Last night we did most of the setting up. The gas burners were brought out for heating water, the plucker was pulled from the barn and the cutting station was readied. The chickens were only allowed water yesterday. It makes for easier and cleaner butchering. It looks like we will only be doing the Cornish rock crosses.Unfortunately, the freedom rangers are about two weeks out from a decent size. This means we will be doing this again soon , which was not my intention, but a lesson learned.
Daylight found us catching the birds and heating the water. At 6:55 the first bird was killed and the process began. Somehow I inherited the job of killing and plucking. It is a mystery as to why I got this job, but for years I have done it! Doug does the cutting and if we do whole birds, the gutting. I usually kill about five or six at a time. They are allowed to bleed out, then dipped into 165* 'ish water mixed with a bit of dish detergent. The water temp is very important. If too cold they won't pluck easily, too hot scalds the skin and breast meat. I keep two pots of water going and change to clean water every few birds. I then rinse with a hose and they are handed off to my husband. Once he has several to work on, I change gloves, rinse the pieces he sets aside and pack on ice in a large cooler. The cooler has a layer of ice about 8-10 inches deep on the bottom. Most birds are cut up by first cutting off the leg quarters and the boneless breast cuts, he clips the wings off and lastly reaches in and pulls out the livers. What is left is a carcass with nothing on it. These will be buried. Since we don't have freezer space for 60 something whole birds, this seems to work well. We do a few whole birds to smoke on the grill but most are cut up. As he catches up, we start the process over again. Today we actually had an extra hand that did the rinsing step and that was a huge help. We finished at 9:30. It took 2 1/2 hours to process 35 chickens. Once done, we pack ice on top of the birds and tilt the cooler so that it can drain. They will remain like this for 2 days. On Monday I will rinse once again, vacuum pack and freeze.
I did stalk out the largest freedom ranger and we processed him whole along with a whole Cornish rock. I will weigh them tomorrow and we will have a taste test. Stay tuned for the final analysis!