If a soft-hearted gal like me can do it.....almost anyone can.

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by BigSkyChickens, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. BigSkyChickens

    BigSkyChickens Free Bird

    Apr 3, 2009
    Pleasant Hill, CA
    Warning: semi-grapic pictures down below.....
    We are newbies, who just processed our first Cornish X on Memorial Day. We didn't take pictures of the whole process, because frankly, we were a little overwhelmed, but here is some of it. It was a learning and growing experience for sure. It's taken me a while to post, but I want to share with y'all. Especially w/ other newbies. If a soft-hearted gal like me can do it, almost anyone can.

    I lurked on this meat bird section for almost a year.....reading and dreaming and scheming. Thanks to everyone for their information-sharing and encouragement.

    A couple weeks before we processed I emailed a lady with a local suburban farm and asked her if she was processing any chickens in the near future, and if I could possibly help. She was not, but she and her husband offered to come help us with our first chickens.

    Tom and Rachel from Dog Island Farm are awesome. They are so encouraging to others in the urban and suburban farming community.
    You can check out their blog:


    I highly recommend to other new folks - get someone to help you. I know not everyone has access to a farmer down the road, especially in the more urban areas, but ask someone, it doesn't hurt to ask.

    Here's one when they were just about losing their chick cuteness:
    A little older:
    The got to free-range a couple of hours a day, but never strayed too far from the feed bucket:
    They liked to lounge under the azaleas. They were extremely happy chickens even if they were lazy:
    We kept them pretty clean, because we only had seven of them. I do feel like 7-10 meat birds might be my limit of stinkitude on a quarter acre.
    There is the cone set up over on the clothesline:
    Removing #3 from the cone:
    The scalding station:
    The plucking station:
    The evisceration station:
    Separating the crop, which turned out to be pretty empty, even though we didn't take them off the food very long before processing:
    (Loosening the crop & windpipe made it much easier to get the entrails out the back end.)
    Here is the first cut I'm making into the back end, trying not to cut anything on the inside:
    Getting everything out without rupturing the bile duct was challenging for me. I rinsed a lot.

    Summary: We had 7 chickens total from Privett Hatchery in NM via Concord Feed Store. We processed the first four on Memorial Day at 7 weeks 4 days old. We did two while our guests were here to help us, then two more after they left. DBF did the cut on #2, and #3. I tried to do the cut on #4, but chickened out. DBF took over. We processed the remaining three the first week in June at 8 weeks and 2 days old. I did the cut on #5 and #7. I didn't want DBF to do all the killing just because he is the man. Plucking was pretty easy. We just did one at a time and it probably took us about 45 minutes per bird. I'll admit, I did cry, once each day of processing (each time after we killed the last chicken of the day), but I don't care. I'm so glad we did this.

    Lessons learned:There's a fine line between underscalding and overscalding. 140 was definitely the temp. to use. Every chicken is different, some squawk, some go peacefully. My cut on #5 was perfect, just like to tutorial, but #7 didn't go as well. My knife was pretty sharp, but feathers are like armor. If you have to reposition your knife, don't get it caught up in the feathers. Your knife can't really be too sharp. I was amazed at the much cooler brooder temps required for these guys (compared to egg layers). They were able to move outside at about 3 1/2 weeks old. I did so much homework beforehand, that I had it built up in my mind to be a little more traumatic than it actually was.

    Cost Summary:Chicks: $3.00 each x 7 = $21.00
    Feed: $40 per 50 lb. bag of Modesto Milling Organic Start & Grow x 2 = $80 (Oh my goodness, please don't make too much fun of me because me feed costs are so high. I get it delivered to my house and the shipping cost kills me. But it is fresh from the mill in the central valley) Bedding: $20 for wheat straw and pine shavings
    Total: about $17 per chicken. Maybe $18-$19 per chicken if you count electricity.

    They turned out to be about the same price as Fulton Valley Farms Organic Air Chilled chicken. I'm pretty happy with that. It was a lot of work for seven chickens, but I think I'll do it again.

    The six males dressed were all 7 lbs.! i was kind of shocked. I might harvest them at 6 weeks in the future. The one female was 6 lbs. dressed. I find "dressed" a funny term considering they don't have feathers at that point.

    Culinary Summary: I'll post a picture of the roasted chicken when I can find it. Rested for 48 hrs. in the fridge, then cooked and froze. It was super yummy. I cooked the gizzards, hearts and feet and a chicken back & wing into the most awesome gelatinous stock. The stock made the chicken gravy of my dreams.
    We gave a chicken to the couple who helped us. We gave one to our awesome friend who gave us the stainless steel sink. We roasted #3, and #5 and froze #4, #6 and #7 wrapped in butcher paper and in ziploc bags. I did the poor-mans vacuum seal and tried to suck as much air out of the bag as possible. Since I have little freezer space, we will eat all of them asap.

    Thanks to my lovely egg layers who inspired this whole experiment to know and respect our meat. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  2. Great Job! Keep raisen those homegrown chickens. It's better for everyone. [​IMG]
  3. Jschaaff

    Jschaaff Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 25, 2011
    New Hampshire
    Your chickens look(ed) fabulous!! Very healthy, happy chickens. I only did 10, ended up with 6...this time I have 25, will be interesting to see if it's as pleasant as my last experience,now that the numbers have grown [​IMG]

    Thank you so much for sharing. It really is such an encouragement to others. It's funny, I didn't get upset when I did mine, but my eyes filled with tears when I read that you had cried once each day [​IMG]...
    And then I read "but I didn't care", and I smiled big, [​IMG] eyes still filled with tears. Thank you again, your post will definitely help others see they too, can do this!

    Nice weights on those birds btw! I am going to cull a few at maybe 5-6 weeks, from this batch. I am happy with the 6+ weights, but would like some smaller, 3.5lbers next time too!


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