For those friends who have been following our city to country exploits, this weekend’s activities reached a new level of “keepingitrealness” when we processed 2 chickens. By processed I mean we took them from mean little buggers in the backyard to fried chicken on our plates in one day without leaving our house. Now I know that to some of you, this is gruesome, nasty business. However, we made the move to Blueberry Acres Farm so that we could provide what we hope is a more authentic life for our little Blueberry. We hope to be able to provide her with organic meat, produce and dairy-much of which we produce ourselves. So, before you give me the “eww, gross”, just remember that if you are an omnivore like us, your meat comes from somewhere people and I guarantee, most of it ain’t pretty. Anyway-back to the whacking…neither myself nor Sheldon had ever done this so we had to figure it out as we went along. Armed with several books and a healthy desire for self-sufficiency, we prepped our area and offed our first chicken. Actually, Sheldon did the offing-I was just the manual labor. Here’s a picture of me cowering behind the garage a safe distance away while he was taking care of business:
A couple of things that we learned from that first chicken:
1) If at first you don’t succeed, try try again becomes a necessity when chickens are involved.
2) Barn cats can materialize from thin air when chickens are involved.
3) It’s best not to wear one’s Sunday shoes when chickens are involved.
In the end we realized that the many hours it took us to process these birds could have been significantly cut down had we spent a few minutes prepping in advance with a few things:
1) Better kill method. Sheldon found that the method he found in one of his books did not work as exactly as promised. Since we have tried to treat these birds as humanely as possible, we needed to carry this through even through death-especially through death. When we do this again, we’ll end their lives faster with less chance for pain.
2) Better pluck location. After ensuring death, we strung the birds up to pluck feathers. Alas, when we had one of us on each side, we found that the bird swung back and forth not only meaning more mess but also less efficiency.
3) Better knives. I figured this out very quickly. None of our large knives did the trick of effectively butchering it without destroying the meat. Non-serrated knives work best and if you can handle it, get a cleaver.
Things that we did that seemed to help our process:
1) Worked as a team with little complaining. Let’s face it-this can be pretty gruesome your first time out. I had to take a couple of breaks and my husband was cool about it all. Don’t judge if the other feels a bit queasy.
2) Had plenty of cutting boards and clear work space to butcher. This made moving around as needed much easier than if I was tripping over clutter.
3) Had disinfectant ready to go. Can’t. Stress. This. One. Enough. When we do it again, we’ll do it outside b/c frankly, this process gets a little stinky if you are sensitive to smells, however having a food-friendly disinfectant like a vinegar/water solution mixed up and ready to squirt was a very good idea for us.
Our overall result was actually pretty good. We got a fair amount of meat from the birds and while it was a little gamey (they were roosters), it was good meat. Kevin made fried chicken and fried tomatoes and it was all quite tasty-100% Blueberry approved.
Well, that’s about it for now. We will be processing again in a couple of months and hopefully by then, we will have perfected this process as much as two hobby farmers can. Happy eating!