Saturday was the big day. I had 31 chickens to process, 24 of those were sold to people so they needed to be perfect. I did a trial run of 4 chickens the night before and things did not go very well. The scald set up was not hot enough so the feathers wouldn't come out very well. I ended up taking the skin off 2 of the chickens rather than pluck by hand. Then my husband set up an old gas stove to heat water on and that seemed like it would work.
I got up at 5:30am to get started. I was doing the job by myself so I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. When I was getting the first group of chickens they were squawking so loud the roosters from the other group of chickens came and started attacking me! After a while my husband came (surprise!) and caught chickens so I didn't have to keep walking out to the field to get them. That was sweet of him because he really isn't all that interested in being involved in the butchering part of farm life. So I try not to require his help too much and when he does help I appreciate it a lot.
First I hang them upside down.
Next I wrapped them in the feed bags to keep the wings from flapping too much. It didn't work very well though. Then I did the dirty deed.
Next they go in the pot of hot water. The water has to be just right. Too hot and they start to cook, too cool and the feathers won't come off. So 145 degrees for about a minute seems about right.
The plucker is the coolest thing ever. We built it last year for our first batch of broiler chickens. I can do 3 chickens in less than 20 seconds. Compare this to about 10 minutes or more per chicken plucking by hand.
The plate in the bottom of the plucker is attached to a motor and spins about 240 rpm if I remember correctly. The rubber fingers sticking out take the feathers right off.
If things go well there will be very few feathers left. Just a few tail feathers and maybe some in the armpits...er, wingpits.
Bucket o' chicken, anyone? Time: 8:30. All 31 chickens are in the buckets. I took a break at this point to go take a shower and feed the baby. So the chickens sat in the ice buckets for about half an hour.
After breakfast I started the second part of the job. I will spare you the details but here is the finished product:
The front two chickens in the above picture are the heaviest (6lb7oz) and the lightest(3lb14oz) of the ones I weighed. Most of them were over 5 pounds. I charge $1.85/lb so I should make a little profit. Hopefully this is the start of something that I can grow a little bigger each year.
If you made it this far, thank you. I think it is really important to know where our food comes from. For our kids to know where our food comes from. They don't have to participate in the carnage if they don't want to,(and a few of mine don't) but it is okay for them to know how it is done. I would much prefer to have my hands in a little blood and guts than to have to partake of factory farm chicken. I know that MY chickens haven't been sitting in poop water for hours and that they weren't fed parts of their dead friends. I like knowing that I am feeding my family the very best I can. If I could afford it I would buy everything natural or organic. Since I can't, I do things like planting a large garden and raising my own animals for food(eggs and meat). I would love it if more people would do the same!