Processed my first 3 (long)

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by HEChicken, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    Saturday was the day. I bought 7 chicks from a local gal in August and 4 turned out to be roosters. Having raised them from chicks, it wasn't easy, but DH and I decided from day 1 that the primary purpose of the venture is to grow our own food. Hens for eggs, roosters for meat. With this in mind, I tried not to get too attached to any of them. In the past few weeks I read up on the meaties forum, as it became increasingly obvious which of the chooks were destined for the freezer. All along, I pictured DH doing the cutting, and then the two of us working together to pluck, gut, store and cook. Great minds think alike. He apparently was picturing much the same scene, except he pictured me doing the cutting while we shared the rest of the duties. So sure were we of the respective correctness of our thinking that we didn't actually discuss it until it was time to make the first cut. Uh oh. I pointed out that he is much better with knives than I am (not sure he quite considered that a compliment) and he got down to business.

    I like the look of the killing cones but as we are not in the meatie business and will only ever need to process the odd roo, I didn't want to increase the expense of the meat any more than necessary, so looked around for an alternative. I found it that morning, in the form of a very large, empty vinegar bottle. I cut the bottom out of it, then increased the size of the neck leaving the handle intact, and it turned out to be just about the perfect size. Screwed that to a fence post, fairly close to the ground so the blood wouldn't spray too far, and placed the first roo in. DH hesitated for a few moments, trying to figure out the exact right place to cut, then made the cut but did not get the artery. We both felt horrible to make him suffer, so then decided to use the second method we had seen, and go right through the neck. This was very successful, we opened up both arteries (vein & artery?), missed the windpipe and he bled out quickly after that. (On the 2nd & 3rd birds, he successfully made the right cut first time).

    Prior to this, I had set a pot of water on the stove to heat. Unfortunately, I left the heat on too high and it was boiling by the time we got in. We dumped out some boiling water and added some cold to get it back down to 145-150 (using a thermometer since I am hopeless at guessing temp). I had used my biggest pot which looked big until we went to put the first bird in and found he didn't fit (and these were not huge birds; live weight right around 5#). I had to do a series of dunkings, trying to get the body, legs and wings, without overdoing any of it. A large trough would be nice, but again, an expense we can't justify for the small number we will be doing.

    Plucking was easy once the correct number of dunkings had been completed. A little time-consuming (whiz bang plucker would be nice but you know the rest of this sentence). One problem I had not anticipated was the feathers sticking to my hands. To counter this, I had to keep rinsing with cold water so I'm glad it was a warm day here.

    Eviscerating was a little trickier. The how-to videos all looked pretty easy, but when it got right down to it, none of it looked quite as it did in the videos. Cutting the head off was much harder than Joel Salatin makes it look. I'll have to go back and look at his video again. My cut around the vent was not nearly as neat either. But I did find getting the innards out pretty easy, even if I couldn't identify them all. I never did see the kahunas, which made me ponder aloud that I hoped they really were roosters. DH reminded me that the pointy hackle feathers, the beautiful saddle and tail feathers, the golden sheen (BO's) and the crowing all pointed towards them being roos and I felt reassured. Would have liked to have seen them for sure though. One thing I had been concerned about was the bile duct, but found that removing it intact was not a problem. Yeah.

    A surprise for me was the gizzard. Since I don't feed in the coop, my chooks all go without food overnight, so processing in the morning seemed a no-brainer. When I let them out that morning, I took the roos straight into a small pen where they had a little water but no food. I didn't count on them eating quite a bit of grass in the two hours they were in there though, and the gizzard had a lot of ground up grass in it. On the first, I carefully scooped it all out, then rinsed, then removed the lining. However on the second and third I found I was able to remove the lining with the food in it all in one piece, which simplified things quite a bit.

    We were determined to make their little lives count as much as possible so did not want any waste if the part could be used for something. So here is what we did:

    Combs/waddles: cut off, fried up, tasted (turns out they are all fat) and fed as treats to the hens and 1 remaining roo who thought they were very tasty
    Feet: blanched, skinned, then put in a pan filled with water, a few carrots and some celery and made chicken stock
    Intestines: Fried up to feed to the dogs
    Organs: Fried up and fed back to the chooks, dogs and cat
    Heads: looked for a good use for them but couldn't find one. Ended up throwing them away, although now I'm thinking they might have made good stock also?
    Feathers: threw these away, although I did consider trying to dry them out and use them in the coop for additional warmth
    The rest: still soaking in the fridge but will soon get one ready to roast, one ready for the crock pot tomorrow (want to try different cooking methods to see which works best with 17-19 week old roos) and put one in the freezer.

