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First cull - hold me! No, really, critique my plan.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Edwards' East of Eden, Aug 19, 2011.

  1. Edwards' East of Eden

    Edwards' East of Eden Songster

    May 11, 2011
    Biloxi, MS
    I have sixteen chickens now. I got seven chickens of three different breeds from a local hatchery in May, with solid assurances that only one of them was a roo. Three weeks later, I bought six Black Copper Marans, straight run, hoping like he*l that only 50% would turn out male, but realizing that we were talking about my luck, after all.

    I wound up with three roos from the first hatchery batch, and 4/6 of the BCMs are roos. Great. Just ... great.

    Then I bought three silver laced wyandottes at lay. That brings me up to a current roo ratio of 7:16. Lovely.

    Final decision, for now at least [​IMG] : Frilly, the tailess black australorp who was supposed to be a hen, and all four of the BCM roos are going to freezer camp. I'm going to keep Desi (RIR, previously named Lucy), and Dustin, the EE who was supposed to be my one roo all along. They're both civil to me but not clingy or needy, and seem to get along with each other, at least so far. If that changes and I have to cull one of them later, I'll deal with it then.

    My family of three is made up of me (the chicken freak), my husband (terrified of all things chicken, PTSD from a childhood rooster attack, but otherwise supportive), and a 14yo st-son who thinks he wants to be a doctor but gets squicked out by everything, is too far removed from the source of his food, and is remarkably blase' about death, probably due to an incessant stream of too-violent xBox games. I've had the kid out in the run every afternoon this week, spending time around the chickens and in particular around the roosters who are destined for the table, and talking about respect and appreciation and gratitude, and how important it is to utilize as fully as possible this precious creature which is going to lose its life for our dinner.

    I've read and read (and read) on here and everywhere else I can find. I do believe everyone in Mississippi goes and talks to the people at MSU for critter stuff, and I've called and talked to them in the Poultry Science Department (who knew? Poultry Science? Really?). I've talked to my county extension agent, who referred me to another extension agent further north who has her own chickens. I've talked to the neighbors down the road who haven't had to cull yet, themselves, because her uncle lives on the other side of town and comes and does it for them. I've looked at every video on youtube, and I've googled until I'm blue in the face.

    (Edited to add this paragraph) I've set up a canopy in the backyard, and run a piece of metal conduit through the frame to hang birds from. I have ten pieces of twine up there, with slipknots at the ready. I've checked the propane torch for readiness to burn off any leftover feathers. I have heavy plastic to cover my picnic table with for the evisceration, and a new filet knife. I have a lined garbage bag for blood, and a big plastic box to catch feathers in. I have a couple of coolers for ice baths and I have stainless steel bowls to catch what bits of the innards that I'll be keeping, and a compost pile for what bits I'll be letting go.

    I know there's much (friendly) disagreement here about the best method of dispatch, but for my goals here I believe I have decided on holding and calming the birds, then manual cervical dislocation, quickly followed by cutting both sides for the bleed-out.

    Then, scald and pluck, followed by an ice bath while I work through my first evisceration. Once I've done it and am satisfied, then I'll teach the kid to do it. (I fully expect my sweet, precious, kind-hearted husband to still be sobbing at this point. No derision there - I'll probably still be sniffling, too.) I really think the kid, though, needs to fully experience this - unless somehow it seems like he's actually taking pleasure in it, or is not taking it seriously enough. In that case I'll probably be screaming about him being a sociopath and sending him to his room.

    Not really. I hope.

    We rarely rarely eat a whole chicken, and have limited freezer space, so the plan is to piece the birds. All the pieces thoroughly rinsed and then into another ice bath while we finish up with the rest of them, then ... what? I don't think the odds are good that I'll be able to get them into that second ice bath before they've been dead for 20 minutes. I'm on the Gulf Coast, and it's going to be hot, and I'm sure rigor will have begun to set by the time I've cut them up. So, I go ahead and package them up and store them in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before I freeze them? Or, I put them together into a brine in the refrigerator? There's a part of me that wants to be able to write their little names on the zippy bags so I know who's coming to dinner every night - but maybe that's just twisted.

