Don't Worry! Nothing gross in this post.
We started off Monday morning early at 6. The chickens had not eaten to clean out their system and we were a little nervous about how we were going to handle butchering 70 some-odd chickens. Ter took us through a run through with just one chicken (which took about an hour), then we really got started at a quick pace of 2 birds in about 30 minutes. Ha! We had a huge learning curve and Monday evening we were watching Joel Salatin eviserating a chicken over and over again on youtube so that we could get faster at it. Tuesday went a lot better and we were pretty fast by the end with the eviserating only taking about 2 minutes per bird. Let me take you through the process.
The broilers were in the back of the pickup ready for the knife.
These are called kill cones and we put the bird in there upside down, slit its throat (trying not to cut the windpipe), then let it bleed out into buckets on the board below.
My dad was in charge of that operation. On Tuesday, when he put the second bird in there and cut its throat, he got a huge surprise right on the top of his head. I guess that bird's system wasn't cleaned out all the way. :) Thanks, Dad, you're a trooper! By the way, dad also helped us with making the scalder stand and figuring out the system.
After the bird is drained, they are put two at a time in the scalder. Dad attached their feet to a rope pulley and dunked them in the hot water until their feathers were loose. He then cut off the feet and wing tips.
After the scalder, they go into this magical machine called the plucker. The kids were in charge of this operation. You put a couple birds in there and the bottom of the drum spins around while someone is squirting the inside with the hose. It takes about 30 seconds and all the feathers are off the birds.
Then they go to the eviserating station.
Ter chopped off the head and then he and I cleaned out the insides. We had never done this before and it was a little intimidating, but after a while we came to really like to hear the sucking slurping sound as we pulled the guts out the back because that meant success. Nothing like it.
My mom was in charge of quality control and packaging. Ter and I put the finished birds into an ice bath and mom took the birds and made sure the quills were all out and drained the water. Then she put the birds in shrink bags, clamped them and dipped them in boiling water for about a second and then put them in the freezer.
Actually, I was pretty proud of what we had accomplished. It was a lot of hard work - not just the processing, but the weeks before too keeping the broilers. It was hard when the weather got really hot and we had to check on them 4 times a day and refill their food and water and make sure they were cool enough with the fan. We also started moving them twice a day which was really hard when Ter was out of town sometimes. The kids and I learned a lot about hard work and persevering and putting something else's needs before our own. Character building at its best! It was a relief when it was all over Tuesday afternoon and we could look in on a freezer full of meat that we had put up ourselves.
For those of you with the big question in your mind...Yes, I think we're going to do this again. Just not in July!