Monday, September 12, 2011

Cornish X - Part 2

As I warned in my last post, Cornish X - Part 1, you may want to skip this one if you find butchering offensive.  I cropped photos to make them less graphic, in my opinion.  If you choose to read on and find that you disagree, my apologies.

In total, we butchered 6 Cornish X and one layer for a friend.  Our Freedom/Reds are several weeks out yet. 

We started around 9am and finished by 12pm.  I didn't think this was too bad for first-timers.

Who hasn't heard the old stories our parents and grandparents tell about "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off"?  I certainly wanted no part of that, so Pig Pen fashioned a stand and secured "kill cones" to it.
As you can see, it is a very simple design.  For the kill cones, he rolled thin galvanized steel and taped them shut with barricade tape.  They did need to be shortened more than what is shown there.

The bird goes head first into the cone.  A light stretch of the neck to extend it completely down thru the bottom hole, a quick slit of the throat, and within a few short minutes, it is done.  The cone holds the body of the bird so that any reflex is kept to a minimum.  It worked very well for all intents and purposes.
We placed a bucket under the cones.  I had read beforehand that a chicken only has 2-3 Tablespoons of blood.  I would say this was about right.  The actual deed itself wasn't as bad as I had expected in that regard. 

Each bird that came to the cone was told that I was sorry and that they had been good birds.  Pig Pen asked if I was going to talk to each bird and of course, I did. 

We set up our other work area in the barn and out of the breeze.  The double propane burner worked great. 
This is what Pig Pen has been working on lately...Our Chicken Plucker!

He found the rubber fingers online at a very reasonable price.  He ordered 200, leaving us some to spare.  Drilling all the holes was a pain, he said.

The starting purchase price of a cheaply made poultry plucker online is around $500.  The good ones can go into the thousands.  Sending our birds out for processing was not something we wanted to do.  For one, the nearest poultry processing plant is 3 hours away.  Besides the economical savings of doing it ourselves, the idea of an animal going into a plucker live -that hadn't been killed- as Patty's daughter at Let's Get Real brought to my attention and so eloquently wrote, is simply not acceptable.

After the birds had hung long enough to drain the blood, they were dunked in a large pan of hot water and sent to the Chicken Plucker. 

Just like the honey extractor he remade earlier this year, it was quickly apparent that we are going to need a more powerful motor.  The larger birds put a strain on it, however the medium to smaller of the birds were no problem.

Here you will see how quickly and how well the machine worked:
The plucker did a great job!  An occasional hose down of the feathers or a stuck limb was it!  No broken bones!  There were minimal pin feathers left and we did not need to singe at all.
After the birds were cleaned out, we moved into the house for final clean and packaging.

From six birds, a few days past 8 weeks of age, we packaged just under 40 pounds of meat.  They weighed in individually at:
  • 8.5
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7.5
  • 5.25
  • 3.5
The last two listed were hens and the others were roosters.  One breast from the largest rooster weighed 1.75 lbs alone! 

As to the appearance of the finished birds: the skins had a healthy color unlike anything I have seen from the grocery store.  More notable was the lack of fat on these birds.  I'm sure many of you have purchased chicken from the store and as you were cleaning/preparing it, you came across a yellowish, bubbly, glob of a fat pocket?  There was none.  Only healthy skin and meat.  I was very pleased and a bit surprised actually.

What we learned from our first experience:
  • The temperature of the water at 145-155 was about right.  I had originally put it up to 165, which was too high.
  • 10-15 seconds in the water was sufficient when using a plucker.  A couple of the birds were done at too high a temp or dunked a bit too long resulting in torn skin.
  • Remove the heads before they go into the plucker.  It didn't take but one for us to learn.
  • Get a larger motor if the birds reach 7+ lbs.  I don't think the others will be a problem.  We will probably get to them before this weight.
  • Install a utility sink in the barn.  Already in the works!  Thanks Pops!!
So there you have it, as promised.  I don't think I forgot any major point other than to thank my Mom for helping out!  She had said to warn her so she wouldn't come over that day.  Too many memories from doing alot of plucking as a kid was her defense.  But like a trooper, she marched on!  She said next time, she's wearing a mask.  I'll give her that one!  The smell is distinct...wet feathers are worse than a wet dog.  It sticks with you for a little while.


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  2. Interesting contraption! How many chickens did you butcher - was it just too many to pluck by hand?

