Monday, February 27, 2012

Our First Butchered Chicken....

What you are about to view is not for the faint of heart!
There are graphic images of a perfectly healthy chicken being butchered for our dinner table.
Be aware there is blood and a headless body.

So, we've been on this chicken adventure since around March 2011 and it has been fun!  We began to desire to raise our own food and read everything we could get our hands on concerning chickens and gardening.  You see, we like chicken!  :)

We started out with a few mixed Bantams (one rooster) and a few Rhode Islands Reds.  We mostly wanted to start out by raising chickens for eggs.  It was going great!  So great, in fact, we decided to hatch some of our own!  We are homeschoolers, after all!  What better science experiment can you get than watching your very own eggs hatch!
It was awesome!

The kids (ok, me too) were just glued to the incubator windows!

We only had one hatchling!  But we are so thankful to have that one!  What an experience!

So we decided to do it again, this time with more eggs.

Well, that was a success, however, we ended up with a lot of little roosters.  Too many roosters, to make myself clear.

No worries!  We'll just eat 'em!  After all, we want to be more self-sufficient, right?  RIGHT??  Yes, yes we do.

We read blogs and watched videos on how to butcher a chicken in the most humane, efficient way.  The Deliberate Agrarian has a great blog post on butchering, and lots of great general info. for newbie homesteaders like us. 

We also found a couple youtube videos that were especially helpful to us:

The first video covers killing, scalding, and plucking.

The second video covers cleaning/gutting.

Then, the opportune time presented itself.

Meet Cheep-cheep.

Cheep-cheep was............well.............a little cocky.  He became the most agressive rooster we had.  You couldn't go near him without him wanting to fight with your feet.  Not a problem if you have pants and shoes on.  A pesky problem if you are in shorts and/or sandals.

He got to go first.  :)

 Being strung up by the feet.

Making the cut.  Do you see that he closed his eyes?
The chicken, not Matt.

 It took a few minutes for him to bleed out.  I think we need a sharper knife.  I was worried about this part, but there was no squawking.  Only a little flapping about (which is what you want to pump the blood out).  He made one little half-hearted cluck right before he went limp.  We knew it was over.

Then, Matt cut off his widdle head. 
See, his eyes are still closed.  He didn't see a thing.
The chicken, not Matt.

I warned you about the headless body.

Scalding for easy feather removal.
We used a portable camp stove and just made sure the kids stayed clear of it.

Pretty easy.  Says the one who stood by taking pictures.  ;)

Wearing rubber gloves helped alot.  The seem to grip the feathers and help pull them out easier and faster.

Ok, enough watching.  Time for me to get my hands dirty.  Gutting was a little difficult since the bird is so small and it was my first time.

All clean!  This little rooster weighed in at a whopping 1.25lbs!!!
Some people might not think a bird that small was worth the effort to butcher, but believe it or not, he actually made a nice pot of chicken and dumplings, which we ate two meals from.
That was such a learning experience and gave us such a satisfying feeling, we felt confident enough to proceed with the other four "extras" a few weeks later. 

This time, Grandpa (my dad) came to help.  That was nice for me, as he cleaned two chickens and I cleaned two chickens.  This aspect is done in the kitchen sink, and it definitely has a "distinct smell" when you get to a certain point.  It was nice to have help.  :D

This experience also gave us the confidence we needed to raise meat chickens.  We have 20 on the way, along with some laying hens of various breeds for lots of eggs.  We are starting with a relatively small number, so as not to overwhelm ourselves.  If all goes well, we will order again in late July/August for another round of harvesting in September/October.

Some people were concerned with how our kids would take this.  We certainly told them ahead of time what was going to happen, and these mean little roosters weren't exactly beloved pets, so it's not like we just went out into the backyard and killed our puppies. 

I'm happy to report they were thoroughly excited, fascinated, and wished they could take part in it!  As soon as Matt was done with the first chicken, they immediately began asking if we could do the rest!  To date, not one of them has had nightmares or felt bad in the least that we killed and ate our chickens.  I love that they are learning where food comes from.

Do you raise meat chickens?  Ever butchered one?  I'd love to hear your stories!

I'm linking up to the Barn Hop at Homestead Revival!  Her site and her Barn Hops are a wealth of information for sustainable living.  Go check it out!


Katie said...

Well this is an encouragement and a reminder of what I need to do with a couple of my roosters! Now I just have to do it. :)

Lisa B. said...

Oh my, you guys are awesome. I just can't do it. I looked at all your pictures though!
I so wish I had helped my grandmother when I was younger. This would help when you have 6 young roosters needing to be butchered. I just load them up and take them to the auction and the elders purchase them and take them home to butcher. I know, BUT I recoup more of my cost this way than what they would give me for my family in meat.

Lisa B. said...

Oh, I followed you here from the Barn Hope at Homestead Revival.

Cottage lover said...

You can do it, Katie! And let me know when you do! Thanks for stopping by!

Lisa, I hear you. I would not have taken part in this several years ago. I used to say, "If stores stopped selling meat, I'd have to become a vegetarian because I could never kill an animal!"

Like my 3rd grade teacher used to say, "Never say never." :)

If you ever get the desire to actually do it, you'll know. And then you'll do it. :)

I'm so glad you stopped by from the Barn Hop!