We survived! Barely. Actually, this time went quite a bit more smoothly than the last time. We processed 13 chickens – one of which was our friend Lily’s Cornish Cross Rooster, which dressed out at 8.89 lbs.! He was huge and almost didn’t fit into the killing cone. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I said that I would document this go around, and I did; however, some of the photos that I thought I took, just aren’t there. I must say that I was having some difficulty with my phone earlier in the day, sometimes it just doesn’t register my touch when I think it does – so I missed some. I wanted to re-enact the spots we missed, we could have even used a rubber chicken, but Sue said it wasn’t worth it. Take that as you may. Anyway, if you’re at all squeamish, you may not want to read any further – not that the photos are graphic, but they do depict chickens in various stages of butchering.
We were lucky to have Dustin around to help with things. He was great at keeping the knives sharpened, which helped a huge amount! This photo is of Sue and Dustin getting the chicken into the cone. We let them hang upside down a bit, until the blood rushing to their head puts them in kind of a trance state. This helps to keep them calm and therefore all that adrenaline isn’t rushing through their body making the meat tougher (it’s true, you can look it up). Once the chicken is calm, then you dispatch of it. Sue has gotten really good at making a nice clean cut; then it’s over very quickly.
After the chicken has bled out, the next step is to the scalder. The scalder keeps water at a consistent temperature. 145-150° I think we were leaving the birds in there for about 15 seconds. This makes the feathers very easy to remove. From the scalder to the cooling bath, just to stop the heat and cool down the bird – you don’t want it to cook, after all. Then immediately into the chicken plucker. You can see them in succession: square fiberglass scalder, orange cooling bucket, stainless steal plucker. The plucker has a hose hooked to it, so when the motor is turned on and the chicken is moving around inside, water is showering in, aiding the process. There is an exit tube at the bottom for water and feathers to flush out. This time we borrowed a huge tarp from Lily and were able to capture almost all of the feathers. We have added them to the worm run in the circle garden; feathers are a great source of nitrogen for the plants.
Next step is the eviscerating. I didn’t get really close up and personal with this… and it really just looks like a rubber chicken… but I took this because I wanted to show how clean it actually comes right out of the plucker. If everything goes just right, you really only have a few feathers to pluck by hand or, if they are exceptionally stubborn, by pliers. I clean them up really well in the sink before weighing and wrapping. There is a step by step process Sue follows for this part and it works really well. My job is to hold the bird during different parts of the processes. We don’t really save things like feet and gizzards, but this time we did save the hearts and livers for my folks. “Here you go, Dad – Happy Father’s Day!” Then we popped them in coolers until everyone was dressed (now, shouldn’t that be un-dressed?). You can see the line of coolers behind Sue’s right elbow there.
We started at 7:43 a.m. (yes- I actually checked the time) and we were done with the butchering and dressing by around 12:15. We were so lucky to have Alexis there – she made the BEST Spaghetti Bolognese for lunch and we were definitely hungry, just not for chicken. After lunch came the final cleaning, pulled all those pesky quills, using the multi tool you see there in the sink, and just rinsed them really well – made sure they looked like a chicken you would like to have in your fridge. We weighed them each. Our average dressed weight was 4.08 lbs… not bad for our Gray Rangers at 9 weeks. That falls in the normal range for the breed. This was one of the smaller chickens here, the smallest was 3.29 lbs., our largest was 4.89 lbs. – we had him for dinner last night; Dustin grilled him over a beer can and he was right tasty. At the end, we had 13 little wrapped and bagged packages resting overnight in the fridge. We delivered Lily’s to her Sunday morning and she was quite happy with the outcome. We have some for sale if you’re interested: fed only organic grower crumbles and supplemented with veggies that we grew right here on the farm. They were ranged in a natural area, fenced off from predators, and were inside a comfy coop with their chicken, duck and goose friends. Ramona peeps – I’ll be coming your way next weekend if you’re interested, leave me your info in the comment section. Until next time, as always~
Thanks for reading!
Today’s Weather: Still quite windy. It was 89° when I got home at 2:00 p.m. today. Right now, at 7:30 p.m. it is 78° and clear with mild winds. Low overnight is predicted to be 56°. Tomorrow, more of the same. Can’t wait for those rains!
Egg Report: Saturday and Sunday we had 6 eggs. Today we had a whopping 10! I told Imen (whose real name is Imhotep, because she looks Egyptian. Her mate was Ahmen-ra, but Sue couldn’t all remember that – so they were shortened to Ahmen and Imen. Just in case you were wondering.) she had better get over her broodiness and get with the program! She’s the last hold out. We figure that the end of August/beginning of September the Delawares will start laying – I think that’s another 15 possible eggs each day. We could have upwards of 26 eggs a day! That probably will only happen once in a while, but won’t that be something!