Monday, May 7, 2012

The First One

The processing date for the meatballs is this weekend (I know; is this ALL I talk about???).  However, we've lost one already to a sickness, and there was another very large rooster that looked like he might be going down.  Nothing truly definable, but his comb wasn't as red as the others', and he was sitting down a might more than the others were.  At this point, I am erring on the side of paranoia, because they're about done, and I really don't want to lose any more to a sickness.  So I decided to take him early.
Enter Mr. Bird:

He was a good bird, I'm sure he enjoyed his nearly 8 weeks on this earth.  He seemed happy enough, as meatballs go. 

His processing was textbook, it was my butchering technique which was rusty.  Again, my husband watched as I worked.  He was a trooper.  This time he made it all the way through the dispatching to the gutting.  He only looked faint twice--as the little guy died, and as I dug the gizzard out of the gut bucket to show him.  Not bad, since I think the killing is the hardest part--I can't help him with the gizzard thing.  Guts are guts.  Yep, I did shed a couple of tears when I put the bird down.  I am always surprised at myself when I take a life--it's so not me.  But I did what I had to do, it was quick and clean, and he went peacefully.

His processing was fine.  There was nothing out of the ordinary inside that showed me he was ill.  Maybe I caught it in time, maybe nothing was wrong, but I'm glad I erred on the side of caution.  Mr. Bird weighed in at 6.2 lbs after he was all chilled down.  That would have been a shame to miss out on.

Yep!  I shrink bagged him!  So purty!
What did I learn from this?  As you know, I like to learn something from everything, so here's the recap:
  1. I am rusty at this.  I need a lot more practice.  However, it was faster than I remembered it being, and except for my timidity, it was pretty easy.
  2. Very sharp knives are very important.  Luckily, both the killing and eviscerating knives were (this time) very, very sharp. 
  3. Removing the feet is the easiest part.  Removing the crop is the hardest part.
  4. I cannot work at table height.  I had put some leftover glassine on the table, and used that as a mat.  The bending over was killing me, though.  Forget that.  The table will need to be propped up or my back is going to hate me forever.
  5. Glassine works really well as a butchering surface--it washes right off.  (I think it's called glassine, I'm not sure.  It's that fancy wipe-off stuff that people use in their chicken coops as a floor.  My mom used it and gave me a couple of big pieces, so I used it for this.  Works well.)
  6. I will never dry pluck again.  I was cocky-I thought "Hey, it's one chicken, and the feathers just come out, how bad can it be?".  Ha!  It was a pain in the arse.  So, from now on, I will always dunk them first, and in fact, I've invested in a drill-based plucker to help.  I can't afford the big ones, so we will try this.  But holy cow, anything that makes it go faster than the hour it took me to do this one will be a vast improvement.  And you know what?  After I was all done and he was ready for wrapping, I was STILL picking little feather bits off of him.  AUGH!!!
  7. Guts are guts.  Removing them is like my old AP Bio class from high school.
And that's about all I have to say about that.  Tune in next time, when we'll have some goaty pictures or something else, as long as it has nothing to do with these dang meatbirds.

Till then,
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  1. Thanks for this post! I love your perspective and honesty :-) Tool Lady culled two of our chickens last year for the first time and time year it will be my first time ever. Exciting and nerve racking at the same time! Given this, I greatly appreciate hearing about the wisdom you've gained from your experiences!!! :-)

  2. Looks good. I don't do any of the killing or cleaning of the birds yet. Maybe someday I'll get a stronger stomach for it. My husband does it with his brother. I can only stomach so much then get busy in the house with the washing and icing them! Great post!

  3. How impressive! Mr. Bird looks might good in all that shrink wrap. I agree, the killing part is the worst but I'm prepping up our place to be more sustainable. I think times are gearing up towards it.

  4. That's a BIG chicken! Congratulations - and good job!!

  5. I can't believe it is that time already. I am a little glad now that my meat birds will take longer. I am NOT ready for that yet. BTW I haven't plucked a chicken since the 4H years. We skin everything. Love the shrink wrap. These birds will be so tasty!

  6. Right now we just have egg laying chickens, but I'm working toward a meat flock -- my husband is game for it as long as we have the proper set-up.

    Was it a pain to do all of that for just one bird? Is assembly line with a couple dozen at once more efficient?

  7. P.S. I found you through the barnyard blog hop -- our posts were just a few apart form each other. :)


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