Sunday, July 7, 2013

Backyard broilers -- Early Graduation.

I went out this morning to check on the birds like I do every morning.  One of the birds, the very rooster-y looking bird was squawking loudly and fighting with the other birds.  I wouldn't call what he was doing crowing.  It wasn't the standard cock-a-doodle-do, but it was loud.  I couldn't have that.  I have neighbors.  I didn't want him to be making a lot of noise for the next week or two.  So, it was time for him to go.  This decision was probably influenced by the fact that I'm impatient and wanted to know what I was in for.  I like to test things out on a small scale before going into production (that's basically what I do at work, only with computers which aren't nearly as messy).

After church I went out and grabbed the chicken out of the tractor, put him in a box and took him into the garage.  Then I had to get things set up.
Out of the 11 broilers he had the biggest comb by far.
From what I read, a killing cone is the most humane way to dispatch a chicken.  I didn't want to pay for a fancy aluminum cone, so I bought an orange 18 inch traffic cone at Home Depot.
18 inch traffic cone.
I cut the top off so the chicken's head would fit through.
I turned the cone upside-down and clamped it to two balusters that I had left over from building the second chicken tractor.  The balusters got clamped to saw horses and a bucket of pine shavings was placed underneath.
Newspapers still have a use after all.
I put a pot of water on the stove to boil.  While that was happening I did some reading to find out how to butcher a chicken.  It's amazing how much information is on the Internet.

Once the water was hot I set up the processing station.  I put up a table and covered it with newspaper.  I had various knives and scissors as well as gloves and a spray bottle with some bleach solution. Before starting, I cleaned all of my utensils and work surfaces (including the sink) with the bleach solution.

I stalled for 10 minutes or so before starting.  I had a cup of coffee and wandered the yard.  Then it was time to go.  I put the chicken in the cone and wouldn't you know it, it was too long and his head didn't come out the bottom.  I had to not once, but twice, cut more off of the cone and make it shorter.  I probably should have bought the 12" one instead.

The next part wasn't too fun, but it really wasn't that bad.  I had to slit his throat.  For that I used one of those breakaway razor knives available at Home Depot.  Supposedly if you use a sharp enough knife they don't even feel the cut.  Then they bleed out in about a minute.  Towards the end right before their heart stops they spasm.  That freaked me out a bit.

I waited a little while longer to make sure he was done and then washed him off in the sink.  From there he went to the pot of hot water.  That loosened up the feathers.  Pulling the feathers was a very time consuming task.  I had gloves on when I started, but they were too much of a hindrance so they came off.  Pulling the feathers on the table didn't work so well either.  I found that it was easier to do in the sink.  That way I could keep washing off the bird to find the ones that I missed.  I'm not entirely convinced that I got them all, but it was good enough to move on to the next step.

Then it was back to the cutting board.  I'm not going into a lot of detail here.  I basically followed the instructions on this site.  It wasn't that bad really.  I did put a glove back on when it was time to pull the organs out.  I saved the liver and gave it to my dog.  She sniffed it, looked at me, sniffed it again, and walked away.  I thought for sure she'd eat it.  Oh well.  It along with all of the internal parts and feathers went into a plastic bag and into the freezer.  They'll go in the trash next week.

I weighed the final product.  It came in at 3 lbs. 6 oz.  At $6.50/lb. (like at the farmers market) that works out to $21.94.
The whole process took about an hour.  I think most of that time was spent pulling feathers.  I've read that some people just skin the bird.  I might try that next time. 


  1. You made quite the production of it! I just grab my hatchet, a pair of garden pruner (SHARP ones) and a chicken. Take it to the stump behind the garage, tie a piece of bailing twine around both the legs to hang it by in a minute or so, lay it across the stump, lop the head with the hatchet and hang upside down on a shepherd crook that is driven into the ground nearby ( used to hold wind chimes). When it's bled out, I grab the pruners and lop off the feet and the very end of the wings, and take it inside for the gutting (first) and skinning on the sink cabinet. If I'm having a good day, it can be in the fridge cooling in 20 minutes.

  2. Why not cook the gizzards and the heart? Boil them in a little bit of water in a small saucepan and they make an awesome gravy.