Thursday, October 31, 2013

Off with their heads...and their feathers...and legs...

Years ago when our boys were in 4-H we raised and then butchered broilers. Well, the guys did the dirty work while I packed the birdies in bags.

I hated the smell of fresh chicken in a tank of hot water and avoided the whole slaughter area as much as I could. (But I have no problem slicing out the little gonads of piglets...go figure)  So when the boys grew up and took with them their free labor we gave up on the broilers and focused on the beef, dairy and pork.

I know, pure laziness.

But we found ourselves yearning for good foul again. And after eating a few of the chickens grown out doors by two other farmers we know, we decided to enter the broiler arena again. We bought these Freedom Rangers s few months ago and experimented with their feed.

In addition to the organic grain we fed and the grass, bugs, worms and dirt they harvested on their own as we moved their cage to fresh ground daily, we also fed them raw milk. Lots of raw milk instead of water.

That is correct. They never got water, only raw milk and man or man stay away from the spam, that chicken meat was the moistest I have even eaten. Served with oven browned potatoes and green beans It was the perfect meal for this cool rainy fall night.

The whole butchering process , done by 3 and observed by one intern , took only 10 minutes per bird. That is ten minutes from the time we took the bird away from its friends, until it was jammed into a Glad Freezer Bag. The process went like this.

Yes, some are graphic, leave the room and come back if you need to.


First, convince the birds you are taking them for a ride in the country. Grab the closet one.




 Next, hand the lucky duck, I mean chicken to Keith




Who will cut the head off for a quick death. Note the high tech blood collection chamber made of Terra Cotta Drainage pipe and old white bucket. Then take the bird into the scalding tank for a quick hot dip to loosen the feathers.




About 45 secs in a 150 degree tank of water. After the feathers are easy to pull off, said bird is taken to the feather beater machine.

 
 
See those black rubber fingers? When they are revolving very quickly they do a most excellent job of removing the majority of loosened feathers. But not ALL of the feathers. Like these tiny little pin feathers.
 
 



 
 
They have to be removed by hand. When those pesky little feathers are gone the bird is passed over to the guy with the knife who gently guts them, working hard to NOT puncture the intestines or other organs. He does this by reaching deep into the birds abdominal cavity, loosening up the attaching ligaments and then pulling them up and out. If done well you'll hear a sucking sound followed by a large BURP of sorts.


 
It was at this point our new intern, a lovely gal who wants so badly to learn homesteading, turned white and began to lose her cookies (or whatever else it was she had had for breakfast) She later explained it was the first time she had ever seen the inside of ANYTHING! Poor thing. I take for granted that others have not seen the things I have seen in my lifetime. Oh well...
 
She hung in there and with each butchered bird she was able to get closer and closer to the carcass without upchucking. She even took one home with her but I doubt she cooked it up that night!
 

 
So there you have it. 3 birds in my hand is worth 10 in the bush, or something like that
23 birds done means one chicken each week for the rest of the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 comments:

  1. I used to feed ours with wine-soaked bread. They would be much easier to catch after they'd fallen over, and came ready marinated. The rest was much the same, but we didn't have the black fingered machine.

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    1. Love that idea! A whole new level of humane animal treatment.

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  2. Holy Crap on a Cracker! You ARE a country girl. I'm with the intern; but on the lighter side I'll be the first one to buy a chicken from you! How much? :)
    ~ Maggie

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    1. Ah sister...for you...I'll wrap up a dead bird for Christmas. OK?

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  3. So much better than the conveyor-belts they use in big slaughterhouses.

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    1. Hate those slaughter houses. Once saw a video of how they "rinse" the birds in big manure laden vats just before wrapping and packing them. Ewwwwww.

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  4. Looks like we purchased our chicken killing kit at the same store as you (bailing twine and plastic buckets). But we cheaped out and never got the chicken plucker. One day we may have to invest in one; butchering day would go by so much more quickly as we try to process 50 a year. Enjoy your stocked freezer!

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    1. The chicken plucker is sooooo worth the money!!

