It took me awhile to work up to this post. I had planned on blogging the same day we processed our meat chickens, but have been having trouble wanting to do it. Now that it is said and done I didn’t want to think about it anymore, and we definitely won’t be doing it again.
You see, originally there were 2 other people involved with this whole venture. I agreed to buy and feed the chickens and keep them healthy until slaughter. The other 2 people would take care of building a plucker and help with processing, since they had experience.
They backed out in September. Paul and I were left with 45 birds that were going to need to be killed, plucked and processed. On top of all the other stuff we have going on.
Paul gamely built a tabletop plucker. It took a few weeks of work, but it’s a beauty and it works like a dream. I found a whole TWO volunteers to help out (my mother and my friend Theresa saved our bacon that day!).
I had trouble dispatching bird number one. The kill didn’t go as neatly or quickly as I remembered from the class I took. I ended up nearly in tears and Paul had to finish it. After that, he had to take care of that part. (and was very sweet about it – he stroked them to calm them and told them he promised to make it quick. He even asked each one of it was “ready”)
Then there was trial and error finding a rhythm that worked for us. I had to show how the birds were to be eviscerated. It was slow going, and we had issues with the differing temps required to scald the birds and then package them in shrink bags. My OCD and anxiety about contamination were working overtime, and I was terribly relieved that everyone else was as mindful of it as well. I think we did a spectacular job of keeping it all clean.
By the time dusk was settling in we had finally managed to get our groove going (not without the help of Theresa’s famous margaritas I should add) but we had only processed 19 birds when it was all said and done.
We had a huge mess to clean up (feathers and small blood droplets went EVERYWHERE from the plucker) and we were tired, both physically and mentally.
I took to calling each bird I grabbed a “tribute” (have y’all read The Hunger Games?) and I am now the owner of a bloody shirt I will forever call the “murder shirt”.
We sold 6 birds to the people that showed up, gave some away to our lovely volunteers and have a few left for our freezer. Not what we expected, but better than nothing.
Clean-up actually went quite well – and quick.
But we still had about 2 dozen live birds left, and no one wanted to repeat the process a second time.
Even though it ended up being a massive money loss, we posted the remaining birds on craigslist for free. A gentleman who raises meat birds down the road a ways responded and said he’d take them off our hands.
Turns out he usually sets aside a dozen or so to give to needy families, and ours would bolster that number. That sounded perfect to me. A loss of that kind of money doesn’t hurt so much if it went to a worthy cause. ($50 a week in feed for 14 weeks, not counting the cost to make the plucker and buy packaging supplies).
We learned a lot about the process and about ourselves (we will survive the zombie apocalypse, for example) but it was a lot of work and a lot of expense and we aren’t sure we want to take that energy and time in that way again. We’d rather focus on other things (like perfecting our vegetable growing? )
From now on we will just buy our chickens from the farmer’s market from a local farmer and be happy we don’t have to do it ourselves.
The upside to all of this is that we do have some lovely chickens in our freezer right now.
I roasted one for dinner last night and it was outstanding. The carcass is simmering away to make stock.
And we are all reminded where our food comes from, and are much more grateful to have it.
Wow, that does sound rather traumatic. I’m sorry to hear that things didn’t work out the way you hoped, but yes, a very good lesson in where our food comes from.
Oh, Amy. Yikes, what a lot of work. Consider this your formal invitation to my lovely Maine island in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse. I totally want you guys on my team.
EGADS! Hope Emily wasn’t around for all that. I know she’d be traumatized.