Thank you BYC, processed our first birds today

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by AinaWGSD, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. AinaWGSD

    AinaWGSD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2010
    Sullivan, IL
    When we got chickens, my husband was adamant that once they were past laying usefulness they would be going in the pot. I wasn't so sure I could do that to a bird I had named and raised from a day old chick. Well, turns out I can in large part thanks to the wonderful and helpful people here on BYC. I won't say it was easy, but it wasn't so bad that I can't see us doing it again in the not too distant future. We processed 3 of our year and a half old hens; two EE and our exchequer leghorn. The EE both had health issues (cross beak and reproductive issues) and the leghorn was just mean to the other chickens and laid small eggs.

    The actual dispatching was, as expected, the hardest part. We used a brand new box cutter purchased specifically for this purpose, and had a really hard time making the cut. We didn't manage to cut the jugular on the first or even second cuts on any of the birds [​IMG] That was the absolute worst, the feeling that we prolonged their suffering because of our own inexperience. Thankfully, none of them seemed stressed while we fumbled about getting the job done. I was surprised how quickly they passed once the correct cut was made, and how little blood there was. Many thanks to whoever suggested using plastic grocery bags and duct tape as a "killing cone," it helped immensely. As did Redneck Mommy's suggestion of lining a bucket with a black trash bag and hanging them into the bucket while they bled, that I think was what helped keep them so calm through the whole ordeal. It also kept our garage clean and made clean up super easy.

    Scalding went well, although we started the pot of water in the house before moving it out to the back patio on the grill and got it way too hot so we had to wait (and add ice) for it to cool down to the right temp. Plucking was way easier than I had imagined. Even on the last hen who we didn't swish quite enough as the feathers were still dry and fluffy down near the skin. I dare say it was almost "fun." Peeling the feet was also way easier than I thought it would be and was definitely kind of fun. It reminded me of peeling old skin off a reptile that was shedding, right down to popping the toenails off.

    We moved inside to the dining room table to finish up. We have an orange polka-dot vinyl tablecloth that is now our chicken processing table cloth (blood really is good at staining). Getting the head and neck off was probably the hardest part for me. I'm not sure if I just needed a better knife, or more muscle and less squeemishness about breaking bones/necks. But it made me very glad that we chose to use the bleeding method for dispatching rather than the cervical dislocation method as judging by how much trouble I had getting the head off I suspect I would have botched that method even worse than we did the cutting. Once we got the heads and feet off, they no longer resembled "our" chickens and it was much easier to think of them as simply food and not the almost-pets that they have been for the last year and a half. The evisceration was distinctly different for each bird. The leghorn had stopped laying for the season, so she just had a few small undeveloped ovum. The cross beak was still a regular layer, and when we opened her up we found an albumin sac and several yolks. The second EE was, as we suspected, an internal layer and had nasty chunky yolk debris in her reproductive tract. It made me very glad that we decided to process her as it confirms that it was only just a matter of time before she suffered from egg yolk peritonitis or egg binding. She also had a huge gizzard! It was at least twice as big as the other two, and the muscle was very dark. I guess it shouldn't really surprise me much since she was our best forager. She also had a lot more abdominal fat and a more yellowish liver than the other two. I was undoubtedly better at this part than my husband, both because I have lots of experience cutting up store bought birds into parts and because my hands are smaller. Turns out my hands are just about the perfect size to fit into the cavities of our chickens.

    All in all, it was not an entirely unpleasant experience. Just unpleasant enough that I don't question my humanity, and not so unpleasant that I don't plan to do it again. RIP Merna, Buffy, and Celeste. Thank you for your sacrifice, and we sincerely hope that today's experience was not quite as horrible for you as we perceived it to be.

    Buffy and Celeste

    Merna and Buffy relaxing in the backyard with my son
  2. Erica

    Erica Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 5, 2010
    Quote:Well put, AinaWGSD.

    It sounds like you went about this with care and maturity. [​IMG]

    I hope the eating goes exceptionally well. Thanks for posting the description and pics.

