OK, well, all done, started around 7:30, finished a bit before noon. I took more time today with each bird because I had a headache and my carpel tunnel syndrome was acting up, which makes my fingers clumsy for things like pin feathers - also, I spent more time figuring out the best way to peel the feet (and finally figured out the flick of the wrist needed to get the outer toenail off), which I sort of gave up on yesterday (I'll rescald and peel those NH feet in the kitchen later). It sucked, emotionally, but otherwise went relatively ok, although the Naked Neck boys fought a lot more. I had two more flip themselves out, one before the deed, and one after - didn't figure out until almost the end that I really should always gently restrain the legs while they're in the cone unless I can manage to grow a third arm (easier to be able to use both hands to get a good clean cut on the neck, and also kept the birds more calm since they couldn't try to scrabble their way out). My technique is getting better, and it was so much better to use scalpels, but in the end, it's tough to take a life, even if it's right for the good of the flock. @DesertChic, I tried the upside down longer/comb pulling thing, and it seemed to make things better with several of them, one of whom started to doze off before going in the cone (others, it didn't matter).
Also, DesertChic, thank you for your post about my "special needs' New Hampshire pullet - I read it early this morning, thought a lot about it, and ended up culling her last today. You were absolutely right, it was the right thing to do, and as every single day has been borrowed time for her, it was the least upsetting of all of them. And it CERTAINLY reinforced how much easier plucking Naked Necks is compared to fully feathered chickens, to do her right after the NNs. Geez, so many feathers! Now I can understand why folks hate it if they aren't doing Naked Necks, and might skin them. (Oh, and yes, the NN phenotype are easier than the Nn...). Any of you NN keepers try dry plucking? I ask because the skin is a bit different/seems thinner. I didn't want to mess with it today, but would like to try it some time once my carpel tunnel issues settle down.
Data-wise, as a rookie at this, I got a yield of about 65% for the four Naked Neck cockerels (68% for Dozer). That's 3.5 pounds for Dozer (who WAS very narrow in body - I was right to make that call), 3 lbs for the others. That's carcass only, no neck/feet or organs that I kept - besides feet, neck, and gizzard for me, I saved the good organ stuff for the chickens (liver, heart) but didn't have the energy/wherewithall to give it to them at the time - they're in the fridge. Maybe tomorrow. BTW, the guides I viewed/read while getting ready never mentioned the spleen - I didn't keep it, but should I in the future, for the chickens? At first I was struck by the fact that the Naked Necks, while certainly not "fat", had more belly and abdominal fat than the NHs, (one with NN phenotype had enough to keep with the organs to render later), then I remembered that it's winter and the NNs don't have lots of belly feathers to keep them warm. Duh. I will weigh the NHs when I bag them all up - which will have to wait until tomorrow (I have some of those shrink bags and will do it in the kitchen in my big canner).
After I was done, and had cleaned up everything, what I REALLY wanted to do was take a bath and have an adult beverage. But what I ended up doing was taking care of other weekend chicken chores for the rest of the day - bedding turnover, fluff and refresh, poop scooping, etc, etc. It needed to be done anyway, but it was somehow the most soothing thing I could have done after culling, doing something to take care of the flock (despite the backache!). And, @gjensen, what do you think I found in the Naked Neck tractor while turning over their bedding? Feathers! You were right, they were molting (or at least some were) - it's just hard for me to tell with Naked Necks by looking at the birds, I suppose. While plucking I noticed that several of the NNs were regrowing lots of feathers, and I took another look at Tank, and he is growing his tail and wing feathers back out, so I think that may have been his "slow down" issue (he's not slow any more - he's acting like a BOY now!!! Poor pullets...). I also found some barred feathers in the Cream Legbar coop - Dumbledore is molting a bit as well. Both coops got mealworm-and-BOSS treat blocks today. (The Naked Necks are on Flock Raiser (20% protein) - should I get them some BOSS next time I'm at Tractor Supply?)
Anyhow, thanks again, everyone, for all the advice on my choice of the keeper cockerels, and in culling. While this was tough for me as a first time, it really had to be done - it was a bit overdue, but I couldn't have done it earlier because of work. The chicken yard is much quieter and calmer now, as am I.
Hot bath? Check. Pain killers? Check. Doctor Who reruns on the tube? - Check. (Don't have the energy to process any new episodes right now, and I need a River Song story arc fix). I had pizza last night - I think it'll be sushi tonight.
- Ant Farm