Processing Australorps

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by OrionDarkwood, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. OrionDarkwood

    OrionDarkwood Out Of The Brooder

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    Me and my wife are going to be processing 6 Australorp roosters in the near future. We have not processed chickens in a number of years and this is our first time with Australorps. So a couple of questions for the groupthink (and I know some may boil down to personal preference)

    1. Our Australorps are almost 4 months old is that the optional age for processing them? Our research is saying yes, however I think we would feel more comfortable is someone that has processes Australorps can weight in on the subject.

    2. Is there any easy way to weight them other than trying their legs together and hang them on a fish scale?

    3. What if any effect will this have on the pecking order, we think we know the order but you never can be sure?

    4. Any unique issues to processing Australorps?

    5. We have killed chickens in the past by chopping off their heads? However we have heard and seen videos where they hang the chicken upside down, pierce the brain via the mouth and then slit the throat. Any advantage doing it one way or the other?

    6. Also the whole dipping them in hot water vs plucking feather debate.

    Thanks in Advance
     
  2. Bridebeliever

    Bridebeliever Chillin' With My Peeps

    My responses above in red...I have not processed before, this is just what I have learned here reading other threads...I will only comment what I have learned. [​IMG]
     
  3. Nupe

    Nupe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
    2 people like this.
  4. OrionDarkwood

    OrionDarkwood Out Of The Brooder

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    Nupe,

    To follow up on your answers. We (me and my wife) currently have 8 roosters and 6 hens. Our plan is to keep 2 roosters one as backup. If we have two we can keep the roosters separate but we are hoping the pen is large enough that they can stay out of each other's way. Worse case is one ends up in the stew pot.

    Regarding the answer to #3 - They have started fighting but so far without spurs its little more than chest bumping, however a couple have fiqured out that grabbing the other's comb and pulling them to the ground works. Also a couple have started doing the mating dance (for lack of a better term) with the hens and their has been some almost comical unsuccessful attempts at mounting the hens. Only 2 of the hens are starting to get red combs.

    About the answer to #5 - Any type you recommend? We where thinking a small sharp pocket knife, maybe a gut hook knife or a box cutter. Assuming we do know take the route of chopping thier heads off.

    Lastly what auto-plucker do you use or is there a brand you or the BYC group recommends?
     
  5. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Auto plucker is not necessary for 6 birds, it would be very cost prohibitive unless you can borrow or rent one. You will need to scald in order to get the feathers out easily or you can skin. For a knife I use a filet knife for fishing and keep a ceramic sharpener handy, you need to slit right under where their jaw line would be, here the feathers are more fine to actually bald in that spot, when you slit you must go deep enough if you don't it is possible to make a cut that bleeds a lot but the chicken doesn't die, the proper cut will put them out in a matter of seconds. A utility or razor knife would probably work too but I haven't tried it yet.
    Keeping 2 roosters with 6 hens is going to be questionable, I personally have never had much trouble with roosters fighting, they do it on occasion but not too the point of serious injury, id be more worried about your 6 hens being way over bred and beat up with 2 roosters
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
  6. Bridebeliever

    Bridebeliever Chillin' With My Peeps

    I was going to mention this point. The best situation is 1 Rooster per 10 hens.
     
  7. Nupe

    Nupe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree with the last posters, 2 roosters and 6 hens is a recipe for disaster. At one point I had 2 cockerels with 16 pullets and it was still too rough on them. If your goal is to hatch out chicks, save 3 roosters to keep in their own bachelor pad. Without the hens around to distract them, they'll all get along fine. Once they're over 1 year old, you can try integrating one in. If he turns out to be too rough, to the soup pot with him and try the next until the girls have one they like. You'll know it when they do. If you're not breeding them there's really no need to keep any roosters unless you think they would benefit from a flock keeper. If the girls are in a predator proof coop/run, even that's not really necessary.

    If they're already starting to mount, I would separate them now. In a normal established flock, the older birds will thump proper manners into the youngins. Here, the boys are figuring out that they can be bullies and no one will stop them. They'll start mating the hens way too soon, cause feather damage, bald spots, possible injury and even disrupt their laying cycles before they can get started.

    Next year if you hatch out some more with a broody, you won't need to separate them before processing. Your mature flock will flog out most early aggression. But if you decide to raise a batch of hybrid meaties, I wouldn't put them together at all.

    I like to use either filet knife or an old steak knife to slit the throat. I find that with a longer blade, I can let the knife do more of the work. I hate to admit it, but the harder I have to press down, the more of the "ookies" I get over what I'm doing. If you just want to take the head off, the old fashioned pair of nails in a stump and a sharp hatchet still works just fine.

    I will mention a blade that I've been considering investing in because of the good things people have said on this site. It's a replaceable scalpel blade made by Havalon. The blades themselves are about 30 to 40 cents each and there are plenty of handles to choose from between really cheap and really nice.