    Or I go to all that trouble and heartache and get so frustrated and flustered that I just give up and let the dogs - who LURVE raw chicken - out to clean up for me?

    Ugh. I've read so much and I'm just overwhelmed.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2011

  2. erinchelsea

    erinchelsea Songster

    May 23, 2010
    Webster City, IA
    [​IMG] It will be fine, really. The first one is the hardest. You've done your research, so you're prepared. I don't even think you'll need the second ice bath for that few birds. Just make sure they're cold, cut them up, bag them and throw them right in the freezer. Then as you use them later, they'll age as they defrost. And if all else fails, the crock-pot is your friend. [​IMG]
  3. dianaross77

    dianaross77 Songster

    Oct 10, 2010
    Grand Blanc, MI
    Good for you for taking charge of the situation! It sounds like you have it all planned out. Are you sure your son doesn't have Asperger's. That's why mine doesn't have any respect for living things without being told how to and why we should. He might just be trying to act tough and will feel differently when it actually happens. When I was 5 I used to love to watch my mom butcher the rabbits. I thought the whole process was really neat. If it's done humanely, as you're planning, there is no reason for either of you to feel bad. The unwanted roosters have to go somewhere. They had a good life and that is something to take pride in.
  4. mikensara

    mikensara Chirping

    Jun 16, 2011
    New York
    you have really thought things out [​IMG] btw i really love chicken parm:drool
  5. NotSuperWoman

    NotSuperWoman Songster

    Aug 14, 2011
    My Humble Manor
    I am a newbie, but I have done chickens with friends in the past.

    My advice. On the first day, only do one or two. That way you get the jitters out of the way. You can practice your method, and see what and how you need to modify if need be. Once you got it, do the rest the next day, in shifts. If you are doing this by yourself, I would only do one or two at a time.

    ( When we did our friends chickens, we didn't pluck them, we simply skinned them to remove the feathers with the skin. It left us a skinnless carcass, but it really was much easier, quicker, and simpler.)

    Also, have the Dr. Wanna Be teen stand by. This is a great biology lesson! If he gets queezy, then you might want to talk to him about changing desired professions. [​IMG]

    Hugs to you [​IMG] Culling chickens is never fun. You will shed a few tears I am sure. But this really is the responsible thing to do. And this is just the cycle of life for a chicken that was bred to help provide us food.

    Let us know how it goes for you!
  6. saladin

    saladin Songster

    Mar 30, 2009
    the South
    There is a MUCH easier way to do this than you mention and it is faster too:

    1. Hold the chicken by the legs in one hand. Grab hold of the wings as well; so that, you have the legs and wings in your control. This will prevent you from getting sprayed with blood WHICH IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITH THE METHOD YOU STATED.

    2. Place the chicken's head/neck on the ground.

    3. Wear shoes or boots with a heel for this to work.

    4. Place your foot over the chicken with the neck between the heel and sole (in the insole area).

    5. Then, just pull up.

    The head will slip right off. Takes less that 1 second.

    Hold the chicken over a bucket to catch the blood. Hold until the body is no longer jerking. DO NOT let go of those wings.

    Personally, I can't stand the smell of scalded feathers. It makes me sick. Thus, I skin all my chickens. WE kill around 150-200 chickens per year utilizing this method. It's easy. It's fast. It's effective.
  7. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

    Aug 20, 2010
    If you break the neck first, then make the throat slits, I think you might be doing it backwards. I cut first, let them calmly pass, then break or take off the head. But like you said, we all have different ways. My thought about this is that the heart will quit beating which means they won't bleed out as well if the break the neck first. Could be wrong though.

  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I think you are getting some decent advice. We all do have our own ways. Some of us have the skill and strength and use an axe or hatchet. Some use the killing cone. Others use the broomstick method. Some wring the neck. And there are others. To me they can all be humane. The most humane way is the way that you can be sure and swift. Your skills, talents, and abilities are different than mine. Your methods could easily be different. Not better or worse, just different. Pick a method that you can actually do and that is the best for you and the most humane.

    I agree for your first time, it is probably best to only plan on one or two. You will learn a whole lot on the first one and a little more on the second. Your speed will pick up as you gain experience.

