Best laid plans....
Butcher day didn't start off the way I had hoped. The scalder was at temperature when I went to bed but happened to be on the the same circuit as the dishwasher despite being on the opposite end of the house. My wife started the dishwasher before we turned in subsequently tripping the breaker while we slept so my scalder was 50 degrees too cold when I woke up. After flipping the breaker back on and getting that started I went to the pen to find that 125 very hungry cornish x are strong enough to push through my gate like a mob of teenage girls at beiber concert. Nearly all of my birds were free ranging around the yard. So much for empty crops... Lastly, 2 of the people I had coming help backed out. So, we were off to a rough start. I had planned to have 5 guys and a scalder to temp when i started. Instead I had 3 and tepid bath water.
By 11 we were finally getting into a grove with hot water and started churning through chickens. My 8 month old decided that he was going to fuss all day and not nap so I lost my packer (wife) to his demands. The 3 of us worked until 6 and processed 80 birds before throwing in the towel. Had we not had the setbacks 100 birds would have been very achievable and we may pushed through a little longer to finish the rest.
The scalder worked like a champ keeping temp all day with occasional clean outs of the pump needed to keep it circulating. The killing pots worked pretty well but sharp edges were unpleasant and it was harder to get their heads pulled through since there wasn't much of a funnel. Kill cones or traffic cones will be next year's addition to the process.
100 lbs of ice is certainly not enough, it's just what i had the ability to keep in coolers so we made a trip mid day to get another 100 lbs. 300 lbs of ice in total did the trick. I made some chicken deliveries yesterday and then knocked out 25 more birds in about 3 hours the afternoon. i'll finish the few remaining birds today.
Our yield is actually much higher than I expected. Dressed weighs were really consistent at 5.5 lbs to 6.5 lbs and the meat looks great. There was very little fat on these birds with just a chunk near the gizzard. most didn't have the fat lobes around the vent that i am accustomed to seeing. Perhaps because they were males. Folks who received their birds yesterday we impressed by the size. At this size they make a really nice presentation in shrink bags and look like volley balls.
we filled 4 5-gallon buckets with heads, and guts, filled a trash bag with feathers and pitched about 1/2 the feet.
It won't come as any surprise but bottlenecks in the process were what killed our productivity. Last year, it was scalding. This year, not having a dedicated packer slowed us down a lot.
All in all, I'm pleased we got as many birds done as we did and I think the system would have worked to get them all done if we didn't hit so many snags. I think we'll hit our stride next year but for this year i'm excited to have succeeded in growing so many birds to such a great dressed weight and turning those efforts into food for at least 5 families. I'll run the numbers on total cost and post them in a few day. This year was much more expensive than last year on a per bird basis so it should be interesting to see how the numbers work out.