Today was the day we’ve been anticipating for quite some time. Two years ago the closest locker that butchered chickens (about 25 miles away) stopped processing chickens. Last year, the next closest locker (about 80 miles away) stopped doing chickens. Rather than drive even further – twice – once to drop off and a day or so later to pick up, we decided to try to be more efficient and do it ourselves.
Here’s the initial setup. I made some makeshift killing cones out of some aluminum flashing I had lying around. Hiding behind the cones is a 35 quart turkey fryer for a scalder, then the new featherman plucker, (we looked into making a homemade whizbang, but the price was 2/3 of a featherman so we went in with two other farmers to get this plucker). Next is the table for cutting up, finally some big coolers for chill tanks. We decided to take it easy and only do 20 birds the first time to test out our system.
Linda working on cutting up a chicken. We are very pleased with the way the afternoon went. It probably took about an hour and half to do the 20 birds, not counting set-up and cleanup. It’s not often that something goes better and takes less time than you plan for, but that was the case today. I think the key was having great information. The featherman web site has a great couple of YouTubes showing how to butcher that were very helpful in addition to GJ from her butchering many decades ago.
I was pleased for a number of reasons. The plucker worked like a champ – it tumbled the feathers off in a matter of seconds. The makeshift scalder worked well enough and kept the temperature very steady. I’m pleased with the flexibility as well. Before, you needed to get appointments at the locker 8 weeks ahead of time. Now, the birds can be done when they are ready, not when the schedule says. We’ll probably end up doing a couple of times per batch – give some of the smaller ones time to catch up or have batches with different sizes. The threat of transporting in hot weather is gone as well. I also think it’s cleaner – for the birds and the people. No co-mingling or cross-contamination with other chickens. There was not a noticeable smell doing this outside. That is in contrast to the waterproof-apron- wearing employees in a hot, humid soup of water vapor and chicken dander in the plants. I also like the more humane killing method, to my way of thinking, using the cones instead of the wildly flopping birds of other methods. We also ended up much cleaner than I imagined
All in all, we are very pleased with the event and will have the rest to do in a while and then turkeys at Thanksgiving.