  3. AinaWGSD

    AinaWGSD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2010
    Sullivan, IL
    After I posted this, I weighed the birds we processed. Buffy was, as expected, the smallest at 2lbs 4oz dressed. Celeste, the leghorn, weighed in at 2lb 7oz; and Merna weighed in at 3lbs even. Not too bad for hatchery stock laying hens, I think. After resting them for two days, we cut the breasts and leg quarters off the smaller two and skinned them. The rest of the carcass went into the stock pot for some of the best chicken stock I've had in a long long time. The organs and the meat we picked off the stock leftovers went into a batch of dog food. The largest one went into the freezer whole.

    Tuesday, we ate our first home grown chickens. I decided to do chicken tacos using the breasts and leg quarters since it's a crock pot recipe and it's one that we really like. They were the best chicken tacos we've ever had. The meat did not shred as easily as when we have made it with store bought chicken breasts in the past, but it was not at all tough or chewy. Now I am really looking forward to doing the whole chicken in the crock pot next Friday!
  4. BigSkyChickens

    BigSkyChickens Free Bird

    Apr 3, 2009
    Pleasant Hill, CA
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. As the owner of a flock of six 2-3 year olds who are only giving me an egg every other day, it is inspiring to hear about someone managing their egg layers in this way.

    I've raised two batches of Cornish X meat birds, so I know how to process chickens, but I'm not quite there with my egglayers yet.

    I made the naive mistake of promising my first chickens they could stay forever, but I don't want to be running the "retirement home for barren old biddies". HAHA.
  5. AinaWGSD

    AinaWGSD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2010
    Sullivan, IL
    No problem BigSky. My husband was certain right from the moment we ordered the chicks that their end destination would be the pot. I on the other hand wasn't quite so sure about it at first. I wasn't sure I could slaughter and eat a hen I had raised from a chick and named. And killing Merna and Buffy was hard as they were both sweet hens that we would have kept if it weren't for their health issues that would have eventually caused them to suffer. In fact, Merna was my favorite since they were chicks and if she were just a poor layer I'd have kept her around just because I liked her so much. My mother is still upset that we did it, we will have to specify the source of the chicken at Sunday dinner for a few weeks. She's not upset so much that we killed our own meat, but rather that we killed birds we had named...she keeps saying that you don't name your food. I'm hoping if we raise a few meaties this spring that she'll be ok with eating them if she's known from day one that they were being raised for food.

    Tonight I recycled some of the leftover taco meat. I added some salsa to it, put it in a casserole dish and topped it with shredded cheese and then topped it with cornbread batter for a yummy chicken taco casserole. It turned out better than I expected, although I think I added too much salsa since the chicken flavor wasn't quite as pronounced as it had been with the tacos.
  6. Lazaryss

    Lazaryss Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 8, 2011
    The problem with a box cutter is normally length. If you wouldnt mind a suggestion for a good stout knife, you should check out the CRKT Crawford Kasper (Folding knife). You can pick it up on ebay for around $25.00 which is an absolute steal. If you want to stay with a fixed blade knife, you ought to check out the variety of Cold Steel products.
  7. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Also? Trying to pick out a specific area in the throat to cut is difficult but you can kill the bird quicker and easier if you just slice deeply from left to right in one solid, even slice. No trying to find vessels and such. A sharp knife and slight tension on the skin will get you a quicker, cleaner kill every time.
  8. naillikwj82

    naillikwj82 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 30, 2011
    Olympic Peninsula, WA
    You will become more poficient with every bird you process. As to naming your birds, here are a few: CatchaTory, Divan, MsCroquettes, Fricassee, and Gumbo. :>)
  9. wyoDreamer

    wyoDreamer Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 10, 2010
    Quote:Don't forget McNugget, Tacos and Stewey. My neighbor's kid named her Fair calf Taco's, it was so funny every evening to hear her yelling "TACO'S" to get him to come to the barn, we would yell back "Burritos"! [​IMG]
  10. halo

    halo Got The Blues

    Nov 22, 2007
    My Coop
    Im surprised you didnt find the meat a little tough. Do you think cooking in the crock pot made the difference?

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