Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicken Processing, Summer 2011

As I mentioned months ago, we purchased 25 Freedom Ranger chicks for processing this summer. We split them with friends and this past weekend was our processing party at their house. With the exception of one previous rooster (who's name was "Jack"), we have never done chicken processing before. This day, we did multiple birds and pretty much everything went off without a hitch. There was one thing we did learn and it was concerning the feed of our chickens. When we showed up, our friends' chickens were twice the size of ours!! I didn't know Rangers were capable of growing at the speed that they did, but after much thought, we narrowed it down that our problem was the amount of feed they received. Our hens had competition, period. We had 14 veteran laying hens, 21 replacement hens for the 14 we were going to give away (which we did a few weekends ago...no fresh eggs in this house...sigh) and then came the Ranger chicks who apparently did not receive the full amount they needed. After the processing, our hens looked more like quail (insert laughter here!). It was a valuable lesson learned. Anyway, here are the photos of our day. We learned a lot, laughed, our kids played together and we got time to catch up with friends whom we miss very much.

Their hens awaiting execution

Our hens awaiting execution. Can you see the size difference? There are 4 turkeys in this brooding box which will be their Thanksgiving dinner this year. They were beautiful and will be organically grassfed.

"J" with Isaac

Rob hooking up the turkey fryer. Using the fryer (filled with water for relieving the feathers before plucking) allowed our water to maintain a constant temperature. We kept it between 125 and 145 mostly. Younger birds can stay closer to the 125, as the older birds need a higher temp.

killing cone and drainage bag

Norah watching


Rob, "J" and Mr. Jim putting up the shade tent.


On the way to the killing cone. I was very impressed at Rob's professionalism. I know he was a bit nervous at first, but it quickly became a quick assembly line-type function and I think that helped.

Rinsing the plucker...no hand-plucking for this crowd. We saved so much time.

Stocking the freezer after we finished.

In the meantime, the kids came out and helped, but also enjoyed playing indoors as we processed.

It was a long day and we were tired, but we enjoyed some food, cold drinks and some Wii afterwards. I love the fact that our freezer has healthy, free-range, fresh chicken in it that we raised ourselves. No hormones. No antibiotics. Nothing artificial. I can't wait to get our large chicken tractor finished up (Rob's working on plans for one now). We're still trying to figure out the best plans since we don't live on acres of land. Our backyard is officially cleaned out of grass, but the tractor will allow for them to range in the front yard.

What a wonderful and blessed day it was!


Jess said...

Wonderful. My father and I are thinking of doing this next year. We have laying hens but we would like to have some for eating. Thanks for sharing.

Rachel E. said...

I am absolutely amazed! You have just made slaughtering chickens look fun. I loved watching the feather plucking. Where did you get the machine?

Tessa said...

I'm so wanting to get more into homesteading and your blog is a constant source of entertainment and encouragement.
Any suggestions for a good book I could get? Homesteading for Dummies or something :) I know very little about gardening but we are dairy farmers so we've got milk and lots of space. I think it'll be such a great way to raise my family! So far I've thought about buying The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery, and The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan.