It happens every other year on our farm; chicken butchering day! If you have in your mind a picture of a sunny day, cool breeze, and a fun-filled day of laughter amidst the butchering you would be far from the truth. To be fair, the past few times we’ve done it has not been bad; friends have come to help, there is a lot of laughter, and together we all get the job done. This year, however, my hubby has to work on the weekends and so no friends were able to help during a week day; thus, it was him, me, and our thirteen year old son to butcher twenty-six chickens on our own. It rained Wednesday night, so the air was muggy, still, but (thankfully) overcast. We decided to do twelve on Thursday and fourteen on Friday; the first day we freeze them whole and the second day they are cut up. Be warned-if you are a PETA lover, you should skip today’s blog and go find one on how to make a better veggie burger or something. Death will be pictured, but it is the circle of life; it is done quickly and hey, exactly how do you think your chicken is processed?! They don’t willingly lay down and stop the heart beating…Day one is behind us and as you read this, day two will be in full swing. By late this afternoon, all twenty-six will be freezing nicely and make delicious meals for our family for the next two years; it takes our little family two weeks to eat a chicken from start to finish.
Here is the roving pen they call home; it gets moved everyday so they have fresh grass; our son goes in the pen and pulls out the chicken for my hubby to chop off the head. We lay them in the grass while they finish bleeding out. No, you are not going to see a picture of the chopping block or a head flying-we have standards here…
It’s best not to look too closely at hubby’s legs since they are not pretty; we heat the water to a scalding temperature and dunk the chicken in the pail to help in removing feathers; all three of us pull them off as fast as possible; the cooler the skin temperature, the harder the feathers are to remove. We lay them on a tarp as we do this; some use a plucker, but we found it bruised the wings and didn’t do a great job, so it’s the old fashioned method for us.
They are placed on a table in our quonset where we chop off the legs and finish picking off all the feathers; then they go in a cold water bath until hubby and son (not me) gut them. I find other ways to stay busy; organize tools, sweep the dirt floor, pet a kitty-you get the idea. This is my least favorite part, but these two love it; we feed the innards to our cats and dog-those animals are happy and fat at the end of the night. Our dog also loves to gnaw on the legs and heads…please don’t let her lick you if you come to visit.
They have been gutted, cooled, and cleaned; now they are on a table with a fan on, drying off the skin so we can use a torch to singe off the fine hairs. Did you know chicken had hair? They do, and the only way to remove them (in our opinion) is with a torch. We go over the entire surface swiftly and it burns them off like butter. They go back into an ice bath, get a good scrubbing, and are ready for the final step.
I weigh and wrap the chickens first in saran wrap and then in a two gallon Ziploc bag. The cut up pieces will go in a Food Saver bag and vacuum sealed. Because we butchered almost two weeks earlier than normal, the chickens weighed in at around 4.5-5.5 lbs each; we like 6-7 lbs., but beggars can’t be choosers. These will do well for us!
There you have it; butchering on the farm. If you want to help next time, let me know. We don’t pay you in money, but in a chicken raised on grass in the fresh air with no sodium injected into it or anything else you can’t pronounce. It’s the weekend already and school is right around the corner for college students and Carrington. Summer is slipping away, so make a big effort to do something you can’t do in the winter…