Originally Posted by OrganicFarmWife
Processing day today. I have already kept the birds too long. It will be my first time, but I enlisted my mom (a farm girl) who has helped do it alot. Hope it warms up a tad bit.....
I just did my first processing before Christmas. I hope no one minds if I cross post from the (Processing Day Support Group thread) several things I learned in the process that might help you:
- Mentally prepare yourself by reminding yourself that this HAS to happen. (Whether it's squabbling cockerels, or meaties that are having heart attacks/leg issues, or a bird that is sick and needs to go for the good of the flock or to ease its suffering.) It helps in getting through the tough parts, before, during, and after, to remind yourself of this.
- Wear a long sleeved red or black shirt, and same for pants. If you're having a hard time emotionally, it's easier if you can't see blood stains on your clothes while you're working.
- If it's a cold day, start the scalder very early and cover it. It's tough being nervous about your first cull, being all ready, having the birds set aside, and then having to wait a long time for the scalder to come to temperature.
- Organize everything very well. Really overthink it. Have everything available right there (including things you MIGHT need).
- Be prepared for your site to be very soggy from the water/rinsing. Best to do on a solid surface with good drainage if possible.
- Put your chickens in a pen or cage sized so that you won't have to catch them. (Last two on Saturday were caught with a fishing net, which was upsetting for them and me.)
- Don't name or get close to chickens you will cull, as mentioned before. (While this is not always possible, you can often predict, such as when you have 7 cockerels for only 6 pullets.) But if you do, you can still do it. It's just a lot harder on you.
- Sometimes holding the chicken upside down will make them drowsy, sometimes not. It's worth trying (be patient, give it a minute or two), but be prepared for it not to work all the time.
- RESTRAIN THE LEGS - to keep them from working their way out of the cone. I figured out to use a large gear tie to gently hold the legs together in while in the cone (I also used it to hold in the scalder and to hang to pluck). If you don't, you may have to rush the cut while trying to hold them in the cone, and they may still leverage and flip themselves out, even after your cut, which is beyond horrible. This is particularly important for big/strong birds. Ask me how I know (times 3). Also, this allows you to take any thick scratch-and-peck-resistant gloves you are wearing off before trying to make the cut.
- Use a scalpel (can be obtained at Tractor Supply or a feed store)
- If you use a bucket to catch the blood, put an inch or so of water in the bottom to dilute the blood when it falls in - it will keep the blood from coagulating (and then it's easier to clean up/pour on plants).
- A fish cleaning table (with a hose hooked up to the faucet) is very useful if you can get one.
- Except the neck skin, two cuts over the pelvic bones and opening the gizzard, all of the evisceration can be done with a good pair of scissors/poultry shears and your fingers (with less risk of contaminating the meat). But a lung scraper tool is very useful if you've got one.
- Small hands are always an advantage
- Non-chicken people are not that helpful, and it may be best not to talk about it to them about it (even if they support you - they don't really understand, and they may not want to hear about it, though my mother was pretty good). BYC is honestly the best.
- Though I was tired, the most calming thing for me to do after culling was not to go take a hot bath and have a glass of wine - it was to do chores to take care of the rest of the flock (bedding cleaning, roost scrubbing, poop scooping, etc.). I spent the entire rest of both days doing this. By the end of the day I was tired, but very much at peace about it.
I cooked the first of the birds a couple nights ago. He was delicious, and I was more grateful for my food than I had ever been before. I believe I am a better person for this.
- Ant Farm