Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eating Chickens or Living with Chickens (part 2)

These are the 4 young roosters

So I was going to wait before I posted about our chicken processing experience. But really, why? This is one of the reasons I wanted to blog. This kind of information and pictures are examples of what I do not want to post on Facebook. I'll just dive into it. With our second generation of chickens getting bigger, we had 5 total roosters and 9 hens. That's entirely too much rooster. Our hens started taking a beating, the 4 young ones were a pain in everyone's side. There were chickens running everywhere, feathers flying. Big Ed could only handle so much by himself. B and I had to slap a few roos around a time or two. So here we go. We knew this day was coming and for the safety and peace of the flock they had to go.

We had already watched several youtube videos on butchering and processing. Ha - you can find anything on YouTube. I've seen pictures and read books, and we decided that we wanted to do the killing cone/bleed out method. I had posted on a few chicken or egg sites that I follow on Facebook inquiring about the best place to purchase equipment or any great tips. A new friend of mine on Facebook that I had met at a baby wearing meet-up (another post perhaps), hit me up and introduced me to her cousin, Emily.  She said we post a lot of similar things and perhaps we should get to know each other. Well lo and behold, she offered to bring her butchering supplies and expertise and come show us how to do it. How awesome is that. I told B, that this, this is why I go to various meet-ups with like minded mommas. It's a great way to network. We set a date and counted down the days. I want to say a big THANK YOU to her for being so cool and sharing your knowledge with us.

That's right, fill up, enjoy your last day of freed
We decided to take out 3 of the 4, saving the biggest one. That's still really a rooster too many, but we'll deal with it later if it becomes a problem. B built a smaller pen to put the roosters in to separate them from the rest of the flock the night before. To limit their food intake and to make it easier, somewhat, to catch them when the time came. While I wanted to help and participate in the whole process, I got to thinking about Baby O. I decided that I didn't really want her to witness the throat slitting and blood letting part of the process. I know she might not remember everything that happens right now, but I do believe everything is being imprinted in her developing little mind and that is a scene I'm going to leave out for now. So I stepped around the corner with O strapped to my back while they did that step of the process and came back after the heads were in a bucket and the fluffy golden bodies lay on a table.

Next came the plucking process, which was pretty cool and didn't take too long. Then take out the crop, the anus (yeah, eww....fortunately this was the exact same time O decided she needed to take a nap so I headed inside), then the internal organs, followed by the lungs. There's plenty of videos if you want any more detail. So our pile of chicken meat consisted of 3 scrawny birds, livers, gizzards, hearts, necks, and feet. Believe that we are going to use all of it.

Emily was here for about 3 hours, and we are very grateful and appreciative of her time and talents and driving up here to do it. You deserve a ton of credit. Thanks again.

When she left we came inside and looked at our bounty, and loaded it up into the fridge and freezer. I was looking forward to chicken and dumplings the next day. I put 2 of the whole chickens in the freezer and kept one bird and all the organ meat in the fridge. Monday I put a pot on the stove and you know it, boiled that bird down. I got so much stock out of that bird. I think about 16 cups. I saved some, and the meat for the dumplings and put the rest in the freezer.

our bounty: feet, chickens, hearts, gizzards, necks and livers
We were planning on eating our own birds since day one, a year and a half ago so we were mentally prepared for this event. At least I was. When they caught the roosters and took them to the cone, one by one, they wailed a bit like a cat in heat, it didn't bother me. When I saw their decapitated bodies on the table, it didn't bother me. Cutting and cleaning their bodies didn't bother me, they were starting to look like the familiar sight from the grocery store. We brought them inside to clean and put away, we were very excited and very proud of ourselves. I couldn't believe that it finally happened. I couldn't wait to call and tell my dad. We were now one big step closer to being farmers. The next morning I took one bird out of the fridge and put it in a pot to boil. It smelled good. After a few hours a removed it from the pot and pulled off a big white chunk of breast meat. Suddenly, as the meat was in my fingers going towards my mouth, it bothered me. I stopped for a minute and remembered all of the steps of the process and seeing the birds run around the yard just a day ago. I said my thank yous to the rooster for his life and reminded myself that his body will help sustain my family's life. I tried to envision the lives of commercial chicken and recognize that these chickens have it made. They have about 2 acres to roam and they fill up on fresh greens and bugs daily. They eat organic vegetable scraps. They run and fly and mate and fight and live a very good life for a chicken. Ok, take a bite. You know, it tasted like....regular chicken. I have to say, I expected something very different. It was not that different, just chicken.

