Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chicken dinner

         First off sorry for the gory pictures but butchering does involve some blood. For the first time in my adult life I raised and got to participate in the butchering of 50 broiler chickens. It turned out to be an enjoyable day spent with family and an education for all. Last year I tried my hand at raising egg laying chickens and this spring when I was ordering my replacement hens Paul told me to get some broilers and he would help me butcher them, so there started our chicken dinner adventure.
        It was amazing to see how fast these animals grew. They went from hatchling to fully mature and ready for butcher in 8 short weeks. I used a old hog feeder we had and an automatic dog watering dish to keep them with feed and water at all time. Sometimes it seemed like you could almost see them get bigger from day to day. I only had one die so I did pretty good.
      When the time came to butcher the chickens we set up our stations for processing them right outside the barn where they were living. Paul was in charge of the first step which is the head removal. He had a board with 2 nails on it to hold the head in place and use a sharp knife to quickly remove it. The chicken feels no pain and the body is placed neck down into a tile to allow the blood to drain our. The wings do flap around for a few seconds after the head is removed but they don't run around the yard like you hear in the stories.
      After they have drained for a while Paul then dunked them in hot water, about 140 degrees, until the feather pulled out easily. It was a little tricky keeping the water just the right temp to loosen the feather but not scald the skin. Next they were placed into the chicken plucker.
          We borrowed the chicken plucker from a family in our 4-H club and it was a life saver. The chicken plucker consists of a barrel with rubber fingers placed in it and a motorized rotating bottom also with fingers. You just turn on the motor and the birds bounce around and the feathers rub off and they come our almost featherless.
          After the defeathering they came to my station which was the final feather check. I was in charge of pulling out any lingering feathers or pin feathers.  Now we were able to see just how big these birds are. Boy they are going to make some good eating.
        Next they were transported to pools of cold water to cool quickly and get some final checks for feathers. The kids were big helpers with the transporting and Rose even wanted to help but the birds were a little heavy for her to handle alone.
       Rose checks over the cooling chickens. This reminds me of a picture of me with my hands in a pool of chickens. I am glad that my children are having these experiences in their life too. It may not be a glamorous thing seeing chickens be butchered but it is a lesson in food production.
         Here is that picture from years ago of me and my cousin cooling off the chickens in my swimming pool.
           After they had cooled for a while it was my dad's turn to remove the internal organs and any inedible parts. Dad enjoyed having the kids come over and showing them the different organs and what they did. He said that he can remember cleaning chickens many times when he was younger. He was amazed at how big these chickens were compared to years ago and how fast they grew. A testament to improvement through genetic selection.
         Mary was my brave one who sat next to grandpa and cleaned out the gizzard by pulling the skin off of it. The gizzard is where the chickens foods is ground up. There is a lining to it that can be pulled of and the meat of the gizzard can be eaten. I'm not sure if I will cook them for eating but dad wanted to save them saying they are "good eating". Mine might end up going to the dogs.
       After grandpa and Mary were finished the chickens one again went into buckets of cold clean water to cool further. They were then placed on a table for one final go through. At this point Rose wanted to get her hands into the chicken and do some work. She said gross but kept on asking me to get her more chickens to clean. At this point we made sure the kidneys were removed, which are kind of stuck to the back of the chicken. We also checked that all lung tissue was out and make sure the neck was clear of the trachea and any large vessels that could be removed.
         After cooling some more we cut the chickens up into pieces for freezing and storing. They were so big we had to get 2 gallon freezer bags to fit them in. We found the breasts to be so large we often packed them uncut and I plan on cooking them as a breast roast and make a meal with just them. I am very impressed with how much meat is on these birds and am looking around for tasty chicken recipes.
        Even after chopping off 50 heads an being splatter in blood Paul is still smiling. Thanks everyone for helping make our dinner.

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