Friday, October 9, 2009

Chicken Butchering Day


I will preface this with a short blurb on butchering. I am tenderhearted and have always hated butchering days, from my youth through today. As a child, I ran off and hid as much as I was able. Though I love meat, I am always sad about death of any creature. I am no hypocrite, I just want it done as humanely as possible, and I take no joy in it. So the day was mixed for me. Something I have to do. I never know when times might get so rough that being able to butcher an animal to feed my child becomes a matter of survival.

So, with that said, we focused on learning new tasks, helping friends, and enjoying time together.

The day dawned beautifully. We did school and Bible study and household chores. Then we loaded up the three birds we were going to butcher yesterday. Two roosters are in the cage, and one hen was in the box. She was picked on mercilessly by the roosters, I have never seen that happen before. She also stopped laying. So she was boxed separately.

Got on our work clothes.

And turned out of our driveway to head out.

Arriving a little after noon, we unloaded at their shed, where they were just about ready to begin.

And here were their 20 or so birds they needed to process. Most of them were Cornish or White Rocks, I think. I'm not positive as I've not seen them outside of catalogs. These are the fastest growing meat birds you can buy. They are not the healthiest of birds, due to the breeding and have a lot of trouble with organ failure and walking, as they are meant to be butchered out before they are many months old.

Boys. Always running off to do something.

More help arrives!

Dressed appropriately...

This is not the way we butchered chickens while I was growing up, but this is how they did it, and we were glad to be there to help them and learn another way of doing things.

They set up 5 stations.

The killing cone and sand bucket.
The scalding vat.
The plucking machine.
The evisceration table.
The cooling bin.

Here is a rooster, he is not dead, he has simply been placed into the cone. The bucket of sand below. We have always used an ax, then immediately hung the bird upside down. Once the head is cut off, the nerves in the body continue to cause movement, so the blood is pumped out while the bird moves and especially if hung upside down.

The plan here, in this killing cone, is to quickly go in with a knife and, with one flick, go through the skin and pierce the jugular vein, causing the bird to lose blood and drift off. However, stuff happens, it did not go as planned, and I did not spend a lot of time at that station. I can now say I definitely prefer the axe.

The second station was the scalding pot. What a dream to use! We used to carry out 5 gallon buckets, over and over, of boiling water for this job. When you dip the freshly killed chicken in water of about 165 degrees, several times, the feathers come off much more quickly. With this propane-fueled scalder, the work was eliminated a great deal.

The next station was a wonder as well. The tabletop plucker. Boy, do I wish we'd had one of the these when I was a kid! I hated being made to pluck the chickens!

Michael ended up working here for most of the time.

Then came the evisceration table. I kicked myself for not bringing our butchering knives. They did not have many sharp ones, so the job was lengthy. This is where I spent most of my time.

This was also different than I was used to. My folks would hand the birds upside down with wire on the legs and a bucket below, and stand to do the job.

We had one sharp knife. I found it. What is it with me and sharp instruments?

And the last outdoor station was the ice water bath to cool the chickens.

Once cool, after about 20 minutes, they were taken inside, rinsed and cleaned of any remaining feathers, bagged and placed into refrigeration for 2 days before going into the freezer.

We needed to leave the job early, before the last 4 were done, for a last practice before Michael's demonstration on Saturday. So with blood on my jeans and shoes, we headed off for that, and missed the ice cream fun that was to follow. I got Michael a McFlurry while in town. Those Oreo crumbles are good stuff!

Because days like these need to have humor inserted into them or they become unbearable, the next few pictures will show us lightening the atmosphere with silliness, or just some interesting facts from the day.

We found that most of the processed chickens made a squeaky-toy noise when you bounced them on the table. So several times we had dancing chickens, quacking at us.

Some of the meat birds our friends were doing in were hens in full lay. They have all their yolks for a lifetime produced already, and each day a yolk is brought to size, surrounded in albumen, encased in a shell, and laid. Some will even have an egg ready to lay, as one hen yesterday did. Here we set one hen's yolks in a row according to the days she would have laid them.

