Just wondering what techniques you all have for butcher day. I have roughly 20 meat birds and a plucker set up. Butchering by myself, seeing if people kill 2 or 3 at a time or just one at a time or what.
We did 40 in a day this fall. We had a station set up for them. We had a chopping block as station 1 and my dad and second cousin would bring the bird over and chop it's head off. Second station was a bleeding one, we would hang them upside down and let them bleed out and flail around a bit. We would usually send 3 birds through at a time. Next station was plucking, we would dunk them in hot water and my little brother and uncle would pluck them. Then it would go to the butchering station and I would gut them and take out all edible organs. After that my dad would quarter them and throw them into the cooler. The butchering and plucking is the longest station, most people would have probably just skinned them. While I was gutting the birds my dad and second cousin would start chopping the next 3. We had running water the whole time and we had froze a lot of ice cubes before hand for the coolers. We had one cooler for edible organs, like the heart, liver, and gizzard, and then another cooler for the meat.
I know this might sound obvious but don't let the other birds watch you murder their buddies, I had the holding pen set up to close to the chopping block and they freaked out. One actually escaped and ran off into the woods, I tracked him down a few hours latter all the way across the street. That is pretty impressive for a CX, we let him live, along with a few others that I am planning to cross breed to other chicken breeds.
Depends on how determined you are and how much time you have. If it's your first time (is it?) and it's just you, I would only do a maximum of three the first time. I personally prefer to get other people to do the actual killing via axe, but I'm a wimp.
If you don't have someone to do the holding for you, use a killing cone. A gallon jug with the bottom cut off, turned upside-down, and nailed to something works just fine. Then there are a couple approaches:
Slit the throat (messy—have a really sharp knife or you'll probably have to hack and you really do not want to have to do that. A scalpel tends to work well for me. A steak knife can work if you put enough force behind it. Try to avoid areas with feathers, or pull them away while you do it, because knives are mostly not designed to cut through feathers)
Break the bird's neck (I have trouble doing that myself, especially with larger birds like ducks.)
Stick a knife up inside the mouth (easier and I recommend it over either of the other two. Still a bit difficult.)
Cut off the had with pruning shears (more difficult than it may sound sometimes, but effective, if you have sharp shears)
Supposedly, you can also wrap the bird with a towel or sheet, lay it on the block, and immobilise its head between two nails, but with my luck, the bird would just struggle out of the sheet and run away, so I've never personally tried it.
We usually use a stump for a block, then hold the carcass by the feet to let it bleed out. As soon as blood has stopped, drop the body into a five-gallon bucket of 160 F water, push the body down with a stick for thirty seconds and then pull it out and pluck. If you want to skin them, it's easiest to hang them up by the feet and get to it, but you have a plucker.
I have never used a plucker, but the first thing you want to do on getting the birds out of that water is yank out the primary tail and flight feathers. Once that bird has settled a bit, you may have to use pliers to get them out, and I can't imagine a plucker handles those feathers well.
This is a very good resource on how to prepare a plucked bird for the freezer. I'd tell you how I do it, but I mostly learned by watching my father, and I've found that most of the things he taught me about how to butcher animals are wrong. (Do not put chickens you want to pluck in boiling water. And especially not for five minutes at a time.)
I slaughter alone, and do one bird at a time all the way kill thru chill.
In case something happens, like cutting the crap out of your finger, and I need to stop I don't have half done birds.
But I only do a 3-5, can't imagine doing twenty.
Best of Luck!
Let us know how it goes.
We do two at a time as they tumble better in the plucker when there is more than one. We have a Yardbird from TSC. I removed the feet before scalding and tumbling last time and it made a huge difference! That was with Muscovies but I will do it with the chickens this time.
Four stations: killing cones (I use sharpened pruning shears and appreciate the relative ease - keep them sharp and make cuts deliberate); scald and pluck (mostly me and my youngest son); gut/butcher (mostly me and my youngest daughter); final clean and chill (wife). Everyone pitches in wherever needed. Sending 24 to freezer camp in a couple of weeks - may make it two morning s of 12 each. Got the spring break campers incubating now as we hatch and raise our own dual purpose breeds.
My husband holds them and keeps them calm, then pulls their neck and they are dead, no flopping around. I take them in and cut their heads off and let them bleed out. I cut their feet, wingtips and butt off, then take their wings off (because I do just pluck those), then skin the body and harvest the organs. We have ice cold well water, so I soak them for about an hour and repeat that cycle two times before adding salt to the final soak. Then I cut them thigh, leg, breast, separate wings into their own bag and save the entire back and neck for soup. It is just me and him, so we do two or max of four every other day through the harvest time. We raised 18 and have them all in the freezer. They dressed out at 9 to 12 lbs each.