Puny young roosters have very small breasts

All of the meat fit into one bowl
I once ate some wild turkey that my mom shot in her yard, now that tasted amazingly different than a Butterball turkey. Therefore I expected our "free-range" birds to taste amazingly different. Nope, maybe a little bit. Oh well, at least there was never a smell or that slimy pink goo. I guess that was the biggest difference, the smell. It never reminded me of ammonia or chicken poo, like store bought meat does. Yuck. Chicken meat has always been my least favorite meat anyway. I rarely bought chicken (up until this year) and the only way I really enjoyed it is if it was battered, fried, and dipped in a sauce. In preparation of this event I had been buying whole chickens to try to figure out how to cook and enjoy them. I was buying the anti-biotic and hormone free variety, which is the same as ours. I would like to say that ours are organic, but the feed we use isn't, so I can't say that. Someday we will grow our own grain to feed the birds. Cutting our costs and trips to the feed store down. Plus one more control factor in what goes into our bodies. I'd estimate that the feed is only about 30% of their diet anyway. They free range all day long. I've seen them eat small snakes, lizards, worms, wasps, and bugs galore.

stock and scraps
I ended up making chicken and dumplings the next day, and the day after, we fried the gizzards, livers, and heart. I peeled the feet and made some more stock out of that. I think I have about 6 cups of this hearty gelatinous goodness. Good for our bones and joints, right? The livers were good, would have been better with bacon wrapped around it though. That's the way I used to eat them at the restaurant I worked at as a teenager. I haven't ate chicken livers in years. The heart was like a chewy piece of meat, not too bad. I couldn't bring myself to take a bite of the gizzards. I just had to draw the line somewhere. Yuck, they looked gross, and B described it as so chewy your jaws will hurt. Pass. I don't eat gizzards.
When dealing with the feet I looked up a few sites to double check how to peel them. It's like peeling tomatoes. Throw them in boiling water for a minute or two, then toss them in cold water and the outer layer of skin or whatever, peels off. Well while looking for directions, I was some recipes for chicken feet. At first I was like eww yuck, seriously?! But as I was peeling them, they started to look kinda good, and they actually smelled good too. Maybe someday we'll eat them. B will eat about anything, but these are going to the dogs.  AND THE LOVED THEM!  But next time I have a mess of feet, I'm going to find a super awesome recipe and cook them.
they're like creepy hands

The skin peels off fairly easy, it looks like snake skin

They actually smell very tasty, I'm contemplating gnawing on them when they are fully cooked
So there's our chicken processing story. I hope I didn't gross anyone out too bad. I probably won't show any more pictures of dead birds in the future. I'm just excited to grow our own food. Seeing this step by step can be emotional. Going to the grocery store is definitely easier. But I'd rather eat our own chickens, that ate our grass and bugs any day.


I would like to post everyday. Obviously I didn't get to yesterday. It takes longer than you would think to put a post up, especially when adding pictures. I thought that in the evenings after dinner I would have time to write, format and post my daily blogs. That's probably not going to happen, seeing as how I started this one last night and am just now finishing it as O takes her first nap. So I'm not sure when I will get it posted, there may not be a regular time. Does it really matter though? We shall see. I certainly would like to have some "followers" and I hope I continue to get support for sharing. If you subscribe to my blog via email, then Google will think I'm more valuable and be more likely to pull me up on a search (and maybe someday pay me to advertise - that's a whole 'nother subject matter though). But it'll definitely warm my little heart if you subscribe. There's a place to do that at the bottom of this page. And Poppa...I'm still waiting to hear from you. Have you seen this yet? What do you think? My dad's opinion always matters to me. So hopefully he is reading along too. Oh and please leave comments for me! I think the next post will be about my conversion to natural, homemade hygeine products, like soap, lotion and deodorant.


  1. Way to go, sounds delicious, and I am so glad that people are coming back around to natural ways of doing things. However, I am going to leave the chickens to you, B and O.

  2. LOL.....Great write up! I had to laugh at the pick of the "creepy little hands" pics! Awesome job....can't wait to read more!