Butchering multiple birds without help - need some suggestions.

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by aart, Mar 30, 2015.

  1. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I have butchered 2 birds so far, 1 at a time, and am pretty comfortable with my equipment and the process.
    This year I need to butcher about 15-20 birds, old hens and extra cockerels, and am unsure about how to do say 4-5 birds at a time single handedly.

    I don't have anyone to help, like maybe one person doing the killing and gutting and the other scalding and plucking......
    ....or even better would be 4 people, each working one station, but that ain't possible. I'm thinking the stations are kill, scald, pluck and gut then into the chiller. Final rinse and storage could be done by one person inside later.

    I'm thinking it's best to just cage the chosen birds the night before and take each bird all the way thru all the stations one at a time then start at the beginning with another?

    If anyone who does their butchering alone could share their experience/technique, I would be grateful.

    TIA
     
  2. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When I'm working alone that's pretty much what I do too. With all the work it takes to set up the stations, and all the work it takes to clean up afterwards, I try to get 3 or 4 done at one session. However, there is always that possibility that something comes up in the middle of the planned period that slows you down or even makes you quit what you are doing and you don't want to have multiple birds in various stages of butchering on your hands. Once the three or four are in the cooler I clean up and sit down for a cup of coffee and a rest. Later I'll drain the chickens on the dish rack in the sink while I wash out the cooler. Once drained, the chickens are individually wrapped in plastic grocery bags and put in the refridgerator to age for 3 days before they are all prepared for the freezer. Good luck.
     
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  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Yes same here. I’m by myself. I take one bird all the way through the process at one time. One thing I suggest is do all the preparation you can the day before, set-up, making extra ice, sharpening knives, even digging the hole you will bury the slaughter byproducts in if you bury them. It’s going to be a long day anyway.

    I don’t scald and pluck, I skin. My wife wants them skinless anyway. For younger birds hat is pretty easy but older birds and even cockerels at five months have membrane that attaches to the skin so you may need to cut that membrane. Skinning a mature rooster is a challenge. I don’t leave the carcasses whole either but cut them into serving pieces as I butcher. That slows me down some but suits the way I use them. It depends on age and sex but I normally do about 5 to 6 birds in a day.

    Butchering is only half of it. I double wrap the parts we will eat in freezer paper. I find that bones will sometimes poke a hole through single wrapped, zip-loc bags, or shrink-wrapped bags, not so much when I’m wrapping them as later when I’m sorting through the freezer looking for things. The parts I use for broth go into a zip-loc freezer bag and yes, occasionally a hole gets poked in it but I live with that.

    Clean-up takes a while too. Before I clean up and go inside to wrap the chicken, I bury what I’m burying, wash the things I used (buckets, stand, hatchet, whatever) with dish soap and follow with a bleach and rinse, put the hose away, and store things away or to dry. After I finish wrapping the chicken I of course do dishes and sanitize kitchen counters and take the ice chest outside to wash it and sanitize it with bleach. It all makes for a long day.

    When I butcher I keep two buckets handy. One gets the stuff I’m going to bury. The other gets the body parts I feed back to the remainder of the flock. Free proteins and nutrients. It’s also a good time to split open some intestines to see if they have any worms inside.

    When you butcher hens you will sometimes find an egg not yet laid. I eat these fairly quickly because the hen has not put any bloom on it. I don’t store those for long.

    When I bury the stuff, I put wire held down with pavers over it to keep animals from digging it back up. I had that happen once. The body parts were pretty much eaten so it was not as bad as you might think but feathers were flying all over the place.

    Maybe you can pick something out of this ramble that can help.
     
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  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Fantastic Feedback!! Thank you both so much!!

    Lots of affirmation and some new good tips too.

    This was exactly my concern " ......you don't want to have multiple birds in various stages of butchering...... "

    Now that part is settled, I can move my thinking onto getting the gear all gathered and plan the set up.

    I like the skin, but may try skinning too as it would save alot of time and effort.
    Too bad the younger ones are easier to skin, especially when they are young enough to still put on the grill......
    ......cause not many things more delicious than crispy grilled chicken skin right off the grill, it even reheats pretty well with a fresh home grown bird.
     
  5. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Honestly - I only think skinning is quicker if you're doing 1 bird. If I'm doing 2 or 3, plucking is easier. Skinning is only quicker because you don't have to heat up a pot of water - the actual skinning is a pain (IMO). If birds are scalded correctly, the actual plucking is really quick and easy.
     
  6. OnlyOrps

    OnlyOrps Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This is a very helpful thread. Thanks for all the info guys!
     
  7. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Nobody plucks their birds dry? I don't scald. By plucking the tail and wing feathers immediately, then plucking the body, all the feathers come out.
     
  8. LBKS

    LBKS Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I tried dry plucking a sudden cull rooster once, figured I'd get an idea how much time scalding would save on a one off. I don't seem to have how to pluck the wing feathers fast enough down though. The first wing goes off well enough, the second is harder, and I ended up just cutting off the tail rather than plucking it all the way.

    There seems to be a certain way to hold the base of the feathers to pop them out easy enough on body feathers, the best I had on the wing feathers was to push down the skin around the shafts and then pull. Any dry pluck tips? (I'm assuming it'd be easier with younger birds, but wanted to see how difficult it would be on an adult since I had one to work with and didn't want to mess with the scalding pot.)
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Scald and pluck is pretty slick...literally...and I would think it's easier to handle the feathers when they're wet than have them flying all over the place.
    PLUS that scald water is great for (again, slickly) skinning the feet for stock.
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I look at that as God having a sense of humor.

    We’ve all got different set-ups. One issue I have with scalding is that I don’t have a good way to heat the water. It takes forever to get the water hot enough with my set-up, even if I start with the hottest tap water I can get down there. Once it’s hot I can keep it hot, but since I have to skin them anyway for my wife I don’t see any benefit in spending the money to make it easier to heat the water.

    I’ve scalded/plucked and I’ve skinned. I recently processed some five month old pullets. I could not have plucked them any faster than I skinned them, even with the water already hot. I could pluck two, maybe even three, mature roosters faster than I can skin one. Skinning is not always faster (especially if you have an automatic plucker), but plucking is not always faster either. Skinning does require more strength though, especially with the wings. I don’t bother with the wing tips, just cut them off with the poultry shears. If you like the wing tips you need to pluck.

    Another factor can be the molt. If you happen to butcher the young ones during a juvenile molt or you wait until the mature hens quit laying and are into the molt (which happens to me) you are going to have a lot of pin feathers to deal with if you pluck, especially if they have darker feathers. Since I skin those it’s not an issue. Aart you know me, I can always come up with exceptions and things to think about instead of categorically saying one way is better than another.

    I don’t know if either of those you butchered were hens. If you haven’t butchered hens yet, don’t be surprised by the amount of fat they have. Some hens have a lot more than others but a hen will have a lot more fat than a rooster. They store this extra fat to live off of when they go broody so a hen in lay will have more than when she is molting. A lot of this fat is stored in the pelvic region but you can find fat under the skin and on a lot of the organs. A hen in lay may have an unbelievable fat pad but that does not mean she is too fat or unhealthy. Just be ready for that fat if you haven’t seen it.
     

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