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Processing Day April 2, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
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It’s Sunday afternoon and we’re doing farm things together as a family. Over the past year or so, we’ve grown our chicken flock from 6 to approximately 50 chickens. For the most part this has worked out really well. We get our own farm fresh eggs from free range chickens. The eggs are much better than anything you can get from the store. And as you can probably imagine with 50 chickens, we have a surplus of eggs so we give them to friends and neighbors. It gives us a good excuse to stop by and see some of the older folks who don’t get out that often.

I said it’s worked out really well “for the most part”. We have a few too many rosters running around fighting with each other and harassing their women. So, yesterday we decided that it was time to allow some of the roosters to contribute to the farm in another way.

It’s much easier to catch chickens when they’ve gone to their roost for the evening than trying to chase them around the farm during the daylight hours. It’s also far less embarrassing as Benjamin and I found that out the hard way when we chased down 3 ugly ducks to take to the lake.

Anyway, last night after Percy (the big man on campus) put them to bed, Laura and I went out and put 3 of the younger roosters and a hen called Hook in a re-purposed dog crate for the evening. Hook got her name because her lower and upper beaks didn’t meet properly. This deformity didn’t seem to hamper her eating, but it did give her a pretty foul disposition.

The other reason for putting them in a cage the night before is that it’s better to keep the chickens from eating for 24 hours or so prior to…their contribution.

This afternoon we went out to finish the task. Three will go in the freezer while the fourth will be on the table tonight. Benjamin and Rachel have gotten use to the idea that animals were placed on this earth for us to take of and to provide food for us. In fact, Benjamin was eager to see the heart and actually wanted to know why we couldn’t keep the feet. We’ve had our own chickens before and they’ve eaten some venison that I harvested this winter.

We definitely feel very blessed to live here on this plot of land that God has entrusted to us during our time on this earth. We really enjoy life in the country and getting back to the basics. It’s started to rain now so I think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon in a rocking chair on the porch.

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1. Anonymous - April 6, 2006

Where did you “finish the task”? Did the kids watch? And what DID you do with the feet? How long did the plucking take? I’m so impressed! And how does the chicken tractor protect them? Is it open at both ends? Can’t they also fit through the spaces on each side?
Sheryl

2. Chicken Mama - April 8, 2006

We set up a “processing table” out of sawhorses and plywood, covered with a vinyl tablecloth that we can wipe down. Since you asked, I will elaborate. Anyone who wishes to remain blissfully ignorant- stop reading.

We worked out a system where I (Laura) remove the chicken from the cage and turn it upside down. For some reason, this calms them like flipping a shark (or is it an alligator?) belly up. I put it into a cone we made (from leftover dog mansion tin roof) that is attached to a tree over a bucket. Joe quickly severs the jugular and within a few seconds, the bird passes out from blood loss- very humane and fast.

We have not built our Whizbang Chicken Plucker (if you want to see one in action, google that name and you can see deceased birds plucked in under 15 seconds). Once we have, we will dunk the the bird into hot water and then put it directly into the plucker. At present, we skin the birds since we don’t eat the skin anyway. Joe is quite adept at doing his in one piece, effectively producing little chicken jackets. We keep the livers for fishing and dispose of all other parts in a sealed black trash bag.

The kids were not present for our first processing since we didn’t need the distraction and weren’t ready for an audience. This last time, they were home. We explained that the Bible says we can eat animals, but that God gave us the responsibility to take care of them and be as kind to them as we can be. We told them in advance exactly what would happen and gave them the option of watching or not. They decided they wanted to be outside with us the whole time, but did not actually stand by and observe the whole operation. Benjamin was VERY eager to see a heart, though.

About the chicken tractor- hard to see from the pictures, but the sides are made of “cattle panels” (premade sections of fence) covered with chicken wire and then partially covered by a tarp for shade and rain protection. (The photo was taken through the wire). One triangular end is hinged so we can can get inside to give fresh water and collect eggs. We need to work on the eggs collection system, though. Those ledges you can see in there are supposed to be the nesting boxes. You can see in the picture that they knocked all the bedding out and even flipped over their waterer. They lay their eggs somewhere in the grass. We have to send a kid in to get the eggs then. There are tow ropes on each end so we can move the tractor twice a day to fresh forage. It is called a “tractor” because it is moveable and because the chickens till the ground for you and remove the pests.

It took us a year to reach the point of being able to eat our own livestock, but the health benefits (and the overpopulation of chickens) convinced us. The more I learn about the commercial meat industry, the more determined we become to be meat self-sufficient. Hormone-free and not fed a continuous diet of antibiotics. Healthy fresh forage and sunlight.

3. Joe Webb - April 8, 2006

We’ve had our own chickens before; they were delicious! However, this night we had Hook. She was about a year old. I now understand why most chickens are processed when they are 10 weeks old or so. We might as well had boiled racketball that night. It very rubbery. We’ll make sure our future endeavors involve chickens in their prime. – Joe

4. Deanna - April 10, 2006

OH MY GOSH LAURA
that’s just….eewwwww
I know that doesn’t surprise you that I’d react that way but really…just EEEWWWW
that is just such a nasty lookin naked chicken you’re holding!!
did i mention EEEWWWWW?
Green Acres is NOT the place for me. And yes, I know that the chicken I get has been through so much junk and processed mess and preservatives….but I like it just fine! šŸ™‚

5. Chicken Mama - April 11, 2006

Did I say EVERYONE could post a comment? Oops, I meant everyone EXCEPT Deanna. Just kidding.

So, you’re not into knowing where your food comes from – that’s okay. I can understand your feeling- I was there myself for a long time before we moved here. It took me quite a while to arrive at this point, but now it’s getting hard for me to want to buy and eat the unknown.

Unlike the average chicken, our chickens have an ideal life. They scratch in the dirt, they choose their own food, they sun themselves. They also provide eggs and/or meat. It’s just part of the way God made the world.

The average person is VERY far removed from their food these days and knows little about what how it is grown or what happens to it before we consume it. I like mysteries, but just not in my food.

6. Joe Webb - April 12, 2006

One reason the chicken in the picture looks “nasty” and “naked” is that we skinned it rather than plucking it. Plucking it takes a bit of time and some setup. It’s best if you dunk it in nearly boiling water first (well after you finish the task); that helps the feathers to come off a bit more easily.–>


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