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  5. Oh, do you know what your Freedom Rangers dressed out at and how old they were?

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  6. We get our broilers done at an inspected place to stay legal, but we do in our laying flock every couple of years for our own freezer, and I know the job whereof you speak pretty well. I'm usually a little choked up when I'm holding the legs on the first bird, but after about three I'm over it. I am the eviscerator - smaller hands, I guess. I actually don't mind this part - way better than all that plucking. I'm curious about the terra cotta drain tile - doesn't it just absorb the blood? Is it there because the bucket is too easy to knock over during the death throes?

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    1. You know it's my husbands creation. Not sure the thought process behind it. I'll pick his genius brain and get back to you

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  7. Was that the intern who showed up with the sensible boots? Bless her heart for staying with it. I have never butchered a chicken but I think I've watched enough House episodes that I could handle it. LOL I'm with Carolyn: how old and dressed out and would you raise that breed again?

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    1. They are about 16 weeks and dressed out at 4-5 pounds. Yes, we like the breed and the taste was amazing!!

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  8. Do the other birds wonder what's happened to the ones taken or do they show any sense that they know what's going on?

    I would have thought you'd need to let them bleed for a bit before you could pluck the feathers, but if using your system, it takes about 10 minutes per bird, then the bleed process must take several minutes at most?

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    1. Not sure. Maybe sensed trouble. When all done we did see some chicken scratching on the inside of the cage "Help please, farmer seems in bad mood" They bleed out fast especially in upside down position

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  9. I'm so very jealous of your lifestyle. I have seen pictures of this same process although it used upside down milk jugs nailed to a post(or tree)to drop the live chickens into. The heads stuck out the bottom and an ax chopped of the head. The reason for the milk jug was to keep the wings from flapping so crazily.

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    1. We do have a steel "killing cone" but they still flip out of it so the rope them upside down works best for us. And you know, we haven't sold the farm yet. Our "lifestyle" can be purchased :)

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    2. I'm one step closer the house in Rock Falls is sold.

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  10. My old man is looking for an old top loader washing machine to convert into a chicken plucker! We just have excess cockerels to cull, but we get plenty of those as my hens are VERY broody.
    Nice to see a no-nonsense post
    Gill

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  11. Been there, will never be there again. The smell of burned feathers--never forget that.
    A chicken plucker? Where was that decades years ago???

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    1. I know! I did chickens in the late 70"s all by hand. TOOK FOREVER!

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  12. Wow, ten minutes I am impressed! We got 18 chickens 2 years ago and killed them 4 at a time - by the time we got to the last batch of 6, they were nearly as big as turkeys! It used to take us half an hour to pluck them and Brian had the job of cleaning them out. could have done with one of your plucking machines. Have to admit yes, they were so tasty - and my dad had 18 chicken livers - he was in heaven ;)

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    1. Ah yes the livers. We have them secreted away for when we have our big celebration...the day we move to our little farm!

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  13. Jealous is what I am, fresh free range chicken is so tasty. Have heard of using a killing cone (reminds me of those orange highway cones), it is supposed to keep the bird quiet and not upset them, slit the neck, bleed out and then continue the process.

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    1. We do have the cone but maybe our birds are too big or we have the wrong cone size as it did not work well for us. They still flipped out of it. Maybe the raw milk just made them extra strong!

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  14. Yep, that looks exactly like how we do it - minus the plucker and the blood collector device. I hang mine from a tree, put them to "sleep" and then quickly cut the neck.
    Getting ready to do another run of cornish game hens after Christmas. I've done both breeds (freedom ranger and the cornish) and I think I'll do cornish this time around.
    Here's to a stocked freezer! Fresh poultry, raised and butchered humanely and with respect is SO good. Once that smell of boiled dead chicken is cleaned off your hands. Because that smell is GRODY.

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  15. This is just awful! How could anybody kill those pretty little chickens? I get all my meat from the grocery store where meat comes from!!! Just kidding.... Great post. I appreciate the humane treatment, but wouldn't have expected anything different from you folks! Keep up the good work!!

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