We DID IT!! We processed 14 birds a few weekends ago. This is not our first time processing birds, we have done turkeys in the past. Last year we processed 4 of those in one day, but never 14!! I will admit this was a daunting task, I was not sure we would get everyone done. I picked the worst weekend to process birds on as well. My husband was on call which means that he would only be able to help periodically, but I was determined!
I started my morning off early. First task was to get the kitchen ready. I wiped down and disinfected all the counter tops, moved anything I didn’t want covered in chicken, disinfected all bowls, knives and the cooler, I also laid out doggy potty pads to catch the chicken guts on. I then had to run to the store and get 40lbs of ice to add to my large cooler. This is a step that we had not done before since we always slaughtered small numbers of birds, however I had done more research on processing this year and realized after I finished the evisceration process the birds should really be cooled all the way down to at least 40 degrees F. I loaded the cooler with the ice and then filled it with water to create a nice cold water bath. I also set up two kill cones at this step so we could kill two birds at once. While I was at the store my husband got the propane tank, burner, and large pot we use for scalding ready.
Next step put together the de-featherer. We purchased a Yardbird 21833 plucker back in January and finally had a chance to use it. Now if you have never seen one of these fancy machines I highly recommend it when processing birds. It looks like a giant cotton candy machine with rubber fingers sticking out into the center. You stick your bird in and within seconds the feathers are gone!!! It is now my favorite machine on the property. But back to putting it together. We unpackaged it, and my husband got a call, so now it is just me putting this guy together. I totally can do this, except that I need to tighten some bolts, and I can’t find the right tool, so this is going well. My husband gets back into the action we find the tools we need and off we go. It is now around 10am and we haven’t even started processing the birds.
Time to wake my handy dandy assistant for the day Robert. Waking Robert is usually a 20-30min task, thankfully this day he got right up to be outside to help. Around this time my husband had yet another call, as he handled that we handled watching a pot of water reach 140 degrees F. As soon as we got the water to temp it was time to begin. I do all the killing, and also all the evisceration. My husband hates this part and just sticks to the scalding and feathering. Many people can’t understand how I can bring myself to take the life from the animals we raise, honestly neither can I. When I was younger I would have never thought this would be something I could do. I have never been someone that wanted to hunt or kill things, however at some point in this journey of ours I realized to be totally certain as to where our food came from I would need this skill. I still don’t love it, I just happen to be good at it.
Two birds slaughtered, scalded, and feathered in less time then ever before. Compared to turkeys these birds take much less time to die, and with the de-featherer they were plucked in less then 1 minute. At this point we bring them in and I remove all the organs with many questions from my youngest. “Is that the heart?” “Can I see the brain?” “What’s that smell?” After all questions have been answered I get the first birds done and head out to catch the next two. We realize now between calls and processing the birds this may in fact take all day, that is until Robert says “Mom I want to learn how to slaughter the birds.”
We have one rule on slaughter day, kids participate in whatever they are comfortable with. In the past my older two have watched and help to feather a bit, and my youngest who doesn’t eat meat use to hide out up in his room. This year, my youngest wanted to watch everything and my oldest wanted to become more involved. I took this moment to start to show Robert what to do, reminding him that he has to be careful to not only make the right cut to reduce suffering for the animal, but also to cut away from all fingers. He did his first two with decent success, we scalded, we feathered, I eviscerated. To my surprise as I was working on these two birds inside Robert came in and said “I just did the next two but Dad got a call so I need you help to scald them.” I was shocked. He went ahead and started them on his own so that things could go faster, which they did.
Once all was said and done and the birds were cooling I cleaned up the kitchen again so that I could start breaking the birds down into parts. This is another job for me. I don’t mind doing all the “dirty work” as my husband will do all the setting up and cleaning up outside. Breaking the birds down into their parts is long, and annoying but we don’t always want to roast a whole bird. I decided to only break down the birds that were larger and the smaller ones I left whole. We then vacuum sealed them and threw them into the deep freezer.
It was a long day but we were able to get everything done, and then went out for a sweet treat to reward our success.