I would like to start raising meat birds and want to be able to process them myself but other then knowing how to raise them im completely lost on the rest. What equipment do I need and how do I use it??? Would appreciate all the help I can get
Processing is a good skill to learn, as it keeps you close to your food and gives you a much higher understanding of how meat is "made". It's not very difficult, especially for chickens, but the first few times can be time consuming. After those few times, you'll get pretty quick and comfortable with it. There are LOTS of ways to go about, the most important is to find the way you prefer.
Halo posted my blog (thanks!
), which is a photo blog of how I personally like to process chickens at home with minimal equipment. There is a lot of equipment out there to speed up and ease the process if you choose to do so, but the necessary things are probably already in your house!
I've been wanting to try it for a couple years now and since I've been on BYC I spend most of my time in the quail forums but have been reading a lot in this one and decided that it was time for me to try and raise my own meat only problem is that I dont know anything about the processing part. I know you need your basic butchering equipment pluse a scalder and Plucker. Is there anything else I need? What temp should the scalder be set at? What is the best birds? Cornix X's? I know there one of the most popular. Whats the best butcher weight?
Basic butchering equipment is just a pot of water to scald the bird and a knife for killing and butchering. For killing you can hang by the feet or restrain it in a cone or bag and cut the arteries in the neck or lop the head off. For scalding, you can use a large pot heated on the stove or a turkey fryer/kettle on a propane burner or wood fire. The water is heated to around 145 F and the bird is dunked until the primary feathers pluck without much resistance. From there you can pluck the bird by hand which takes a few minutes or use a plucking machine to speed things up. Once it is plucked it basically just knife work; remove the feet, head, and oil gland, eviscerate the bird, remove the neck if you wish. Chill the carcasses in cold running water or an ice water bath. Package as you wish. Let the meat age in the refrigerator a day or two before freezing.
It's not as complicated as it would seem. It depends upon how many gadgets you employ to speed up the work and how many birds you would want to do at a time. A few birds at a time can be done with what you have in the kitchen without too much fuss. Doing dozens and dozens of birds at a time is another matter...
If you are looking for supermarket style birds with large breasts and lots of meat, then the commercial Cornish-Rock broilers are the way to go. They will grow out in anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks depending upon the weight that you want. Best butcher weight is up to you. It depends upon whether you want something that is Cornish game hen size, a ten pound roaster, or something in between.
Some of the heavier traditional breeds can make a good meat bird too, but grow-out times are longer and you won't see the breast size that you see on a store bought bird.
Stick around and read some the links provided. Then read some more... Everything you need to know is right here and has been covered dozens of times over.
I understand that you're curious and excited to get started with meat birds. If you read some of the links posted above, you'll find that some folks have put a lot of effort into beautiful writeups and blogs with instructive photos that answer most of your questions. The link that halo posted answers a lot, and Mac in Wisco has a link with other very good sources - start with the first one on that thread, then check the others and when you can't find info there, ask the group and folks will be glad to help.
If you're only butchering a few birds you can get by without the plucker and maybe even the scalder. I've heard of skinning birds which eliminates the need for the scalder. I'd butchered three birds before my neighbor and I did 25 in a long day w/o a plucker but I'd sure like to get a one for the batch that's in the brooder right now...
As for which breed, this depends on what you're looking for. If you want a fast growing breed then Cornish Crosses are quickest and grow out in 6- 8 weeks - the downside is they're reputed to have a higher mortality rate due to their rapid growth. If you want a heritage breed, then you'll have to wait about 20 weeks for it to grow out - the downside is they have a lower feed conversion ratio and take 20 weeks. I don't have much experience with other breeds but have had very good luck with what my research indicated as a good compromise: the Freedom Ranger that grows out in 12 weeks and is ready for processing just as they're starting to crow. Read the post titled "Choosing a Meat Bird" in the link Mac in Wisco gave to get started on your research.
As for the best butcher weight, being in the 'burbs where I can't have crowing roosters I'd prefer the biggest they can get before they start to crow because I consider my time butchering to be worth a lot more than the extra feed I'd give them growing out an extra month or two. I was hoping to let a few hens in the current batch go to 9-10 lbs but we got a late start and I don't feel like butchering outside in Denver come January.
I really appreciate all the replays and advice everyone's given me. I've spent a lot of time today looking around and reading in this forum. I've seen some pretty nice setups too. I raise a lot of quail and process all that I eat burning know that there is a huge difference between cleaning a quail and a chicken. I definitely want to raise and clean a large group of birds at a time I think other then the birds all ill have to buy is a plucker I already have a large Turkey deep fryer and all the basic butchering equipment and im fairly certain that I can make a couple killing cones im still going to do some more reading and would still love to hear all that you guys are willing to share