Yes. The dirty deed is done. Our broilers that we've been raising for the past ten weeks were “put to rest” this past weekend.
And by “put to rest”, I mean they were butchered, chilled, bagged, and frozen.
For those who are really curious, before I even crunch the numbers, I can already tell you this: there's no way on God's green earth that these chickens were cheaper than any you could find at Safeway, Costco, Publix, etc. But this is an entirely different type of bird, which is exactly what I was looking for.
These birds spent their lives outside in the sunshine, eating grass, bugs, and soaking up sunshine.
These birds were fed an entirely soy and GMO-free diet.
These birds were fed minimal corn.
These birds were fed an entirely organic food.
These birds had access to fresh water, over 25 square feet to graze per bird, and lived a happy and stress free life. They were processed humanly and were air-chilled (most chicken is processed in a chlorine/water bath prior to packaging).
Point being: these birds aren't even available in our area for sale, so it's no fair to compare them to the $5 rotisserie bird you pick up at the grocery store. It's like comparing apples and oranges. But enough jibber-jabber. Let's get to it:
Oh wait. That's my hot homestud. Sorry. I digress.
Where were we? Oh ya. Chicken butchering.
WARNING: I HAVE INCLUDED PHOTOS OF THE KILLING AND BUTCHERING OF LIVE CHICKENS. THERE IS BLOOD. AND STUFF. SO LOOK AWAY IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE THAT. OVER AND OUT.
The setup. Let's start there.
We used some modified kill cones so that we wouldn't have to purchase any (the one real one that we had was on loan from a friend). The jugs actually worked very well, the only problem was that some of the birds were a little tough to squeeze in.
We traded a roast and some butter for use of this homemade chicken plucker that a reader (and new friend!) let us borrow. WHAT A COOL CONTRAPTION! I may need to make one of these if we decide to do a batch of birds each year…
We used Stuart's brew pot as our scalding tank and a portable propane burner as our heat source for heating the water to the appropriate 145 degrees required for scalding. This set up worked great.
Dad was in charge of the scaling and plucking:
Stuart and my brother-in-law Brandon were in charge of the killing. And yes, we prayed before hand:
The kiddos were in charge of catching the chickens and bringing them to the cones. Thankfully, we had a few extra running around to help! They loved this part:
I worked the evisceration table with our friends Jess and Scott who helped to remove the feet, heads, and inards. The birds were then rinsed (with the help of my sister who bagged and weighed them).
So how did it all work out financially?
Let's take a look:
Chicks: 149.59/50 chicks
Waterer and shelter: I didn't include because we'll be able to use them for all future batches of birds. I've instead filed these under general farm expenses.
Total count of chickens: 43 (loss of 7 birds)
Total weight of chickens: 190 pounds
Average weight per chicken: 4.5 pounds (range: 3.5 to 6)
Average cost per pound: $5.47
Total weight of feet, heads, fat, necks, and liver: 33.5 pounds
Total cost of all useable pieces per pound: $4.66
I must admit. I'm very pleased with the results! I was pleased that our chickens averaged out at 4.5 pounds, though we could have given them a few more weeks to grow, that obviously would have included a lot more feed. I'm pleased with the overall size and the nice, healthy fat layer that they all had. There was all kinds of good fat up in there. Whoop whoop!
Not only were we able to put 233 pounds of chicken (and parts) in the freezer, but the value that will come from that is even greater! Just think about the gallons and gallons of gelatin, mineral-rich stock that will come from all those odd bits! And think about the rich and succulent liver pate that I'll be able to make for Thanksgiving! Roast chicken. Paprika chicken. Breaded and fried chicken strips (as featured in From Scratch!). Oh the possibilities!!!
These animals were very much a joy to have around and I've already missed their presence on Beatha Fonn. But as the snow approaches and the water lines begin to freeze, it was the perfect time to stock the freezer and eliminate outside chores for the season.
I'm already looking forward to our next batch and couldn't be happier with the results of our first chicken harvest.
Chicken farmer and lover. Over and out.