Apparently someone had not eaten lunch before arriving!

What I could probably get millions from the government for by calling it art.

So another day of friends, dear to our hearts, and adventures of trying new things was had.

Hey, you guys! How was the DQ?




  1. Farmboy did a couple of our extra roosters a few weeks ago. I did not watch. We did refrigerate them for a couple of days, but roosters are tough, and the meat was not too tasty. No worries. We just turned it into chicken stock and froze it in quart containers. Tho I also love meat, I want to see the butchering done as humanely as possible, and it looks like you succeeded. Yes, there may very well come a day when that is what we will have to do to survive. Maybe sooner than later.

  2. We missed you all!!! Yes, we did end up going to DQ and ate pizza with chicken on it!

    I don't think I could do it alone, but being with friends made it... I hate to say fun, so I will say interesting. :-D

    We definitely need to make apples!

    I will miss you all tonight and the rest of this weekend too, but I will be back on Sunday night. See you Tuesday!


  3. Cyn,

    Those stew chickens can be awfully tasty when they've been in onions and broth for a little while. Yum!

    You've been quiet over there, how are your knees?


  4. Leah,

    Yup. Apples!

    I've got a list of things to do over the next couple of months. It will be fun and... full of little adventures. :o)


  5. Well, that was very informative. :o) And a little gross... but good to know! Thanks for sharing your pics! Leah's shirt is hilarious!

  6. Faith,
    You are so lucky to have friends to help and have fun days like this...well, as fun as you can get. I love to read about your adventures! No matter what you are doing, you always seem to have fun. Well, except for getting cut. :0)

    We had some roos we were gonna butcher, but I had 2 die unexpectantly. I wasn't sure if anything was I decided to let them out and roam the property. There are 7 left. I would love to put them in my freezer. But alas, I have not the help you have.

    Have a wonderful day!

  7. Beth,

    You should have seen the ones I did NOT post. LOL

    Well... maybe not. ;o)


  8. SBF,

    Aw, too bad about the roosters! I've had them suddenly die as well, not knowing what happened.

    You can do this without a big crew. But I have to say, it is having friends/family along that makes it bearable.

    I have always admired (not wished I was doing it, but admired) those women who could go outside, butcher a chicken and serve it for dinner in an hour. That's something I SHOULD be OK with doing, but am not. Yet. Time will tell!


  9. We have a friend who has one of those chicken pluckers. I think they'd be handy if you were butchering 100+ chickens, otherwise they seem like more of a bother(to me)

    The ax is the most humane way IMHO. Once dunked in the scalding water, get those wing and tail feathers our first, then it's as simple as running your hand against the feathers, they'll literally come out by the handfuls. It's those pesky pin feathers that are a pain and typically I get these while washing them for prep for the bags.
    Now can you imagine washing those feathers, drying them in the sun and using them for stuffing quilts, beds, pillows etc.... I like to do old fashioned things but I do have my limits*wink*
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. I'm like you, I don't like the actual killing part, but, I know it has to be done. That's why I have a husband. lol. I thought that chicken plucker was very nice. I didn't realize they worked that good. Maybe a Christmas present? I'll put it on my list.


  11. Now don't laugh but
    I always wanted chickens till now...well I still do but they can live till they are old.

  12. Kelle,

    I've never seen feathers come out as easily as you describe.

    You need to video tape your next butchering session so I can see how you do it! :) I'm not kidding. LOL

    Yup, when I was a child I used to think my parents were awful, using an axe. I don't think so any longer.


  13. SFG,

    The tub plucker works well also. There's a blogger on here that sells the plans or kits to make them... trying to think of his blog name... Maybe the Deliberate Agrarian???

    Search out Whizbang Plucker. :o)


  14. Vickie,

    You don't have to do butchering. Few people actually do. Just enjoy the chickens eating all the bugs in your garden, and all the naturally healthy eggs. :o)

    I have a sister in Michigan. She says winter comes too early and stays too long for her.



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