Monday, July 4, 2011

Chicken Butchering 101

Yesterday was the big day for doing in the first batch of meat birds, and since I've had requests for documenting the process (mostly from folks who want to convince their partners "See how easy it is?"), I ran around with the camera like a chicken with it's... well, like a busy little photographer.
For the squeamish and the vegetarians in the crowd - you might want to skip today's post. For the curious (and the morbidly curious), here we go...

We're going to be taking something that looks like this:

and turn it into something a little more barbecue-ready.
To start with, the chosen ones were closed in their coop the night before, with lots of water, but no food. This was to ensure that the poop-pipeline (so to speak) was empty, making for a much cleaner process the next day.

Necks broken, heads removed, the chickens are hung up to bleed out.

Next, they're dunked in a water bath (in the 140-150 degree range) to loosen the feathers. We keep a big pot of water heating on the barbecue grill, with another pot preheating on the kitchen stove.

While I was waiting for Madman to dip the chicken, I got distracted by a garter snake on the rock wall surrounding one of my herb beds. Isn't he cute?

The big innovation this year was that Madman and his Dad went in halvies on a chicken plucker! Yay! (You may remember from last year that the plucking was the big bottleneck in the operation. Not that there's anything wrong with plucking chickens for Thirteen.Frickin'.Hours.) This machine is practically magic.

You have to keep a tight grip on the chicken, however, otherwise it tends to launch...

Just in case you were getting tired of looking at chicken butchery pictures and needed a break. This is one of my bush roses.

With feathers removed, it's time for those big stompin feet to go.

And now we're ready for the gooshy bits.

Here's a lupin.

Cut around the anus, then cut up the abdomen towards the breastbone.

Remove all the goosh.

You definitely deserve a flower after that bit. This is my rugosa rose. At the rate it's spreading, you'll be able to see it from your own front window in another year or two.

We use a bone saw to cut the chicken in half. Here's where Madman and I differ - I start on the back, he starts on the front. Either way works.

And all the way through.

Here's where I took over the process. I did the final washing and packaging, and cutting some of the chickens into quarters. See where my thumb is? Right at the tip, there's a depression where there's a weak spot in the spine that even a crappy knife can cut through. This is where to cut to divide the front half from the back half.

A good aggressive rinse, and they're ready to go in the freezer.

Our chickens were so big that whole ones had to be packaged in 2-gallon sized freezer bags. We could fit one half-chicken or two quarter-chickens in a 1-gallon size. I did some spot checking on weights as we went down through, and they weighed from a little over 7 lbs to a little over 9. (That's dressed weight, so about twice the size of the average supermarket chicken.) One chicken makes many meals for 2 people.
And here's one more of my roses - another rugosa in a frilly white. It's nowhere near as aggressive as the deep pink one, so you'll just have to settle for the picture.


Wanderingcatstudio said...

Is it wrong that I laughed my ass off at this post?
Seriously - the interruptions photos cracked me up. (the snake is cute!)
And as for your roses, if their anything like mine (I have bright and light pink frilly ones) they'll be able to see them from space by the end of the summer!

OfTroy said...

As a child, I LOVED to watch the workers at the live chicken market--who could go from live chicken to dressed on in about 3 minutes.

the only part that grosses me out (i would want to wear gloves) is removing the innards.
but otherwise, its so fascinating to watch a animal (alive) become meat.

and doing up close and personal, its a way to honor the animal too, to remember they gave their lives for us.

MEAT isn't something i buy in a grocerys meat shelf. Meat is an animal that was killed so i could eat it. (thank for the reminder)

Tiggywinkle Knits said...

Been there, done this. More than once. One year when I was a kid, a semi full of live turkeys went into a ditch in front of our house in an ice storm. We butchered turkeys all night and into the next day. Without a feather remover, either. I still don't really like turkey.

When we lived in Missouri, we had a hot pink (fuscia, really) frilly rugosa. It regularly grew across our side yard and encroached into the neighbors driveway. We named it "Roseilla" but it sure smelled great and fragranced the whole house.

Dorothy said...

Ah - brings back memories of life on my grandmother's chicken farm. Thanks for the little interruptions! I'm not quite ready to jump in and start raising my own, although it must be nice to know exactly where your meat came from!

cathysue said...

very interesting and funny. i've never even heard of a chicken plucker!

Cookie said...

Fancy chicken plucker! Very cool.

I hope laughing is okay because I was doing it too.


Angie said...

Love the little pretty/interesting breaks. A plucker?! Very cool. I did that by hand a summer or two but kind of recall using some paraffin or something. Nice size chix!! Love your rugosa.

Norma said...

THANK YOU for the relief/distraction photos. Heh. Country girl though I am, I am not sure I could do this. Aw, whatamIsayin', of course I could. But the thing I remember about this that I didn't like as a kid is the smell of the wet feathers. But so awesome to have your own birds in your freezer.

cooterhollow said...

As a morbidly curious vegetarian, I can only thank you for the flower photos. (And when leaning toward the 'morbidly curious' side of things, I can think of a few novel ways to use the Plucking Machine.)

Drea said...

I was just curious because my mother used to raise a few chickens for their eggs when I was a child. However, after reminding myself with the first picture that there is a reason you don't name these types of chickens I couldn't seem to help laughing whenever one of the flower pictures turned up. It made for a very entertaining and educational post. Though I'm glad I wasn't the only one laughing!

Lanea said...

Your interspersed flower pics are cracking me up! I've only done birds one at a time--it's cool to see a small operation in full swing.

Bullwinkle said...

The flowers are gorgeous :) and a lovely interruption to the chicken gore.

As many times as I have seen chickens prepped into meat - I have never seen a chicken plucker (hell - I didn't even know they existed.)

I've been googling to see if I can figure out how that works.

Laurie said...

Very interesting! I cannot figure how that machine plucks feathers off a chicken shape. And it appears to do it pretty efficiently and completely, too.

I'm waiting for your pink rugosa here in southern NE.

kmkat said...

Heh, loved the flower photos. Your chickens dressed out at 7 - 9 lbs? Now I understand how the Polish family in my husband's childhood neighborhood could get an entire week's meals from one chicken.