    Overall, I'm glad we did it. I'm glad its done. We still have one more to do. He was the youngest and friendliest and had never crowed. It only took him 2 days to take over as head of the flock and this morning he did a great job of crowing. We left the "cone" screwed to the fence knowing we had one more to do yet. But I'm glad we didn't do him at the same time because the other thing I didn't think of is how much space they take up. I have a small kitchen with a regular fridge/freezer - no additional freezer space available. As it is, finding room in the fridge to soak 3 was tough - I'm not sure what we would have done with the fourth.

    Although it went pretty well (we went outside to do the first at 9am and by 11am had all three killed, plucked, eviscerated and soaking, and only had the clean up left to do), I'm going to do some more reading and watching of tutorials as I think there are areas we can improve on. I decided to write this up because I know it helped me to read about other people's first experiences, so I hope this will help someone else.
  2. PandoraTaylor

    PandoraTaylor RT Poultry n Things

    Jun 29, 2009

    Good Job.....

    thanks for the info.
  3. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    Good idea on the sink - thanks! We did a combination of indoor/outdoor. Outdoor to kill, indoor to dunk, outdoor to pluck and eviscerate, back indoors to get them in the soaking pan. It would have been easier to stay indoors but the plucking was so messy we went back out to do that part. However I might try the sink next time since we most likely will not have such good weather by then, and see how that works out.
  4. mxpres

    mxpres Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 21, 2009
    congrats on a job well done,,the next ones will be easier [​IMG]
  5. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    Oh - went in the fridge and found.....the bag containing heads that I thought was discarded by DH. So, I made stock out of them. Once the stock was cooked, I found that what little meat is on the head just kind of fell off the bone, so I took all of that, along with brain, tongue etc, and set aside for animal food. I was left with a tiny pile of bones to discard and am so glad to have been able to use every last bit of these guys. First bird just went into the oven to be roasted. Can't wait for dinner time....
  6. 95yj

    95yj Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 25, 2009
    Central Vermont
    good job, the first time can be hard, even when your doing it with somebody who knows what their doing... i can't imagine trying to figure it out on your own. but still congrats, and it will get easier as time goes on.
  7. halo

    halo Got The Blues

    Nov 22, 2007
    My Coop
    That was a great read, thanks for taking the time to post that. How much bird did you have left after it was all said and done?
  8. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    Quote:Oops. Forgot to weigh them. The first is in the oven right now and the second will go in the crockpot tomorrow. I'll weigh him before I get started. They each weighed between 4.5-5# live, and I'm guessing deduct around 1/3 for dressed weight so in the neighborhood of 3.5 pounds apiece. Not huge but they were 17-19 weeks old and I wanted to process them before they got too tough.
  9. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 31, 2009
    SouthEast Texas
    Great read! You did so much better than i did. [​IMG]

    As you know, we already ate our first, which wasn't great. I have the next one brining right now to make soup probably tomorrow evening. But the ones i did were close to a year old. I can't wait to hear how they turn out food-wise. My next time will be after Christmas, and it will be younger birds like yours - extra roosters in our own flock. And this time, i'm going to get the hubby to help. Two hours is awesome!

    I concur on the space issue. Letting 3 birds rest for 2 days takes up a lot of room.
  10. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    [​IMG] Good for you & for Mister too! Each time will get easier as you learn new things from every session. And I'm impressed with your efforts to use every part of the bird. I'm content to just have every bit of the meat eaten & not wasted. I wonder what you'll devise next -- chicken skin sandals sewed together with the tendons using a chicken-bone needle?

    You were clever to devise your own cone, there are a lot of things that can be used for that if you don't want to purchase a metal one. Maybe next time you can use your own big pot just for heating the water and find something bigger for dunking your birds in the scalding water. Keep checking yard sales, thrift stores, FreeCycle, etc. Some folks use 5 gallon plastic buckets, or metal garbage cans. You can keep water boiling inside on the stove, or outside on a gas grill or over a fire.

    You might try using gloves when you pluck, rubber or cloth. Some folks like those cloth gardening gloves that have the raised rubber dots for better grip.

    I too have limited refrigerator space but I let my birds rest in plastic grocery bags, not soaking in liquid baths. I put them in ice water right after butchering but once they're chilled through I put them each in a plastic grocery bag & twist & tie it tight with the handles so it makes a neat little package. Then I stand them on their heads in a casserole dish on a refrigerator shelf, I can fit 6-8 that way in one long casserole.

    [​IMG] Enjoy your well-earned meals!

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