Sunday, May 13, 2012

Their One Bad Day

Yesterday was processing day for the meatballs.  It was exhausting.  However, it went very well, for a first processing day.  Want a tour?

The area was pretty well set up on Friday, with three distinct areas.  All we really had to do yesterday was heat the water and start.  I put my hair up and went outside.

See how blonde I am?  Yep, that's where my kids get it from!
I'm just surprised the greys didn't show up in this photo.  I'm a little disappointed. 

I was all ready to work, but oh no, that was just not to be.  See these greenhouses?  They're out to get the seedlings acclimated to the outside.  But yesterday morning, the big one--the FULL one--decided to collapse.  Yeay!  Seedlings all over the place.  Yep, I lost a few, which is infuriating.  It must have thought I needed something else to do.

So after I finished cursing, my husband came out and helped me pick up the pieces.  We duct taped the hell out of the thing to keep it upright.  GAH!

It ate a good 1/2 hour of our time.  Stupid greenhouse.  After that, we were ready to go.

As I said, there were three distinct areas, to keep things as clean as possible.  I think you know what this area was for:

This traffic cone thing doesn't work too well.  I didn't have killing cones, so I made do, but this isn't the best.  They're not shaped right.  We had to trim the right one down right with the first bird.  She went in, and her head didn't come out the bottom.  It was a no go.  So down it came, it was trimmed a good 4 inches, and we were off.  It wasn't the best, though.  No one really fit it very well.

From there, they went to the second area.  Scalding:

And then plucking.

This little doojobby works very well, and I can recommend it.  It's the Power Plucker, and wow, did it save us work.  Don't let it hit your fingers, though.  It hurts like crazy.  At the end of the day, as I got tired, I got hit more.  I did not appreciate it.  My husband manned the trigger and kept the drill steady, and I put the chicken to it.  It does a fantastic job, but the feathers fly!  Safety glasses would be a good idea. 

After the chickens were plucked, they were brought to the third station for evisceration.

It's an old table, propped up on paint cans because the height was no good when it was flat on the ground.  My poor back!  The cans gave it a good height.  The table is plastic, so it's easy to clean.  On it you can see a large red pan full of soapy water to wash my hands in, a small bowl of bleach water with a sponge, the knives I needed, a steel,

 and this:

This is that glassine stuff I told you about.  It is so easy to clean.  I just taped down the big piece of it and did all the work on it.  It washed off like a dream. 

Also attached to the table was the indispensable hose.

This fell down a lot.

I also had my "cheat sheet". 

My quickly scribbled order of steps.  I didn't look at it once.  Not once.  Woo hoo!

Right next to where I stood to process was the always necessary gut bucket.


And right next to the table?  Coolers.

These were the "step 1" coolers.  Right after processing, the chickens would go in here.  After they'd been in there for a little while (ie; the coolers were full and the chickens were not as warm), the chickens that had been in there would go into the next much larger and much colder cooler.  That's where they'd chill down thoroughly before draining in the sink in the house.

In all, the system worked very well.  Better at the end of the day, when I was getting really tired and took two at a time.  In the beginning, my husband would get one chicken, I'd dispatch it, wait, then scald, pick, eviscerate.  Repeat.  It took a long time.  Towards the end, I'd ask him to get two.  I'd dispatch both, then scald and pluck one, then the other, and I'd eviscerate two at a time.  It went much faster that way.  No matter, my limit for processing chickens is going to be a max of 15.  12 was tough, faster when two went at once, but I think that by myself, 15 is going to be it.  I was just DONE when the day was over.

The results?  A total of 69.71 pounds from the 12 that were done and the one that I took early.  I had to count him in the end, even though he was processed earlier, because he's part of the batch. 

One is for dinner tonight. 

The most disappointing thing?  Most weighed under 5 pounds.  Though some did weigh over six, they weren't the majority.  I did have more hens than roosters, though, so that's most likely why.  One little one weighed under 4 pounds, that was a bummer.  I had hoped they would be larger, but in all, they did ok.

Weirdest thing of the day?  I had a yellow one.  She had yellow legs, where everyone else had whitey pink.  Should've figured that her skin would be yellow too, but I didn't.  And it was.  Freaky.  So you all can tell Mr. Perdue to go climb a tree.  He claimed "his" chickens were yellow because he fed them marigolds.  NOT!  This chicken never ever saw a dang marigold, and she was as yellow as the sun.  So myth busted, Mr. Perdue.  Should I mention that my chickens won't eat marigolds as well?  I put them in the garden last fall to turn the soil, and they ate everything--except the marigolds.  So they don't like them.  Myth busted again.

Most surprising thing of the day?  My kids.  I thought they'd hide all day and not want to be near any of it, but they took it in stride.  I think they pretty much saw everything, and didn't bat an eye.  In fact, my son held an umbrella over me for part of the day when it was very sunny (he waned to, I didn't ask him) and saw everything inside the chicken (and the gut bucket).  It really didn't upset him as much as I thought it would.  All he said was that it was "yucky".  But he wasn't freaked out, and I thought he would be.  And my daughter was the same.  Except she really wanted to see a heart.  And then she was surprised how small it was. 

I must be doing something right, huh?  They're turning out to be good farm kids. 

And that was my day.  I'm glad it's over, and I have 10 weeks before I do it again.  But I'm glad I did it.  I only hope that the chicken in the fridge is completely wonderful to eat and make it all worthwhile.  Either way, these guys and girls all had a good life, much better than they would have, and I'm glad for that.  Here's to doing it yourself!
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  1. Excellent set-up. Well done. First time processing is slow going and I found a bit awkward. Love that last photo! It definitely says, "success"!

  2. I don't think I have ever seen a more perfect set-up. Ours is always much more rugged. I have never used the cones. I bought one, and the knife, but never used it. I used to try to "protect" my girls from the slaughter too, but, like yours, they wanted to see it all. Seeing the eggs in the hens was always a lesson opportunity. Next year you will have to show us a video of the plucker. I would love to see it. How did the fresh chicken taste? We BBQ'd on the first time we ever butchered, that same day, and were a little disappointed. I read after that I should have let it cure a day in the fridge. I am so impressed with your set-up. You did a great job - start to finish with this project.

  3. Fantastic job! And what a wonderful set up! They may be little, but I'm sure they'll be delicious! Congrats!

  4. Your chicken harvesting looks a little like ours! It is hard work and an all day process. The fact that your kiddos were there to help you is great!

  5. Congrats on a decent harvest and some great kids :)

  6. Jocelyn, what a terrific story tell you are. I have enjoyed reading your stories. I have been looking for a way to message you privately. I am the maker of the Power Plucker. Would you be willing email me at Congratulations on your decision to live a fulfilling life of self-reliance and connection to the land. --

    Kind Regards,



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