Originally Posted by fisherlady
We processed a few of the meaties on Sunday, we picked 4 who were either very large already or seemed lethargic and were cause for concern for Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) We isolated them early in the morning in a crate covered with a sheet and placed out of the sun and away from the coop area so it was quiet.
We had all of our equipment gathered and used a couple of coolers to prewash and chill the birds in. As Sally said, prewashing the birds in warm, soapy water with bleach added sure makes for a cleaner process over all. So once the birds were bled out they went from the cones to the prewash cooler.
Birds resting in the crate....
We used an outdoor fryer with a black canning kettle for the scald water, it is very touchy for controlling the temps though, so you have to keep it very low and use a thermometer to get an accurate temp. 150 worked for us. The cooler with the warm, soapy water is seen here to the left.
Our cone stand, we also use a nail into a tree to hang the cone on if we are only doing one or two rooster culls... The birds can bleed into the black tub but for the initial cut we hold a coffee can under their head until any muscle contractions are done, Our stand holds 8 cones, but we only use 2 or 4 at a time usually, especially since it is just the two of us doing the processing.
Tub plucker with hose attached. Works great for processing multiple birds, but hand plucking works fine if you aren't doing a large number of birds or you have a few helpers. This falls under the 'convenience' list rather than a necessity list. Can be rough on the birds if you aren't doing 2 or 3 at a time, it seems to work best that way.
The kettle set up, needs to be a stable/flat area out of the wind for best control over temps.
a couple of must haves for us.... very sharp knives and a nylon rope with a slip knot set up on either end for looping over the feet (another pic of the hobble set up below)
After dispatching in the cone, the bird is taken direct to the prewash...
A close up of what I call my 'hobbles'... this allows you to firmly keep control of the bird and be able to swish it around in the pre wash and then the scald water without having to get your hands near the water. It also provides a good way to carry the bird from cone to wash to scald to plucker, etc. Their legs can be slippery and it is worse when your hands are wet or tired. They hobble I made is one piece, so you can hang the bird from it simply by hooking the rope over something and we used it to weigh the birds before and after processing.
A squirt of soap in the scald water and a few swishes was all it took. I overdid the first one and it caused the skin to tear. Submerge and swish a couple of seconds and then check to see if the wing feather pulls out. When a wing feather pulls out without problem then you are ready for plucking. Also, if you have any unusually large birds leave them till last so you don't overflow the water and end up having to reheat fresh water to bring it back to being deep enough for the other birds (you can just remove a few cups of water to lower the level so it doesn't over flow with the large birds) . It only took a few minutes with this set up to heat the water, but it would still be a pain to have to stop the process because the pan over flowed.
Toss them in the plucker and let it do it's job...
The majority of the feathers flush out into a pile for clean up later.
Here is the big fellow processed. He was 10 lb 2 oz live weight, and dressed out at 7 lb. We use a fish fillet table to cut up the birds, we place a 5 gallon bucket lined with a garbage bag under the hole in the table for handy disposal of parts while we are working. and have the hose there for quick rinsing of bird and table.
The birds are currently resting in our spare fridge, will package probably tonight. The big one we will bake like a turkey on Thursday probably.
As a reference, most of the birds were between 7 lb and 7 lb 8 oz pre process weight. After process they were in the range of 4 lb 12 oz and 5 lb 2 oz. Very nice birds for only 6 1/2 wks old.