Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Butchering Chickens and Turkeys on the Farm

Monday was the big day!  The day we had our first big butchering extravaganza.  We butchered 95 broilers and 9 turkeys.  We were blessed to have lots of friends come to help us with this big project.  
NOTE: I did my best to keep this post approved for sensitive viewers


We had a family of ten people come on Sunday night, they were traveling through, and stayed to help us with our butchering.  They were experienced which was a great help.  The weather was about 30 and snowy when we started.  The driveway was slippery, but I am aware of only one wipe out.

The snow was pretty as it lined the trees.  The young guys went back and collected the broilers.

Paul was outside early getting the scalding pots heating and the plucker set up.

We had worked very hard to get the garage all cleaned up.  We knew the weather was predicted to be cold and snowy.  We set up all the things we could inside.  Unfortunately, the heater broke the week before our butchering frolic.  

Here is how we set it up.  The small table by the door was for removing any feathers the plucker missed.  The white table with the cutting boards on it was raised up so that the eviscerators could stand and work.  We had one person who just removed the legs and the oil glands.  We saved all the feet for broth.  I am planning to can it. The brown table on the lower right was for the older people who prefer to sit while working.

Paul did an amazing job with our sink set up.  He ran a water  hose to the beams over top and put on a splitter.  That made it so that we had two hoses that the QC  (Quality Control) people could use to clean the birds.  We used two old stainless steel sinks in a metal frame and had room to set in two roaster pans, one at each end to hold the birds to be checked and then the ones to be weighed when they were finished.  The sinks had pvc pipes underneath that were angled and connected  then the pipe ran out underneath the garage door to an area which could absorb the water.

We had brought up two picnic tables which were covered in plastic.  They were for the cleaning of the birds before they went into the scalder.  We used an enzyme cleaner and a hand brush.  The birds needed very little cleaning.

The boys brought up the broilers in our trailer which they pulled with the ATV.  The broiler pen was a couple hundred feet from the butchering area, so this was the easiest way.

Everybody stood around and watched as the first birds were done.  We were so blessed to have so many people willing to help.  We had a couple friends from church as well as a couple families that we have gotten to know through other butchering days we have helped with.  Our birds were treated well.

The boys built a little holding pen that the broilers were put in as they waited their turn.  Then they could be getting more while the rest were processed.

The young girls wandered around the farm and enjoyed the softly falling snow.

Dad stopped by to inspect our set up.

Karen ran the plucker.  The plucker pulls off the feathers very gently and in about 45 seconds you go from a fully feathered chicken to a bird that looks like this.  Such a labor saving device!  It eliminates the most tedious part of bird processing.

My DH, as a farmer, who would have thought it?!!!, He stuck around most of the morning and helped carry birds.
The evisceration table

We had a big container outside the garage to cool the birds as they waited for further processing.  We had frozen a lot of ice before our butchering day. 

Evisceration is the process of removing the birds insides.

The QC station was where all the birds are double checked to see that everything that should have been removed was actually gone (feathers and internal pieces and parts).  The birds are also given a good washing at this point.

'Grandpa', part of the overnight contingent, did the job of weighing.  He was meticulous in trying to get everything weighed out exactly right!  The birds were given a number that was attached by rubber band to their leg.  The number and weight was then recorded on the computer so that we could see how much yield we actually got and what our price per pound actually was.

The birds went from the weighing station into a large can lined with plastic filled with ice water so that they would chill.  We started at 8:30 in the morning and all the birds were cleaned and cooling by 3 PM.

We really appreciated the inside help as well.  Several people heated hot beverages and put out snacks, heated lunch and kept an eye on the younger children.

Our help left about 4 PM.  The temperature had dropped throughout the day and everyone was worried about icy roads.  We still had to cut up the birds that we wanted in pieces, and put all of them in bags.  It took us until after ten to get that done.  We all felt like human popsicles by that time.  It was down into the low teens.  It was a long day but worth it.  We are now really looking forward to having our own chicken wings for part of our Christmas Eve dinner appetizers.

For those interested:  We raised Freedom Ranger Broilers that were second generation raised on non-GMO feed.  We got them from the JM Hatchery (AKA as out of Pennsylvania.  We bought 100 poults and ended up with 95 birds.  They seemed really healthy and were excellent free range birds.  They were still able to fly a few feet off the ground, and would range for several hundred feet from their pen during the day. We only put food in their pen at night, the rest of the time they were on their own.  We butchered them at 11 weeks.  They yielded 4-6# carcasses at that point.  When we do them again, we will get an earlier start.  You really don't want to be butchering chickens in November in Ohio.

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