Dateline: 2 September 2015
|Big meat birds, awaiting their fate.|
The looming Y2k crisis was sufficient incentive to start raising our own meat birds some 17 years ago. The crisis never materialized, but we've farmed a couple of chicken tractors full of Cornish X birds on the lawn around our house every year since then, except for the last three years.
We stopped raising meat birds because our boys were mostly grown up and not around to help. Besides that, a nearby friend was raising and selling chickens (thanks, Pat). And the Planet Whizbang home business was consuming enormous amounts of time.
It's kind of ironic that raising our own chickens (or, more specifically, butchering them in the backyard) was pretty much the Genesis of my Whizbang business, and it prospered to the point that I didn't feel I had time to raise chickens any more. There is something wrong with that.
But this year, I'm pleased to report, two chicken tractors with Cornish X birds once again graced our lawn, and people once again drove by our house, rubbernecking at the spectacle.
We decided to get back into raising meat birds because we wanted our grandson, Futureman, to be exposed to and involved with the chickens, even if for a short time while visiting. Besides that, I actually enjoy raising and processing chickens.
I know that many people who read this blog are familiar with, and experienced with, raising and processing their meat birds, and the internet is now chock full of useful chicken-raising information, so I won't discuss any of that here. Instead, I'd like to simply report on the cost of raising the birds, and the final crop tally for our larder.
This is the sort of information that many who are looking at the prospect of raising their own meat birds like to know. And it's something that, if I post it here, I can refer back to in the future.
We purchased 50 day-old Cornish X chicks from Reich Poultry Farms in Marietta, Pennsylvania. Reich's is where we have almost always gotten our chicks. They came to us in the mail. 51 were in the box. One was dead on arrival. Total cost for the 50 chicks was $85.75.
Prior to the arrival of the chicks, I purchased 900 pounds of organic chicken feed from Lakeview Organic Grain in Penn Yan, New York. Specifically, I got 200 pounds of their chick starter ration and 700 pounds of their broiler mix. Total cost for this feed was $453.50, which is 50-cents a pound.
We already owned the chicken tractors, feeders and watering equipment, so there was no expense there. Once you have such things, they should last you many years.
We raised the chickens for seven weeks and a couple days and ended up with 45 birds. Five died. This is normal, though always disturbing.
I butchered 15 chickens every afternoon for three days (by myself), using my Whizbang chicken plucker, and Whizbang chicken scalder, and Whizbang outdoor sink, with it's nifty Whizbang Toe-Tapper Faucet Switch.
|One shrink-bagged chicken breast, with more parted chickens in the background (stock pot with backs & necks in upper left of picture).|
My procedure was to kill, pluck, and eviscerate 15 birds in the afternoon and put the whole birds in a big ice chest of cold water overnight. Then, the next afternoon, before likewise processing another 15, I brought the previous day's birds in the kitchen and cut them up, as the above picture shows.
We no longer freeze whole birds, opting instead to part the meat and package in smaller portions. Legs, wings and breasts are packaged separately. Backs and necks are made into stock. Canning jars of chicken stock are highly valued by the cook (my wife, Marlene).
For those who are interested, I have written about parting and bagging chicken parts for the freezer at this link: Cutting & Bagging For Freezing.
And I have written about how Marlene makes and cans chicken stock at this link: Making Chicken Stock.
A photo tutorial explaining how we use a heat gun and poultry shrink bags to package the chicken parts is at this link: Shrink-Bagging Poultry Parts (scroll to the bottom for heat-gun shrinking information).
|Shrink-bagged parts, ready for the freezer.|
Our meat-in-the-freezer yield for this year's crop of chickens was 189 pounds. 90 pounds of that is breast meat. 99 pounds is legs and wings.
The backs and necks that went into stock yielded 45 quarts.
We figure this amount of yield translates into at least 150 meals. Meat is rarely the main part of a meal in our home; it's more of a side dish, or "supporting player."
The per-pound cost for the meat comes out to $2.85
However, that cost is technically less because we ended up with about 100 pounds of feed left over. If I subtract that 100 pounds from the calculation, the per-pound price of the meat comes down to $2.59.
The extra 100 pounds of broiler mix went to our two pigs. They don't seem to mind that it was intended for poultry.
The best part of all this is, of course, that we know our chickens were well cared for. They had fresh grass to browse each day. Fresh air, sunshine, occasional bugs, and clean water too. And they were carefully processed with a keen eye towards cleanliness (no fecal soup bath).
It has been awhile since I said it but.... This sort of thing is an excellent example of "the good life" that we have deliberately chosen to live here on our little section of God's created order.
And I'm very glad to be enjoying this aspect of the good life once again.