Harvest Day—Bittersweet

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(Don’t wanna read the whole blog and just skip to the video CLICK HERE)

I don’t honestly know where I want to start this post. Honestly I’m nervous to post it. I understand that there are people who don’t eat meat and who find the practice of butchering and eating meat barbaric and I don’t wish to offend anyone. For me, a meat eater, it seemed imperative that I took this step. This is my experience.

As everyone who has read any post of mine knows, I like to make my how-tos very basic so even I could do them. The items that I used to harvest my chickens we as follows:

  • Purple cooler (my husband has been trying to throw this cooler away for a full year (it came with the house) but I vowed that I would use it for harvest day and I did)**note that your cooler doesn’t have to be purple but it helps
  • Rope of some sort–I used baling twine from our hay.
  • Puzzle Table (you can cover it with trash bags like I did but if you hate puzzles as much as I do and your husband tries to make you do them with him this could be your chance to ruin the table– I won’t tell if you don’t) **Tip-I taped an open trash bag to the side of the table for easy clean up

  • A water source
  • A pot of scalding water at 160 F (big enough for the birds to fit in)
  • Kitchen shears
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Ice
  • Dog (optional) they help with clean up

Before I started it was important to me to thank the chickens for their sacrifice and pray. This is a respect measure that I do but obviously it is 100% optional and you can decide how you go about honoring your bird for their sacrifice.

Next I had to choose a spot to do the dispatching. If you’ve been following awhile you know that I have a small backyard homestead– which means I have neighbors. I didn’t think everyone would be down for watching me “prepare dinner” –so to speak– I wanted to find a secluded area. I ended up choosing to do it in the wooded side of my yard which unfortunately is in my chicken run. I worried that it might seem disrespectful or insensitive to dispatch these chickens in front of the other chickens but at the end of the day it was what was most practical–albeit morbid.

After I selected a spot I secured the chickens feet into a slip knot hanging from a tree. (There is no shame in having to watch the YouTube tutorial ‘How to Tie a Slip Knot’ more than once, I’m a farmHER not a pirate. ) When chickens are upside down they are calm. We personally believe that the most humane way to dispatch a chicken is to slit it’s throat. This causes them to pass out and die [more] peacefully.  Once the chicken is dead I remove the head completely with kitchen shears and allow it to drain over a bucket of water.

The first day I butchered three chickens this was the day of learning curves.  For some fool reason I thought it made the most sense to process each chicken to completion before starting on the other bird–did you guess the problem with that?   Mt scalding water got cold.  Meaning I had to skin the last two birds instead of plucking them because the skin was tearing as I was plucking.  LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE.  Work in an assembly line fashion.  Dispatch all of the birds, dunk and pluck all of the birds, eviscerate all of the birds.  Trust me it will make your life much easier.  I did this process with my last three birds on day two and it was a much smoother harvest day.

So dunk your beheaded and drained bird in scalding (160 F) water for about thirty seconds.  Swirl the bird, lift it up and down, and really swish it around.  To be sure that they are ready do a test pluck.  If the feathers are removed easily take the bird out of the bath.  Then get to plucking…and plucking…and plucking.  If I had a lot of money one thing I would SPLURGE on would be an automatic chicken plucker, but I don’t so here I am hand plucking.  You know the old saying “many hands make light work”, well obviously they don’t know my family because NONE of my munchkins nor my husband came out to do any plucking, but I bet they’ll be the first in line to eat.  I digress (the bums).

Eviscerating is my favorite step.  It takes me back to biology class and doing dissections.  Not frog dissections because I refused to do that one because…well I’m terrified of frogs, but all the other good ones.  This is the order I follow for eviscerating my birds:

  1. Remove feet
  2. Identify the esophagus and trachea and try to separate the membrane so that you can pull it through the bottom when you remove the innards.
  3. Make a small cut into the bone on the “tail” being careful not to cut into the intestines.
  4. Flip chicken over and cut into the area under the breast.  Make a very shallow cut taking special care not to nick the intestines and spoil the meat.
  5. Once the cut is made stretch open the cavity, insert your hand and carefully remove the entrails.
  6. Cut off neck.
  7. Rinse bird and store in cooler
  8. Repeat.

I know it’s hard to really understand how to eviscerate a chicken from written directions so I really hope that you watch my video (Click Here)

***please note that it may  NOT be suitable for some viewers due to it’s graphic nature***

The dog comes in during clean up.  We don’t typically eat the gizzard, liver, heart, neck, or feet so all of those lovely bits and bobs go to Rhaegar the diligent farm dog.  Remember that RAW chicken bones are safe for dogs, but cooked chicken bones splinter and can pose real health issues for your canine friends.

I may be hot sweaty and covered in chicken blood and feathers, but I am pretty proud of myself.  When I started my homesteading journey I was convinced that I would never be able to butcher a chicken.  I cried when baby chicks died for goodness sake.  I just knew I didn’t have it in me.  No one had faith that I could do this.  Everyone thought that  wasn’t cut out for it.  Homesteading has made me strong.  Both physically and mentally.  It has built a great deal of confidence in me and I’ve found strength and talents that I didn’t know I had.  This year I made a list of 2018 Homesteading Goals and on that list I said that I wanted to raise meat birds and I DID IT…START TO FINISH!!

Happy Flocking!!!


One thought on “Harvest Day—Bittersweet

  1. Pingback: To Eat or Not to Eat… | The Broody Bantam

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