    As others have said, unless you plan to really start providing your own meat, you probably will never need a plucker. But I'm a gadget person, and this thing just makes life easy. I process around 50 birds a year for my own freezer as well as help out family and friends with theirs. I bought the cheapest plucker I could get shipped to the house which turned out to be the CCOnly.com SP-1 starpluck. With shipping I think we still paid more than $700. There are cheaper alternatives like drill attachments and build yourself kits (Whizbang). I've had it for 2 growing seasons now and it works like a beast. I'll probably replace all my rubber fingers before my next batch in spring.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2015
  8. OrionDarkwood

    OrionDarkwood Out Of The Brooder

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    @blucoondawg @Bridebeliever Thanks, we know we need more hens and are getting some more as soon as the ban on live poultry sales is lifted in NC (which hopefully will be Jan 15th). We ended up with our current mix of 8 roosters and 6 hens due to buying straight run, but we wanted to make sure we had extra roos to process.
     
  9. OrionDarkwood

    OrionDarkwood Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks, our coop is for the as predator proof as we can get it (this theory has not been put to the test yet) and the coop itself is inside a chain link fence that we have around part of the property. The run is just 6 foot dog fencing (we do alot of scavenging and re-purposing). But it has trees and bushes to protect from airborne threats (again in theory I have see hawks circling but none have tried to attack) However we like to keep a rooster with the hens, and even with 2 roosters sounds like the best course of action is to find which one does best with the hens and make a bachlor pad for the other one (since this is not the only time we will probably have more than one rooster). For the near future we do not envision processing more than a few per year so a auto-plucker is not in the cards. Lastly we might have to try the scalpel idea as well.
     
  10. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    I process dual purpose birds. It's preference as to how you dispatch. I like the old fashioned block of wood and sharp hatchet/cleaver. A good hatchet or cleaver is nice to cut the neck to size so I just go ahead and use it to dispatch then cut to length. As for knife to use, I've gone through a lot of knives and finally tried an often suggested exacto knife. Wow. What a beauty to butcher with and when it gets dull just pop in a new blade. Was thinking it wouldn't be long enough but not the case at all. Cutting around the crop and such is much like filleting so the short length is no issue. As for hocks just cut the skin half way around then bend back on the joint until it pops then finish cut.

    Water temp to 155-157F I like best. I don't drown the bird so being a bit hotter doesn't matter. Dunk, swish about and take out then repeat. It wont scald the skin that way and takes maybe 6-8 dunks until the largest tail and wing feathers pull without effort. If not keep dunking and plunging and taking out until they are ready. A turkey fryer is invaluable to maintain heat, that or a colman stove. Without a heat source it's a disaster attempting to pluck multiple birds bringing boiling water from house to adjust temp.

    Age of birds to cull? I like 12-14 weeks. The reason for this is two fold. 14 weeks to me is about cut off time for a bird to be grilled. You can still fry or roast at 16 weeks but grilling may start to get tough. The second reason is when hatching out birds each year and growing them out can add up in feed cost. Around 12-14 weeks birds start to molt into adult plumage. You'll note a bunch of feathers starting to accumulate in coop. A lot of energy is used for growing the new feathers. You'll note the birds retard growth during this time so it's really wasted feed unless your growing them out for larger roasters over 20 weeks. I keep some for later evaluation of breeders then cull somewhere 6 to 7 months of age for roasting. Fryers? I don't fry but would assume the flash heat retains moisture well so birds over 20 weeks could be fried, don't think I'd try to fry over 6 months of age though. Birds really get toned by that time. Over a year is stew and gumbo.

    To retain moisture in your cooking using a brine works well. As the birds are older there is more muscle tone so high heat will dry and toughen the meat. 325F for roasting birds up to a year old. Young birds that are brined are fine on the grill. Let your birds set in fridge for 2 or 3 days then put in a pot and cover with brine to soak in fridge for 20 hours. 24 and more hours is too salty and I've adjusted the salt so 18-20 hours makes for a good lightly salted flavor that will still retain moisture when cooking. Weigh out 8 ounces of salt (any kind hence weight not volume) to a gallon of water to make the brine. I'm going to try 7 ounces next time. Been working on this for a few years and almost got it perfect. I brine all my birds anymore regardless of how I intend to cook each individual one. When making stew type dishes you don't add any salt is all. But if all the birds are brined the last day of rigor rest then you've options of how to cook. I've never gotten the nice brown skin on older birds due to covering for first 30-40 minutes to retain moisture. Now I leave uncovered so they can brown up because the brine allows me to.

    Black pin feathers? Yup, that's why there are white birds in the broiler industry. Prettier carcass but still there, you don't see them is all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2015

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