Just finished processing my first birds EVER!

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by sksmass, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. sksmass

    sksmass Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 18, 2010
    Massachusetts
    I took the day off, steeled my nerves, and processed my first birds ever today. Three male CXs were 8 weeks old and weighed 9lbs live so their time had come. They dressed out at 6.5lbs.

    They seemed too big to fit in a bleach bottle cone so I cut a hole in the bottom of a 3 gallon peanut oil container, hung it from a tree and put them in that. It seemed to work fine. I used the neck slice method, trying to avoid the trachea. The first and 3rd birds went perfectly. The 2nd one I cut the trachea by accident. I guess that is the functional equivalent of an axe execution, so not the end of the world.

    Having never killed anything that up close and personal I was pretty nervous. I didn't like doing it, but I am proud that I had the nerve to do it, and I kept my cookies down.

    I was a little surprised at how little blood came out. I'd guess maybe a couple of cups? Hard to judge as it was running all over the tree trunk. I am posiitve I cut through the arteries though. There was nothing keeping the head on except the trachea and the spine.

    By far the hardest part was separating the crop from the skin and breastmeat. That thing was stuck like glue. I was never quite sure if I'd gotten it all off. And that made the evisceration step harder because I was always tugging and messing around on both ends of the bird trying to get everything to come loose.

    Each bird probably took me 2 hours to do from start to finish. I was doing it all alone (didn't want witnesses for my first try). The longest part was the plucking. The feathers came out pretty well. But going back with my thumb and knife to get out every last little embedded feather base was really tedious.

    The gutting went OK too. Except I couldn't identify a mystery organ. Most of the organs are kind of self-contained. That is, they tend to come out whole. But there were two organs(?) near the tail end, up near the backbone, that were just kind of a squishy dark reddish brown. They were kind of last in line, after pulling out the lungs, then the testicles, there would be these squishy things last. What were they?

    Time to relax. I am all wound up from the whole experience. And my back is killing me!
     
  2. chocolate m'scovy

    chocolate m'scovy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 14, 2010
    Congrats on your first processing! [​IMG] The "mystery organs" are the kidneys. Each has its own little niche. And I can tell you from experience.... you will get better at this whole affair with practice! [​IMG]
     
  3. Winsor Woods

    Winsor Woods Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 14, 2009
    Cascade Range in WA
    Great Job! You'll get much better with practice. There are some great videos on Youtube with close-ups on exactly where and how to make the knife cuts for the bleedout. That helped me alot. I make slices on both sides of their neck just to help them get through the dying process a few seconds faster.

    I used to struggle with the crop too. Now I can get the crop separated from the skin and breast in about 10 seconds. The first thing I do with a freshly plucked chicken is to cut off the legs and head. Then, with the bird on it's back and the neck away from me, I pull up on the neck skin and stick the point of my knife into the skin from the breast and slice it all the way to where I cut the head off. Then It's just a matter of being aggressive with your fingers and forcing them in between the skin and crop. Don't be ginger at all. Once I've got that away, I cut the crop and tracea off down by the breast. Then I go in the organ cavity from the vent side, clear it out and when I tug on the last bit of digestive tract, the tracea and rest of the throat/crop pull out nice and clean.

    The lungs take some practice too. The pointers again is to get your fingers in between the backbones and the lungs. Again, don't be ginger.

    The pin feathers are tricky at first too. Depending on your scald, you should be able to remove most of them just by rubbing the back of your knife against the skin, holding the knife perpendicular to the bird. The direction you contact the pins matters too. Contact the point of the pin and move your knife from the point towards the base where it comes out of the skin. A few quick brushes with the back of the knife is usually all it takes to get the pin out. That way you don't have to try and pinch each one between the knife and finger.

    Try those and see how you do. It may not be easy the first few times but with some repetition you'll pick it up quickly.

    Dan
     
  4. Me & My Peeps

    Me & My Peeps Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 26, 2010
    Western MA
    Nicely done!! Did you read up on it before starting? Or did you just do it and figure it out as you went? Any pointers, things you would change for next time?
     
  5. Dogfish

    Dogfish Rube Goldberg incarnate

    Mar 17, 2010
    Western Washington
    Great job! Way to try something you hadn't done before. Try scalding your bird at 145-150 degrees for 60-90 seconds next time, until the wing feathers pull out easily.

    My first deer took an hour to gut and a few hours to break down, now I'm done gutting in 5 minutes and I can break a deer down in 15-20 minutes. Practice makes perfect. You might consider building a drill mounted plucker. Takes about 30 minutes at most, cost $5, and will save you lots of time pluycking by hand.
     
  6. pongoid

    pongoid Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 8, 2010
  7. sksmass

    sksmass Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 18, 2010
    Massachusetts
    Me & My Peeps :

    Nicely done!! Did you read up on it before starting? Or did you just do it and figure it out as you went? Any pointers, things you would change for next time?

    I researched it from these sites that I found via BYC (thanks BYC!).
    Specifically, I found these six sites to be very good resources and would recommend them to other beginners:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=109583


    http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Butchering-ready.html
    http://butcherachicken.blogspot.com/
    http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/poultryprocess.html#Table2

    As far as advice and things I'd change for next time:
    1) the bleach bottle cone seemed to small for my 9lb birds so I had to fab a different setup real fast. If you are going to do bleach bottle cones, also try to find a big 2 gallon (Sam's Club size) bottle, then fabricate BOTH sizes of cones and hang them side by side in case a big bird is encountered. Then you won't have to mess around.
    2) Once you have that bird upside down in and in a good position, just do it, don't think about it too much.
    3) they may poop when they are upside down, and the $h!% can really fly
    4) try to get a helper if you are going to be doing multiple birds. That way one can be plucking while the other kills/scalds/guts/bags.
    5) Next time I might rinse the birds down before scalding them. They were kind of dirty (poopy) on their tummies. I had to change the scald water between them it looked so nasty.
    6) scalding too short/cold seems better than scalding too long/hot. You can always scald more, and you can always yank stubborn feathers with pliers but you can't uncook cooked skin
    7) don't be dainty, especially when trying to separate the crop. The bird's tissues are stronger than you think.
    8) the lungs came out pretty easy. Just work your fingers between the tissue and the firm cavity wall.
    9) in addition to a sharp knife, have a pair of kitchen shears. Good for when you need to trim excess skin and fat away.
    10) On you first few birds be prepared to have upwards of $10/lb meat, depending on how you value your time!​
     
  8. terri9630

    terri9630 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 22, 2009
    New Mexico
    9) in addition to a sharp knife, have a pair of kitchen shears. Good for when you need to trim excess skin and fat away.


    I used rose pruners. They were easier on my hand.
     

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