.

Poor Jonah had run out of chickens to harvest and had to help with this stage.  He wasn't really mad but didn't want to smile for the camera.



This bird is ready for evisceration.
Our falconer boy came in handy for this task!
Again, you need a really sharp knife.  I can't stress that part enough.  We thought we had sharp knives but they didn't do the job.  Thankfully, Papaw next door can sharpen anything and quickly brought in proper cutting utensils.

Gutting a chicken is not hard but pretty yucky. Watch a YouTube video to learn how to do this.  Unwanted parts (for us that meant everything you don't see on/in a chicken at the grocery store) went into a bucket lined with a garbage bag.  I just tried not to look when doing this.  Distract yourself listening to music, laughing at each other and not think about what you are doing and it's really not that bad.  Really!  You don't believe me, do you?

Ok, that's really gross but we had to have a little fun with this!  I mean, seriously, we lived in a neighborhood in the city three years ago and now we are butchering our own chickens!  Also, keep in mind that J1 has been dissecting animals for a long time and finds it interesting to name all the organs.  The picture below is a lung... (in case you really wanted to know, which I didn't!)


From here the chickens were taken in the kitchen for a final rinse, checked for quills, tied up and put in freezer bags.  The birds then rested in the fridge for 48 hours until they loosened up.  This is a very important step that makes the meat more tender.


Then they went to the freezer where they are waiting to become Sunday dinner.
Which is exactly what we had last night.


The cost of the chickens ended up being about the same as store bought but the taste can't compare.

I don't know if we will raise our own meat chickens again.  If we do, a defeathering machine will make the job a lot easier.  But even if we don't, we were glad for the experience.  It truly made us appreciate our food and the One who provided it for us.

For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
Deuteronomy 16:15

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