as I mentioned the other day, the hens have been restless..the roosters were treating every day like the last day on earth and the poor hens were suffering for it..one of the hens had bald spots on her back and head so A* and I knew there was nothing else to do but to do away with some roosters. On wednesday we made the choices about who was going to stay or leave the off-grid island but we would not have enough time to butcher until Sunday so to give the chickens some more space to get away from each other we opened the pen door and let them roam once again..most of the snow is gone so they have room to explore. Sunday arrived and we prepped..both the tools for the jobs and our heads..not a huge deal but the first one there is some over-thinking going on! We have never done anything like this before so I looked up the topic in some books I have as well as online…I needed:
- sharp small knife – detail cuts
- long heay knife – bones/joints
- hatchet – the neck cutting variety
- cutting block with 2 nails and 2 elastics
- twine for legs
- bucket – blood collection
- water at 145 degrees to scald bird to remove feathers
- cutting board
- setup area
- water/outdoor shower for washing
- ice water for finishing
- another bucket for guts
..setup was important for us..In a previous life I was a cook and I hated working with raw chicken as it contaminates area so I wanted to think of everything and have it ready to go when I needed it so we would not need to go inside. We stayed outside the house with all of this so we would not get raw chicken everywhere and setup the area in the portable garage. We rigged up 2 sawhorses with an old countertop and a portable pump shower unit that we heated up beforehand so we could rinse and even warm our hands up as it was only 4c at the time.
Step 1: catch the chickens that you want to process.
Step 2: grab a chicken and tie its legs together and bring to the chopping block
Step 3: Place chicken head between 2 nails on chopping block and secure with elastics. Once secure pull head so body is taunt against the nails.
Step 4: lower axe in quick motion pretending that you are not about to cut off a chicken head while you are cutting off the chicken head.
Step 5: take former chicken and hold by feet and let drip into blood bucket
Step 6: calm down because you eat chicken wings all the time and they all are dead unless there are wingless chickens living somewhere. Have a beer and wait for the blood to drain.
Step 7: water should be at 145degrees. 145 is best to dip in repeatedly ( 6-7 times with the chicken immersed for 1 second..pull on a feather and it should come out easily )..our water is at 110..
Step 8: use the 4 plucking agents currently at hand to do job over 1 hour. yes, our hands with no dipping. Repeat until featherless.
Step 9: remove their poor little feet…get a grip on things and cut off the feet.
Step 9.5: forgot this. Cut off the oil sac on the top part of the tail..You can see it easily once you know what it looks like..under the skin it is bright yellow and has a distinct duct and bulge on the top of the tail. top of the tail as in if the bird were still walking around.
Step 10: With the small knife slice into the neck and remove the feed sack in its neck. If it has had food recently it will be easy to find as it has all the food in it. Once you cut all of the ataching muscle away give it a good pull and it rips off. Once that is done remove the neck too..this where you use the big knife. Slide it forward and cut off as far as you can.
(you can see the shower pump for washing down things in the background..not high tech but works well for small jobs like this ( comes with a base and propane heater and has a temperature gauge on the side)..great, great portable shower unit..we used it for 8 months for spot showers before propane was installed..I need to do a post on that. )
Step 11: Cut into chest cavity a couple of inches below the breastplate. Patience is need on this step to avoid cutting the bowels..if you do ( which I didn’t ) you need to rinse it off and the work area immediately to avoid contaminated with fecal matter..do it with a bleach/water mix for the work area and rinse ). Once cut is big enough open the area with your fingers. Don’t worry, the chicken can’t feel it. Once the hole is big enough to fit your hand in:
Step 12: Slide fingers in along the bottom of the ribs. From the inside..until you basically reach where the neck is. Start scooping it all out gently but firmly. Pull it out until it is hanging by its fecal ejector.
Step 13: cut the area around the anus and the bird is ready. Rinse it off well and scoop out anything you think should not be there.
Step 14: put into ice water to chill.
Step 15: double check for any feathers and then clean accordingly..it is now ready for freezing, keeping for a couple of days in the fridge then cooking or freezing.
We actually plucked the first one, partially dunked the second and had the water hot enough for the third that the feathers came right off. Sort of good since we got to see that you don’t need hot water to pluck but it makes the work 10x faster. The actually cutting/gutting/ processing took me 30 minutes the first time, 15 the second and under 10 the third. Its was actually way easier than I thought it would have been. While I do not enjoy killing animals I like the fact that I was able to raise these chickens, get eggs and now poultry/meat and do most of it by ourselves..not something I want to do everyday on the other side but it is there if we need it. Now, onto replacing the roosters with hens and eventually take 1 more rooster..Out-wit, out-smart and out (not)CockADoodleDooing, on some future post. groan, sorry. cheesy.
Also, as a note: make sure everything gets a good water/bleachdown if you are bringing it back to the house. One thing I was missing was a bib/apron but everything I had one went into a garbage bag for washing just to be on the safe side. Some other things I would do different..get a big enough pot to scald the bird so water does not come out also the small thing of getting the water HOT ENOUGH. Also, next time I want to have a pack of smokes around so I can offer a cigarette to the roosters before the processing begins.