We butchered this year's crop of 51 Cornish-X chickens last weekend. I set up the equipment in our backyard in the morning and we started "processing" right after lunch.
My son James gathered the birds, hung them upside down, cut their necks so they bled out, then scalded and plucked them, two at a time, before handing them off to me. He's an old pro at 13 years old. I eviscerated every bird and cleaned them up before depositing each one in a big cooler of cold spring water. Marlene took care of bagging the birds for the freezer. My 16-year-old son, Robert, stayed busy in different capacities helping as needed. It was a team effort and an excellent example of the "family economy" in action.
We finished up the final chicken just before 8:00. James rigged up a light so I could see to process the last few.
That translates into one butchered-and-packaged critter about every ten minutes. But we were not trying to break any records. We just plodded along, and took our share of little breaks.
The next morning Marlene finished canning 18 quarts of good chicken stock while the boys and I cleaned up our processing area and put the equipment away.
So, after nine weeks of raising chickens in the front yard, and a day of processing, we once again have enough chickens in the freezer for another year. It's a good feeling to have that job done!
Ten years ago, when we raised and processed meat birds for the first time, it was new and difficult, and more than a little offensive. But with the proper equipment and some experience, we've discovered that butchering your own chickens can be as simple as picking strawberries and making jam. Well, almost.
I no longer mind the act of harvesting chickens. In fact, I look at every chicken as an opportunity to become better skilled and more proficient at the task of butchering. Such work is, ultimately, a rural craft that I take satisfaction in doing. I have come a long way to make a statement like that.
If you would like to see a photo essay of how we backyard-process our chicken crop each year, check out this link: Backyard Poultry Processing With My 11-Year-Old Son
The pictures at that essay show my homemade Whizbang Chicken Plucker, and my homemade Whizbang Chicken Scalder. I could certainly process chickens without these devices, but it would not be nearly as fast, easy, and efficient (not to mention FUN) to do.
If you have never eviscerated a chicken, I have posted a step-by-step, detailed, how-to photo essay on the subject at this link: How to Butcher a Chicken. That link will also take you to information about how Marlene makes and cans chicken stock.
My point in relating all of this is that if I and my family can learn to raise and butcher our own meat birds, so can you. Once you've gotten through the learning curve, and have some good tools to help you, it's not difficult to do and, like I said, it's a good feeling to be stocked up for the year.
You can find all my poultry-related essays at this link: Raising & Processing Poultry
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