My sister was generous enough to raise 25 broiler chickens for our family. She blogged about their progress several times. The chickens were Cornish Cross chickens. Some people don't think this breed of chicken, bred for fast, large growth, can free range. You should have seen these almost 11 week old chickens running across the yard when it was feeding time. They were very mobile and would wander around the yard, through the woods, and follow you everywhere.
While the kids and I were visiting a few weeks ago, we processed the broilers. This was the first time I've seen a chicken killed and participated in getting a live animal ready to be eaten. I was a bit nervous but I felt like it was important to help... not only because I didn't want my sister to have to do the work by herself but also because I thought it was important to learn what really went into getting an animal ready to go on the table.
We got a few things ready the night before. Katie took some scrap lumber and quickly made a stand that the killing cones would be mounted on.
It was really sturdy.
Then David helped to make the killing cones from thin metal flashing. He used rivets to fasten the cones. We put duct tape around the edges of the flashing to protect ourselves from the sharp edges. This was the first part of our set up. We had the killing station and the plucking station.
Here are the cones being used. The chicken goes head first into the cone so the head and neck is accessible. The bungee keeps the chickens from flipping themselves out of the cone when their muscles contract.
I killed one chicken but I was very relieved that Katie did the rest. It was unnerving to do the actual killing. Once the chickens didn't have head anymore, it didn't bother me at all. They suddenly became meat once their heads were gone. I stuck mostly to the plucking station.
Before we could start plucking we swirled the chickens around in hot water for about 30 seconds to loosen the feathers.
Then we took them to the power drill plucker. (Not sure why it looks like I have a hump in this picture) David and Katie built a plucker with pvc fittings, rubber straps, and a power drill. As the rubber straps would spin, they would take a lot of the feathers off.
Katie was really good at the power plucker. You can't tell by the picture but there were feather flying everywhere. We tried to catch most of them in the blue tote and the board behind it caught a lot of the others which made clean up a bit easier.
After we had all of the chickens plucked (they went straight into a barrel full of cold water), it was onto the gutting station. We had been working for about 4 hours at this point and it was nice to be able to stand up straight and work away from the hot pot of water.
Katie showed me how to gut the chickens and I gutted one by myself. Then we worked out a system where I would start one chicken (cut off it's feet, and other wise prep it for gutting) and hand it off to Katie while I started another one.
Katie was a good teacher and made this stuff look so easy. I felt clumsy sometimes but got the hang of it after a while.
After about 7 hours of work, we had this to show for it...
I don't know when I've been more tired but I was so happy with the work we had just done. I was glad that I not only "got through it" but got comfortable with most parts of the process. I think the chickens had an average weight of 4.5-5 pounds but Katie's scale was acting up.
We tried to add up the expense of raising them and it averaged about $6.50-$7 a bird. That's a great price for free range chicken. I'm so grateful to Katie for the hard work she put into raising them.