    You night want to kill and process one before you kill the second, or at least finish the evisceration. The first one may take a while. Especially on the Gulf Coast where it can be hot, you don't want a dead chicken laying around with its internals still inside. That's not good. I think you will find it easier to cut up the chicken while it is still warm. Another possible problem you might have. The scalding water cools off quite a bit when you scald the first bird. You may need a while for the water temperature to get back up where you can scald the second bird. You'll work all this out for your methods based on practice and experience. But for the first time, take it slow and methodical.

    You sound like the type of person that wants to use as much of the bird as you can. That's part of showing respect. You certainly don't need to do it the way I do, but I take the legs, thighs, breasts and wishbone and freeze them. I take the backs, wings, neck, feet, gizzard, and heart and make broth. You can either eat the liver or give it to the dogs.

    I make the broth by putting the chicken parts along with a carrot, some celery, a few peppercorns, an onion, maybe some garlic, and whatever herbs I have available in the garden or dried, chives, oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, whatever strikes you fancy, in a crock pot with all the water it can hold and cook on low about 10 hours. I separate the broth and can that, but I also pick the meat off the back, wings and neck. There are a lot of small bones, so be careful. That cooked meat is great in casseroles, tacos, chicken salad, many different uses.

    You'll notice I use the feet in the broth. Those walk around in some pretty unappetizing places. To get them clean, I scald them. The toe nails pull off pretty easily and the skin will peel off. It's really not hard to get them clean once you get the process down.

    Good luck with it.
  9. Raen

    Raen Songster

    Nov 3, 2010
    Quote:So, with this method, the chicken's head is on the ground (concrete?) and your foot is holding down the neck, right? And you're holding both the feet and the wings? Or just the feet when you pull up? This sounds good to me, I just want to clarify.

    We had to cull one of our girls a few weeks ago when it became apparent as she grew that she had a leg deformity that made it difficult for her to walk or stand. First time killing anything. I did the kill cone method, planning on slitting her throat and letting her bleed out over a bucket. I had what I thought was a very sharp knife, but it wasn't sharp enough to get through that thick chicken skin without sawing at it. It was awful; I didn't mind killing the chicken, but I didn't want to hurt her, you know? Once it became apparent that the knife wasn't adequate, I had my husband break her neck manually, which sucked and it was hard to tell if it was done right...next time I'll either get a scalpel or try that boot method.

    One bit of advice: there isn't that much blood in a chicken, and it dries really fast. To make the blood bucket easier to clean out, get it wet first and maybe put an inch of water in the bottom before you bleed the chickens into it.

    Good luck.
  10. Edwards' East of Eden

    Edwards' East of Eden Songster

    May 11, 2011
    Biloxi, MS
    Thank you all so much for your handholding and advice!

    We had cross-country time trials for Dr-Wanna-Be Teen (I'm going to keep that one, thank you!) this morning, and are just now getting everything set up out back. We are, again, on the Gulf Coast, so you know we have a crawfish boiler setup! Right now we're waiting for the water to get hot, and then we'll be ready to go. Sitting on that burner the whole while should keep bringing it back up to temperature again, too.

    I was planning on dislocation and then cutting because I got assurances from my county extension agent that once the neck was broken properly, there would be a big empty gap there (vessels broken and all) where the blood would pool. So I was just planning to cut also, so the blood could go ahead and drain out. I've put a black garbage bag into an old tall kitchen can, and it's ready to go to catch, then tie up and toss.

    Yes, I do want to use as much as possible. My dogs have often eaten raw chicken necks, skin and all, from the grocery - that's a favorite treat around here. So I have no issues with giving them raw chicken, just not long bones and not cooked ones. My husband says he loves fried liver and fried gizzard ... but I don't think he's ever seen a gizzard "harvested" before, so that might change after today! If he won't eat it, the dogs will, and they'll be happy for it.

    I hear and understand all the recommendations to just do one or two, but I really want to get this done. Plus, I haven't fed any of the five for 24 hours now, and I'd hate to have to do that to some of them again later. Better to go ahead and get it done. I took my antidepressant this morning. [​IMG]

    Again, thank you all so much. That stock recipe, too - I needed that! My husband makes wonderful chicken and dumplings ...
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2011

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