Each year, when deciding how many meat birds we want to raise, we start out excited and look forward to raising a new flock… and each time we order, we get a little more ambitious and want to try a few more than we had previously… and then each time butchering time comes around we say “UGH” and wonder “what we were thinking?”
So the other day when we checked the chickens and decided butchering day was getting close, we all said “UGH” at the same time. Really, butchering isn’t all that bad, it’s just one of those things we dread and put off, mostly because it’s a lot of work. But once we get started, we really don’t mind doing it.
We started out the day with plans to butcher, if we felt like it and had time after we got all the other stuff done that we needed to do. The older kids had to run some errands in town and we had some serious “must” do’s before we could do anything else. One was getting the pasture fence fixed so the goats would quit getting out. With all the rain we had, the wet grass and weeds had shorted out the electric fence, so the goats took advantage of it and broke through in several places. The other must do was clean out one side of the coop so I could get the turkeys out of the house. While the kids ran to town, Michael fixed fence while I cleaned the coop and got the turkeys settled in their new home.
Once the kids got home, we had a late lunch and then we went outside for a while to enjoy the beautiful day… and of course tried to find something to do, anything to do, besides what we should do, which was get those chickens butchered. Finally, late afternoon, we decided we put it off long enough and just needed to go ahead and get it done… ugh… so we did.
Normally Miley and Dylan stay in the house or go to the park while we butcher because neither one have been very interested in helping much. But this time, Miley decided she wanted to help out. I admit, I was a little skeptical about letting her help out considering has actually fainted a couple times after losing a tooth. I figured if she got woozy seeing a little blood from her tooth, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for her to see a chicken be butchered. Surprisingly though, she did just fine.
Since we weren’t sure if we’d actually get butchering done, we went ahead and let the chickens out of their coop that morning. That meant we had to catch them all, which turned out to be pretty difficult for all of us, except Miley. She’s a lot quicker and able to duck under bushes a lot easier than we are, so she ended up catching most of them for us. Once she got them all caught and put in the coop, her job was to bring them to us when we needed them. I’m so glad she helped otherwise we’d probably still be chasing chickens.
Our set up is pretty basic and nothing fancy at all. We use a wood stump and ax to do the killing…
This is the scalding station….
We cover card tables with plastic, one is for plucking and the other is for gutting…
And lastly, the tubs we use to ice them down…
Once we got everything set up and ready, Miley brought the birds to us. We worked on four at a time. Michael did the killing, I did the scalding and most of the plucking, while Brooke and Michael did the gutting. Once we got a rhythm going it actually went quickly and smoothly.
Miley even decided she wanted to try plucking…
She started out a little grossed out and cautious at first, but didn’t give up, and eventually plucked the whole bird herself. She’s so proud of herself and has eagerly volunteered to help again next time.
Dylan, he’s not really into helping with butchering, so he gave Miley rides on his little motor bike when she wasn’t helping us…
On one of their trips back from the creek, they found an enormous turtle…
You can’t really tell how big it is by the picture, but it had to be at least a foot long. It’s the first time we’ve ever found one that big around here, so we had to take a short break and observe it for a while before they took it back where they found it.
Once we were done with the chickens, Dylan volunteered to buy everyone supper as his part in helping out. It was a nice surprise and a huge help because that meant I didn’t have to cook supper after all that work! He brought home pizza tacos along with beer for the guys and wine for me. It was a great way to end a busy day!
Best of all, we now have 15 chickens in the freezer, thanks to every one doing their part!
Brilliant, Shelly. I don’t know how you got through 15 in one afternoon. It took me nearly an hour to pluck one. That was without scalding plus it was my first time but I still can’t imagine getting fast enough to do that many in one go. It’s great to have a freezer full of meat you know has been well raised. Here’s to many happy meals!
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It’s a lot of work! The first time we butchered, we started out just doing a couple and it took us almost a whole afternoon. The next time, we did 5 and got them done in almost the same time as the first ones. So we decided we’d increase the number by a few more each time in hopes that we’d get them done with in the same time as before. So far it’s worked because last time we did 11 in 4 hours and this time we did 15 in 4 hours. I told everyone we need to aim for 20 next time, but no one seemed very enthusiastic over that! Ha!
The key to quick plucking is getting the scalding done just right. If you do, you can practically wipe the feathers off. These last ones were a lot more difficult to pluck than others previously because they were a different breed than we usually have and had a ton more pinfeathers.
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I love the idea of having a ton of meat birds but the most we’ve ever done in a day is 5. And then our backs hurt and we are tired of it. We always tell ourselves we’ll get to the rest the next day but it never happens. We actually still have one chicken that was supposed to be butchered this spring that somehow got a reprieve… At least she’s laying so its not a complete waste!
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Ha! I hear ya on the aching backs and being tired of it! We get that way too. We don’t mind butchering but none of us like it well enough to want to have to do it again another day soon so that is our motivation to getting them done in one day.