Over the summer, we raised some chickens for friends who wanted farm raised, hormone-free chicken meat. Last Saturday was slaughter day. I don't really like the word slaughter because it sounds so barbaric. We did a lot of research to make sure we handled it in the most humane and sanitary way.
This was our fourth batch of meat birds, so we have figured out some things along the way.
1. It takes work and money to raise meat birds. The special feed is more expensive and they require daily attention. This particular order was mostly roosters, so we had to keep them in a separate area, away from the attractive ladies. Therefore, it was another area to keep clean and protected. So if you were ever wondering why farm raised, organic birds are so expensive, this is why.
So when the teenage boys offer to help, we don't turn them down. These boys (and my farm girl) had the job of catching the chickens.
3. It takes good equipment. I'll spare you the gory details, but essentially, we use restraining cones because it is quick and less traumatic for the birds. No, we don't let them run around with their heads cut off.
We also use a chicken plucker machine. This saves time and is much more sanitary than plucking by hand. The first step, after the cone, is a quick dip into boiling water to loosen the feathers (seen in the top left of the photo below). Then the birds take a spin in the plucker.
When that step is completed, they basically look like a whole chicken you would buy in the grocery store. It really is amazing.
4. It takes a well planned operation. Each person had their assigned job to keep the assembly (or disassembly) line moving. Of course, we allowed them to change jobs to get to experience the whole process. Once the birds have been plucked, they need to be cleaned, gutted, and prepared for the freezer. We use a stainless steel table for this part of the process, which can be washed an sanitized between each pair of birds.
Since I dry heave while cutting up a whole chicken bought at the grocery store, I leave this part of the process up to my daughter. She is a girly-girl, but she jumps right in! In fact, this time around, she was giving lessons to the boys. Yes, we believe in raising well rounded kids. ;)
The whole process is not for the faint of heart. Which I am, so I simply take pictures and stand back. However, it does build a sense of community and an appreciation for our forefathers/mothers who had to work so hard to put meat on their tables.