Have to say that didn't go so well. 1 down 30 to go and would be happy to take any advice in making the rest go smoother. Some I've learned on my own from this first experience, but I'll share for those interested in learning from my mistakes. You old-timers may find some of this funny, but I'm not sure even time will let me look back and laugh.
Got set up last night as described in my opening post, went out after dinner was done and kitchen was cleaned to get it done. I had set up a killing cone arrangement under a large step-ladder, attaching the cone to a piece of 2"X6" that was across one of the ladder rungs and the support on the other side. A rope with a slip knot came down from the top of the ladder and I had a bag-lined trash can with pine shavings under the cone. I calmly picked up rooster and proceeded to tip him into my killing cone, securing his feet with a slip knot. There was remarkably little struggling on the part of the rooster, which made me feel somewhat better, until I realized that I had either made the cone too big or too narrow, because the rooster's head didn't extend from the bottom. As gently as I could, I removed the rooster from the cone and put him back in the dog crate and started working on altering the cone. By the time I had it fixed and secured to the 2"X6" I felt it was too late to continue and decided to put it off until morning.
My night was spent dreaming about chickens and I awoke 15 minutes before the alarm went off and decided to just get up and get started. Put water on to scald, walked and fed the dogs, had a cup of coffee while reviewing "The Deliberate Agrarian" pages on butchering a chicken, shooed my daughter out of the house to her job and went out to the garage to start again. This part is really hard for me to talk about because it makes me feel horrible even hours later writing about it, but perhaps someone will have advice for me as to how to do this better the next time. If you are squeamish, please don't read any more because I think the next part is awful and I'm not proud.
I got my rooster back in the killing cone without trouble this time and using the new curved-bladed "Exacto" knife I'd picked up the day before, slit his throat behind the ear area. For good measure I then used the straight-bladed Exacto knife up through the roof of his mouth in the "debraining" move I'd read about on this forum. He was bleeding and completely limp, so I decided to go out and feed and water the other chickens. I was horrified and mortified when I came back in...must have been 8-10 minutes later to find him still breathing! I grabbed the Exacto knife again and opened his neck up wider and deeper and he started to bleed much faster, did the final struggle and died but I can't help but feel like I botched it horribly and can only pray that the knife to the brain meant that what I was seeing was autonomic nervous system rather than suffering. Didn't cry then but am now writing about it.
I removed his head and decided to see whether or not the "dry plucking" that is supposed to be a side benefit of the debraining method had happened. Having only plucked one other chicken, and this was after it had been scalded, I can't tell you whether it worked or not. The feathers on the chest and back seemed to come off fairly easily, but not wiping off like the videos show after scalding. I went inside and discovered that the water still wasn't to scalding temperature (must be over an hour since I put it on the burner) so I try to continue dry plucking. About 10 minutes later I'm starting to panic because I'm not done and I have only about 15 minutes before I have to shower and go to work, so I came inside and dunked the chicken in the not -yet-scalding water and kept plucking. The carcass was far from pretty, but I have to move on and proceed with the butchering.
That part didn't go too badly...compared to what had come before. I learned that the knives I have aren't sharp enough and feel like I butchered the butchering, but I did remove the organs, intestines etc without anything bursting or cutting my fingers off. I gave the carcass a good washing and dropped it in the cooler of ice water and ran up to get changed for work, not having time anymore to shower.
When I got home, I inspected my work, spending some more time removing stray feathers and noted that I hadn't removed all of the lung material so got that done. Bird is now draining on the counter. Cleaned weight is 4lb, 6oz.
So what have I learned and where do I need help.
I learned that it takes way longer to bring that much water to the right temperature than I thought.
I learned that I need sharper knives if I'm going to do an attractive job of butchering a carcass.
I need to review the part of the instructions on removing the neck, because I don't think I cut far enough down and left a few neck bones attached to the back, which may freak out the kids when this chicken is served.
I'm guessing that I didn't cut deep enough into this bird's neck and caused unnecessary suffering on my part and probably on his part as well. Please tell me that it should not take a bird that long to bleed out, because I don't think I can do another chicken if it does. Perhaps cutting off the head would be better, because I'd know for sure that it wasn't feeling anything regardless of what the body was doing.
I'm trying to figure out why there were so many quill-like feathers, almost like splinters barely protruding from the skin that I had to get in a pincer grip and pull out individually. Did I, when dry plucking, perhaps break of the feather, leaving the quill in the skin, or were these probably new feathers growing in?
Is 4lb, 6oz a decent weight for a 9 week-old rooster? Should I wait a week or two before butchering the rest?
Anything else my saga has revealed about my lack of experience in this area?