  3. very humane , as I mentioned in part 1,my dad and brothers did this process them selves sometimes with ducks ,they used paraffin wax,but my dad cooked a mean bird.I don't think you could have did a better job applause to APG and Pigpen

  4. Great post. I have always wanted to make the kill cones, but we never have. You're saying they work well? Perhaps for our next batch we will do that. And that chicken plucker is amazing! Looks exactly like the one my husband was going to make, but then decided to make one that attached to a drill instead because we were only ever doing a few birds at a time. I have a video of that somewhere I could post...great job, my dear! And you will enjoy that healthy chicken meat!

  5. APG-great post. My question (of course!)-did you find that the plucker "bruised" the meat at all?

    ANd I'm glad you talked to the chickens. Cripes. You're even NICE when you're gonna knock someone off. WHERE is your evil side??????

  6. I give you props because I know I couldn't do that!! And UGH, I hate the smell of wet dog so I can only imagine!

  7. Thanks for posting that video of your homemade chicken plucker! We've been thinking of making our own also because we do anywhere from 25 - 50 birds a year and it would save TONS of time!

  8. Tanya, we did 7 total. I don't know how long it would have taken by hand in comparison. Never had to do it myself. My mom, who has done them by hand , said it went much faster with the plucker. (we did scald them first too)

    Judy, I have heard about the wax but never seen anyone do it. I would imagine that makes a nice little mess, huh?

    MamaTea, I thought the cones worked great. I was very much against seeing a chicken flop about to any degree. The largest bird in the cone was the closest we had to one twitching out, a simple hand over the rear solved that just in case. I was actually surprised Pig Pen didn't have a drill ready for back up! Yes, I would love to see your video!

    Sue, I did not notice any bruising. It starts off a bit slow and he put it in just right, so I don't believe so. Now as to my evil side, I have always been told by my girlfriends that if ever there was a bar-brawl, I am the one they would want with them. Good thing I don't go out much... ;o}

    Allison, thanks! I don't care for the wet dog smell much either!

    Carolyn, how long does it take you to pluck? I am curious. I think it would save time, especially with more birds. The next group we do will tell more as it will be 25 or so.

  9. Oh my gosh, never in my life did I ever think I'd see something like the plucker. Wow. :o) I love reading about your life. A 180 from a good way of course.

  10. That was really interesting. That plucker is amazing! I have not raised chickens for meat yet but often think of doing it...

  11. Gina, when you read me, does the song "Green Acres" play along in your head? ;oD

    Ruta, well thank you! Good luck if you do!

  12. Fantastic post! I love the chicken plucker, can't wait to show hubby when he gets home :)

  13. Thanks for sharing this (minus the gory stuff)...this is something I have been toying with - getting meat birds - but am not quite ready to "do the deed" ourselves. Like you, there is only one processor in all of NC and it is hours away, so this would be something we will have to do on our own.

  14. What a great post and very inspiring if I ever can convince Randy of chickens!! I love that you talked to the chickens but I think I would just have to excuse myself on this day and go run "errands". What an amazing post though and very inspiring to get on Randy about wanting some chickens again!!!

  15. It only took you 3 hours to do 6?!?!!? Gosh, our first time it took us 3 hours to do one. Of course we didn't have a chicken plucker! I agree about the smell. Very distinct and memorable every time you do it.

  16. I think your time for that many birds was fantastic! I called Papa Pea in to see the video of the plucker Pig Pen made. He had seen plans for one like that but it was new to me. It doesn't look much like the one we bought ($50, I think it was) from an old farmer a few years ago. Ours works slick but I can see where the feathers would be much more contained in yours. You two are racing right along the learning curve of becoming bona fide self-sufficient homesteaders. You both deserve one heckuva lot of credit!!

  17. Oh my GOSH!!!! This is my third comment for.cripes sakes!!!! Blogger, quit EATING my comments!!!


    What I was saying.... kudos to you guys. I'm not sure I have it in me but it is very respectable what you guys are doing! Brandon wants a farm. However, he grew up at his grandparents cattle & sheep farm so I'm not sure what his idea of a farm is. I will take some convincing, but the idea is not too far fetched for me.

    This is my favorite place around here: in fact, hoping to get out there this weekend for freshly fried fritters and cider! Apply raspberry.... Mmmm!