“How We Harvest Chicken” a tutorial (part three)

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20161019_082907I am sorry I have to show you this shirt. This shirt is just wrong on me for so many reasons. I promise I never wear this shirt in public. It was a find at a garage sale thinking my teenage son would like it. He wanted nothing to do with it. When I was looking for some clothes to do farm chores in, I fell in love with how comfortable it is. I do not own any t-shirts because I only buy pretty things for myself. Naturally, when I began looking for appropriate attire to butcher chickens in, this looker came to mind. I do not mean any disrespect with this shirt, nor did it help with my chicken rapport.

The whole thing sucks. I do not like butchering chickens. At all. Does any one? Probably, not. BUT. My family does eat a lot of chicken.

The whole thing sucks. The whole thing in that Adam and Eve ate that stupid apple and then childbirth began to hurt and then the weeds and thorns, sickness and death. BUT. This is life. Life can suck; life is good. Birth hurts; babies are wonderful. Husband sweats and toils; I buy things. Chickens die; chickens taste good. Chicken harvesting seems logical considering the circumstances.

If you have never butchered a chicken and you eat chicken, I would encourage you to try it. In fact, why don’t you come over here next fall and I’ll let you have a go at it while I sit on the couch. I think it is an honest thing to do, butchering a chicken. I don’t think there is anything unethical about eating chickens and therefore believe there is nothing unethical about butchering them, though it can feel so wrong. We as a people are not accustomed to the sacrifices made to get chicken to our plates. Both the sacrifice of the chicken and that of the farmer.

A Brief Tutorial on How We Harvest Chickens:

What to Gather:

Sharp hand axe, log with two long nails pounded in to form a V to hold the chicken’s head steady, assortment of sharp knives, five gallon pot full of water and some dish soap with a source of heat to warm it, 1-2 five gallon buckets, chicken plucker (not necessary but very nice, trust me. And do not use the electric screw driver attachment one, again trust me), tarp to lay chickens on, plastic gloves, large cooler with ice and water, freezer bags, a good chunk of time and a cheerful, pumped-up spirit! Come on get pumped! There’s only way to do this and it’s doing it.

Job Positions Available:

The “Getter.” This job is harder than it sounds, especially if you have free-range chickens that have out smarted you and have roosters that look like mob kings. “I respect you, Mr. Rooster. Carry on.” This job entails getting a very good grasp of a chicken about their front wings and attempting to keep them calm. The Getter will need to be able to walk backwards because out of respect we don’t like them to see the place of execution and the color red can cause alarm to chickens.

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The “Chopper” and the “Holder.” These two positions need to have a really good working relationship. One may mess up their part and they will need to keep it together for the chicken’s sake. This is the worst part. I am usually the Holder and my oldest son, the Chopper. He has a very steady hand and does this job very well and very fast! The bigger the chicken, the harder it is to hold. I look away, pray for the chicken and thank God for him, and then usually sputter, “I hate this.” The Holder than has to endure the chicken’s nerves shaking out before laying them down. My husband assures me that the chicken is dead at this point, though it seems to still be suffering. Again, sucks.

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The “Dunker.” Things start to look up a bit at this point. The Dunker dunks the chicken in a large pot of 145 degree water with a squirt or two of dish soap for 45-60 seconds. This loosens up the feathers for plucking. This is such an important step to do right because chickens have a lot of feathers and if this part is done well your plucking job will be a snap.

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The “Plucker.” The plucker places the chicken over the plucker machine and gently moves it about to get off as much feathers as possible under and over each crevice. The rest of the feathers will need to be plucked off by hand. It is best to get right to the hand plucking after the machine plucking but we let the Gutter have the chicken first so the chicken cools a bit and the feathers can tighten.

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The “Gutter and Cutter.” This is my husband’s job. He is basically the surgeon that comes in to do the hard work. I do not envy this job and you will have to ask my husband about it because I got nothing for you. I am choosing to stay uniformed, so I never get this job. He basically makes the chicken look like it does when you buy it at the grocery store. He removes all the insides and chops off the feet. Have some five gallons buckets handy for the remains.

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The “Packer.” This is me again. You want to act fast, and having 70 birds makes packing fast not a possibility. You want to get them cold very fast and when you have warm chickens packed next to each other they insulate heat. I have found that 35 is a manageable amount for me to get cleaned, packed, and frozen. The kitchen sink works well enough and you’ll find some warm water will get off any additional sticky feathers. If you cut some of the chicken into pieces, the left overs will make great stock to freeze or can.

I hope I have not completely turned you away from chicken harvesting. They are a lot of work and it’s not particularly fun work. BUT. Your family will be enriched. The kids may not know it now but down the road they will thank you for it. And, you’ll come around too, once you pull out that nicely packed frozen chicken and make some fabulous chicken and dumplings that your whole family raves over and your grocery bill has just significantly dropped.

If you’ve had enough of chicken butchering, I certainly have had enough, I am working on a post about something much more nice and comforting. Three Seasonal Soups in a Dutch Oven: Homemade Chicken Stock; Creamy Salmon and Wild Rice Soup; and Cheesy Broccoli Potato Soup

Stay Tuned!

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