With all the rainy weather, we were not sure we’d be able to process today. We waited until after lunch and when the sun began to occasionally peak out from behind the clouds we decided to put up a canopy and get started. The canopy was a life saver because when the sun did come out it became very hot and humid.
We didn’t have any kill-cones, so I picked up a couple of traffic cones at The Tractor Supply Company. I think they were around $11 each. We cut the ends off and screwed them to the top of a post and they worked great. My youngest son, Isaac, worked as a vet tech while going to college so he volunteered to do the killing. I guess when you have to euthanize someone’s beloved pet you become somewhat immune to putting an animal down. However, I’m glad he was there to help because even though these birds are bred for this purpose, it is still somewhat sad to see them die.
We kept the temperature in the scalder at around 158 to 160 degrees. Dip the birds a few seconds at a time and pull them out. When the wing feathers pull out easily, the bird is ready to drop in the plucker. Be sure not to hold it under for too long or it will begin to cook the bird. When this happens, the skin will develop a splotchy, yellowish tint. The skin should be a light pink color if scaled properly.
This was really a team effort. My wife, Melody, both of my sons, Kyle and Isaac, and Isaac’s girlfriend, Aniston, all pitched in to help. Once the bird came out of the plucker it went onto the processing table where we removed the head, the feet, and the insides. I won’t go into the details on how to do that because there are tons of YouTube instructional videos out there that teach this.
After the birds were processed, we hosed them down and washed them with clean, cold water. After washing them, we soaked them in a cold water bath with a little vinegar for around 10 minutes and then transferred them to a vat of iced water to cool.
Once we had several birds in the cooling container, I went into the house and began to set up the kitchen. I put a large pot of water on the stove to boil, spread parchment paper on the table, got out the chopping boards and some sharp knives and laid out the heat-shrink freezer bags. I also put a scale on the table so that I could weigh every bird.
It turns out that our birds grew so much that they were too large for the poultry bags and had to be parted out. We processed 22 birds, half were roosters and half were hens. All of the roosters were close to 7 pounds or slightly over. Most of the hens were over 5 pounds, close to 6. The few that were slightly below 5 pounds were the ones we were able to get into the freezer bags whole.
We parted the birds into bags of legs, thighs, and wings and into bags of breasts. We did about half of the breasts with skin on and about half with skin off. After trimming the breast meat off the carcass, we’d trim any meat that we missed and put that into separate bags for stir-frys. Lastly, we put up two bags of livers and one bag of hearts. We did not put up the gizzards, because no one eats them except me and they are not my favorite (too tough).
I haven’t added it up yet, but I’m pretty sure we put up over 100 pounds of chicken. Next thing I want to do is see how much we spent on chicken feed so I can see where my feed-to-meat conversion ratio lands. We are doing this for health reasons, but we want to do it as cheaply as possible. Also, when we are ready to sell these to the public the birds will have to be processed by a USDA certified processing facility. That could add as much as $5 per bird to our costs, so we need to trim expenses everywhere we can and the biggest place to trim the expense is with the feed.
[What came first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t care. I eat both!]