Poultry Processing Class

17 09 2011

Today was a nice day on the farm. It was the first real “brisk” day of Fall-ish weather. It never really got cold today, but the wind did start picking up and by the time it finally got dark, the rain had started. We here are all hoping that we will get a couple more weeks of late Summer before we really have to head inside for the Winter.

Anyhow, after Echo and I took the goats out this morning, we all started clearing out some brush piles by the goat pen so we can expand our fence line and make a real chicken coop for the egg layers. Everyone worked together on that for an hour or so before we realized we had a class to go to.

That’s right, class. We finally learned how to butcher chickens. I found someone through the Seattle Farm Coop that was teaching a chicken butchering class for a very reasonable fee plus we got to bring our chicken home afterwards. The class started at 3, and we were all back on our way home by 6pm. We each got to try our hand at killing, plucking and eviscerating a chicken.

I was quite nervous to actually kill a bird myself, and ended up going after everyone else had a turn. M got a little too exuberant with the neck snapping part on his first try, and completely decapitated the bird. But there were plenty of chickens that needed to go, so he had a chance to perfect his technique. By the fourth bird, M was quite good at it.

Killing the bird was the hardest part, but even that wasn’t so hard once I got started. I didn’t want it to suffer, so I was more focused on making sure I killed it than the fact that I WAS KILLING IT. One thing I learned is that if you don’t restrain the bird after snapping its neck, it will flap its wings until the joints dislocate. After killing a bird, we immediately took them over to some cones to restrain the birds and cut their throats so they could bleed out properly. If the bird has its head removed the blood clots faster and it is harder to completely bleed it out. In the future we will be perfecting our technique so the neck gets broken and paralyzes the bird, but also so when we cut the throat the heart is what is pumping the blood out instead of it passively draining.

After the bird had bled out (which doesn’t take all that long, chickens have surprisingly little blood) we hosed them off, dunked them in the hot water and then plucked them. Then they went into a tub of cold water until all the birds had been plucked and then we did some eviscerating.

Not to be morbid or anything, but evisceration was my favorite part. It was also our instructor’s young daughter’s favorite part. She liked to point out chicken parts and ask lots of questions. Pretty cute! It was fairly quick and easy to do the eviscerating, and my hands are small enough that I could really get in the chest cavity.

After we eviscerated our birds, we were shown how to clean and prep the heads and feet for soup stock, we took our organ meats and were headed home. Echo and Tricks are planning on roasting up their bird tomorrow, and I am having Mr. Ewe put our chicken into the freezer until Bean’s birth. I want to use our first bird we killed together to make my chicken noodle soup for my first post-birth meal.

By the time we got home I was so excited and relieved from the class and what I had learned, it felt like a high. I was so nervous to go to the class, and so relieved that I was able to do each step on my own. Everyone should have to kill something they plan on eating at least once. It is completion of the whole circle of life thing. So important.

The chickens for our class came from a local farm that raises the birds on pasture. I have never seen such healthy organ meat before. What we buy in the store is a far cry from what a real, fresh, healthy bird looks like. I had no idea until today how sickly factory-farmed meat really is.

Echo and Tricks want to raise pastured broiler chickens next year as an addition to my goat and egg share and the house/co-op’s CSA. I like the idea of each of us contributing to farm in our own way, with the whole house benefiting from everyone’s hard work.

I think Mr. Ewe, Bean and I are going to throw down on some meat birds next year, too. I would love to have a crop of home-grown, pastured birds in the freezer to feed my pets and family on. I am no longer afraid to kill and harvest any poultry we may have in the future. In fact, one thing I am actively planning on now, in addition to the goat share, egg share, and broiler chickens is to have home-raised turkeys to sell for next Thanksgiving. Even if we just do 10 turkeys and sell them to our closest friends, I want more people to have access to food like this. I would even invite people to come partake in the harvest event. I think a goat share and a poultry share is the way to go. And if we get really lucky, a couple of our turkeys will bond and mate so we can have a self renewing supply of turkeys in addition to our other animals for a harvest year after year.

I have already spent hours pouring over the American Livestock Breed Conservancy website and cross-referencing it with Murray McMurray Hatchery and Sandhill Preservation Center, looking for the heritage breeds that I think would do best in our micro climate while filling our particular needs. But I’ll go over breeds and my poultry and farm dream list some other day. For now, I leave you with a franken chicken, who was too large to fit inside a 1 gallon ice cream tub. I have no idea how we are going to freeze this thing, it’s a monster (it was also a rooster, not a hen.)

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4 responses

17 10 2011
Jabberwocky Soliloquy

My parents have kept chickens for years, but none of us have ever had the guts to kill one. I would hate to do it without actually knowing exactly what to do, anyway. Really interesting post, I’ll have to see what sort of courses you can get for killing birds over here. Dead useful to hear it from your point of view though, thank you!

15 01 2012
shorelineclusterpoets

Great post!

18 12 2013
Margaret Darcher

Where did you take this class? I’m a Seattle resident with an urban chicken coop, and want to be prepared when it comes time to lay the older hens to rest. Thanks!

13 10 2015
jamilynnfitz

Look into the Seattlr farm Co-op on facebook

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