Wednesday, January 13, 2010

butchering meaties - when it's time, it's time

amazing how the shift of one task in one's calendar and/or the late arrival of anther expected task can quickly lay all tasks one atop of the other, each requiring immediate attention and that on top of those tasks already in play. that's how this week is playing out for hippychick. it's a mad balance and from i can tell, it's damned if i do, damned if i don't so i've decided to knock one task off the list at a time and when it's done, it's done.

first on the task list - finish butchering the meaties. they are looking superplump. in fact, if you have been reading along, you know that they were ready last week just as the cold spell hit thus gaining an extended stay in their meatie coop. they have got good strong legs and could probably grow further if absolutely necessary but boy oh boy i don't know how i'd fit them all in the freezer. so today is the day to finish up with the last twelve birds.

i took advantage of the fine temperatures on monday to butcher the first fourteen. it was my first solo butchering endeavor. up to now i've had the good company of my most excellent neighbor. i was not sure how it would go, how much time it would take or if my modified solo set up would work. i had no specific number of birds in mind. if it worked, i would butcher as many as i had time for. my time limit was mid/late afternoon to sundown.

**if you do not feel you are able to experience the true to life homesteading experience**
** stop reading now **

the set up included the following
  • big pot w/top for water set on top of the gas bbq to heat up - slow process - the neighbor's outdoor gas burner is much more efficient
  • two saw horses with a 3' x 2'6" ply table top
  • bags for thrown out parts - old feed bags or garbage bags work
  • axe and chopping block with two nails set to support chicken's neck - my chopping block is an large oak log/stump, nails should be 4" in length
  • 3 or 5 gallon bucket
  • water source - a good long water hose with a sprayer is very helpful
  • galvanized bins - 2 wash water bins - 1 parts bin
  • big bag of dried leaves - i mix the parts with leaves - for quicker composting
  • knives - sharp sharp sharp
  • cooler with ice - my cooler holds eight chickens max with ice
  • raggy hand towels
  • rubber boots and butchering clothes
no photos follow as it's hard to do and still do the job right in a timely manner at the same time. there are a number of good sites out there that have visuals for reference.

the process - i work in groups of two -
  • heat your water to a temperature just short of boiling
  • set up your table - set your knives out
  • fill two bins with water
  • set one bin on ground next to table - this is where parts will be discarded
  • place ice in the cooler
  • save an empty ice bag for gizzards, livers and hearts
  • save another empty ice bag for chicken feet if you keep them for broth
  • set one water bin next to the cooler - this is the final rinse bin
  • set one water bin next to the hot water - this is your hand rinsing bin
  • set the 3 or 5 gallon bucket next to the block - this is your bleed out bucket
  • pull up your homesteader pants, set the axe on the block and gather your first chicken
  • hold your chicken by the feet - they are upside down
  • gather the tip of each wing in the hand holding the feet - this steadies the chicken
  • the chicken should calm
  • place the chicken's neck between the two nails
  • take aim with your axe and with one swing, remove the head
  • place the chicken upside down into the bleed out bucket
  • gather your second chicken and repeat the following
  • hold your chicken by the feet - they are upside down
  • gather the tip of each wing in the hand holding the feet - this steadies the chicken
  • the chicken should calm
  • place the chicken's neck between the two nails
  • take aim with your axe and with one swing, remove the head
  • place the chicken upside down into the bleed out bucket
  • gather your first chicken out the bleed out bucket by the feet
  • dip the chicken into the scalding water and swish around for 15 -30 -45 seconds - some chickens scald faster than others. i test the time required by pulling on the largest of the wing feathers. if they pull out easy, then the chicken is ready to feather.
  • lift your chicken out of the scald pot and return the top to the pot to retain heat
  • walk your chicken over your work table and remove all feathers from the chicken. i do this by hand as i do not own a fancypants plucker. if you've got a fancypants plucker, then by all means use it.
  • once all feathers (or most feathers) are removed, give your chicken a quick rinse then return your chicken to the table.
  • you are now working as fast as safely possible
  • remove chicken legs and feet below the knee (the scaled area, not the meat area), set aside if keeping.
  • remove the chickens innards and the crop, keeping the liver, heart and gizzard (make sure you clean out the gizzard). this is where you will want to reference sites that have photos so that you do this correctly. better yet go watch or help anther folk butchering to learn hands on. my opinion - hands on training is the best training especially when it comes to butchering.
  • all unkempt parts are dropped into the parts bin
  • trim and clean the skin around the neck, some folks remove the neck and keep it. some folks leave the neck on the chicken - either way is fine
  • place your chicken in the wash bin - give it a good rinse
  • give the chicken parts a good rinse - place them in the parts bag
  • give the chicken feets a good rinse - place them in the feets bag
  • immediately place the chicken in the cooler, cover with ice and close up cooler
repeat, repeat, repeat
  • change water as necessary - i change the scalding water and the rinsing water every six chickens - you might change more or less depending on how dirty the water gets.
  • it is hugely important to keep your cleaned chickens on ice
  • give your work area a good spray every now and again - i spray down my work area every two chickens.
  • clean up your butchering work area completely before moving on to the next stage
  • rinse off your boots, clean up your hands
now for wrapping and packaging your chickens up
  • bring your cooler inside or to the place where you will wrap for storage
  • working one chicken at a time, pull the chicken out of the ice
  • give it another really good rinse, cleaning up the chicken as you rinse
  • wrap in freezer paper or heavy foil before placing chicken in a heavy freezer bag or place in a large freezer bag.
  • remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag
  • you may now either age the chicken for a day or two in the refrigerator or place the chicken directly in the freezer - this will depend upon the room you have available
  • repeat repeat repeat
  • clean up your parts, package and freeze, parts do not require ageing
  • clean up yourself, your materials, your workspace
  • i make sure to place the most recent butchered chickens at the bottom of the freezer. good rotation for all frozen and stored goods is important.
this is simply one way of butchering chickens, other folks process differently.
my way is in no way the only or best way.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Wow. There's no elegant way to say it, but you've got balls. I gagged over the blood in the ground beef while making dinner.

I'm jealous.