Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Recap of Chicken Butchering Weekend

On Sept. 20th of this year, we took 23 meat chickens from coop to freezer. By "we," I mean myself, the wife and kids, Wife's 7 siblings, and some of the siblings' significant others.

The experience exceeded our wildest expectations.

Two chickens, mid-pluck, proudly displayed by six volunteers and led by Thing #1 (lower right).

It was a beautiful day, everyone was excited, and we accomplished our goals.

WARNING: Very graphic depictions of chicken evisceration to follow.

We set out to kill, clean, process, and pack 23 Cornish X meat birds that we got in July and had raised up. They were just under 9 weeks (8 weeks and 5 days, I believe) on the 20th, and while we certainly could have waited (and maybe should have, based on their size at butchering), we planned the event months in advance and coordinated travel schedules of 10 people across 4 states. We were doin' it that day, doggone it. And we did.

I was the only person with even a shred of experience, having butchered two chickens myself earlier this year. I was in the role or organizer, instructor, project manager, and contributor. It went very well, as everyone helped according to their abilities and desires to work on certain areas, like killing, plucking, water refilling, etc.

It was completely successful in that we didn't lose any chickens to the typical Cornish issues during those 8+ weeks. The butchering went smoothly, the evisceration was quick and generally poop-free, and they all fit in the freezer. The pigs grew noticeably the week after taking down the entrails. We even had a small one slip through the cone and literally run around with its head cut off. It was hilarious.

On the downside, we had issues with skin tearing. I don't know if it was a water temperature issue, or if the biurds were just a bit underdeveloped. I'm leaning toward the latter, as the dressed carcasses weighed in at only about 2 lb. 12 oz. on average. I suspect the high heat we had during prime growth time had something to do with the small sizes. Also, it took a very long time to pluck them all by hand, and in the sun everyone got tired quickly. Additionally, plucking tore the skin VERY easily - much more easily than the previous chickens I butchered. Having four people on plucking duty at a time really helped, though.

I'm not entirely sure I want to do meat chickens this way again, but I'm very grateful for the experience and the successes, as well as the learning opportunities.

And now, a pictorial tour of the big day, in chronological order:

The group, assembled and ready to go.

Thing #2 with Chicken the First.

Head down in the cone.

Kill cone, several chickens in. Only the shoulders are poking out.

Plucking party!

Creatively plucking, one-handed.  :)

And yet even more plucking.
Bucket o' chickens. Note the large areas of torn skin.  :(

BIL helping to process after all the birds were killed, plucked, and set on ice.

Necks and feet, set aside for chicken stock.

Some birds getting finished up as twilight neared.

Celebration bonfire!

Once we cleaned all the birds and got them wrapped up in the freezer, we enjoyed  a few choice sips of finest cognac whilst discussing Shakespeare  a whole bunch o' fun beverages in rowdy celebration.

It was a great night after a long, productive, highly educational day for everyone.

1 comment:

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