October 21, 2013

In the Chicken Business

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.

 2. It takes a village.  We have found that many of our (male) friends want to experience this day with us. We have had several parents ask if their older kids could come see the process because we live in a society where most kids think chicken meat comes from the grocery store.  It is a great educational adventure for anyone over the age of 10.
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.  
 It only takes about 20-30 seconds for all of the feathers to come loose.  In the photo below you can see the pile of wet feathers on the ground.

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.


Jennifer Maass said...

November 9th is our slaughter day. I'm leaving town, LOL! College football is much more fun. We just built our plucker from a kit from Ebay so we will see how well it works. We borrowed one from a friend earlier this year and it was so much quicker. For some reason "chicken killing day" brings out everyone to watch. Many hands make light work!

Tracey said...

Just caught up on your posts...and I'm lovin' the farm life! Thanks so much for sharing..it created a calm in the middle of my circus.

Anna said...

Thanks for sharing this! My husband and in-laws have discussed raising chickens for meat (right now we both have laying hens). Very informative, especially the de-feather! What an awesome experience for everyone involved, especially the kids who don't have the privilege to grow up on a homestead!

Sandy said...

A big day for all the kids & kids at heart! Surprised that you got close enough to take photos... You've come a long way, Baby!

Linda said...

Years ago when our daughter Lynnette lived in the country and raised chickens, they had a slaughter party too. Oh my word, I couldn't believe how many friends and family members wanted to help! Ha!

I just volunteered to stay inside and babysit the little ones! Because as you said...it isn't for the "faint at heart!"...but everyone had a great time! And then when it was all finished, they had crockpots full of food for everyone who helped. And it was chicken and noodles! Ha!

Back then I didn't know that I was allergic to chicken and eggs, (and a whole host of other foods)but now I know those little critters are deadly for me!

Linda @ Truthful Tidbits