From Hoop House to Freezer Camp

Last Saturday was a busy day, as Nathan, Caleb and I, along with many others, butchered around 150 broiler chickens.  Our friends, who are much farther along in their pastured poultry regimen than we are (ours may forever be in the planning stages, especially now), did all the labor involved with growing the birds, and all we had to do was pay a very reasonable cost and be available on butchering day.  Who could resist a deal like that?

Many thanks to the Spragues for this opportunity!  While the work itself was not “fun,” working together was.

And for all you Joel Salatin wanna-be’s, I’m posting some pictures of their fantastic set-up.  (click on pictures to enlarge)

Sunday Dinner(s)

Portable hoop house (bucket has hose leading to waterer seen in previous photo)

Young men manning the killing cones, with the splattered legs to prove it, and loving every minute

Mighty little men heft headless birds to the next station---the hose-'em-down-real-good-and-scrub-off-all-the-poo station

Then, after a dunk in hot water (BIG pot on propane burner) and a ride in the plucker, the birds moved on to the pick-out-any- remaining-feathers station, then waited in the chill tank for . . .

The many-busy-hands evisceration station. Plump broiler on the left; comparatively scrawny extra roo from our backyard flock on the right.

I’ll spare you the gory details of this station; but lest you think this was all drudgery, know that we had many amusements to distract us from the disgusting occupy our time, including chicken jokes, various renditions of the chicken dance, and arguments over whether the word is “crop” or “craw.”  (It’s actually both, I learned.)

Are we all having fun yet???

Quality control staff doing a thorough rinse and making sure we didn't miss anything (because sometimes we did--yikes!)

One of the three QC stations

Waste water drains to the yard (sink strainer catches any goo)---isn't this a smart arrangement?

Weigh them, bag them, label them, throw them in the freezer, and that’s it.  Then it was time to clean up and wash up and have a big buffet in the back yard with the rest of everyone’s families joining in.

We got home and stuffed all our birds in the freezer except one—and had a delicious Sunday chicken dinner, complete with sweet corn from friends and homegrown green beans and garlic with butter.  Mmm mm mm.

Thanks again, Spragues!

Linked to . . .

Busy Spring Days

We’ve had an abundance of spring rain this year, and even though we had a short break in the weather this week, the ground remains quite spongy.  We were at least able to get the mowing done, and what a blessing it is to have boys old enough to do the job, and even with enough manpower to heft the lawn tractor out of the mud when it got stuck.

Our garden area is still too mucky to till, but now that we have all our raised beds moved to this house, I want to get some things planted in there, and soon.  I’m already behind.

I’m glad to see that nearly all of my transplants from the old house have survived not only the move, but also our free-ranging chickens from last fall.  As much as I love to see a bird roam and scratch, it did make me nervous for my plants.  But all seem to be thriving, and it’s comforting to have a bit of the old house moved over here in the form of flowers and foliage.

And the lilacs the former owners planted look very promising.  I can’t wait for those blooms and scents.

Our herdshare raw milk is just fabulous this time of year, so I’ve decided to convert some of that richness to butter.  I whipped up a batch of lovely golden butter this week—golden, like butter is if the cows have access to pasture and eat real grass like they’re  supposed to.  I love it.

Our chicks are growing well, although at nearly 4 weeks of age they’ve lost a large degree of cuteness, would you agree?

And lastly, we finished up the week with culling several hens from our flock—our two Leghorns, which were our original layers from a few years ago and two beautiful Buff Orpingtons.  Though the latter were still good producers, they were also two of our best egg-eaters, and that just defeats the purpose of having them.  We had only butchered roosters up until now, and what a fascinating anatomy lesson hens contain, with all the developing eggs.

Well, I must sign off and get some work done.  We have another very busy spring week coming up.

Back Patio Butcher Shop…by Caleb, 10

WARNING: The following post contains graphic details as to how we butchered our rabbits.  If you are sensitive and do not like hearing about such things, I sincerely suggest you skip the following until you see this symbol:  :)     Thank You.

Yesterday we butchered nine of our young rabbits.  We nailed two nails into two of the posts holding up the huge awning that stretches over the patio.  Then we hung a garbage bag on each post.  Then we were ready.  Daddy, Mommy and I went to the chicken run where the rabbit hutches are and got one of the biggest young rabbits, put it in a small box and took the box behind the chicken coop.  Then Daddy shot it.

Then we took the dead rabbit out of the box and carried it to the patio by its feet.  We put on latex gloves, got Dad’s hatchet and laid the rabbit on a butcher block Daddy made.  We took the hatchet and chopped off its head.  Then we chopped of its front paws just at the wrist.  After that, we grabbed its tail and cut it off with a knife.  We also used the knife to stab its leg between the bone and it’s tendon (Achilles tendon on us.)  We used that slit to hang it upside down on the post by putting the nails through it.

Once it was hung there, we used the knife to cut around its ankles all the way around, but the cut was only skin deep.  We grabbed the skin below its ankle and pulled.  Because of the ankle cut we made, it pulled right down.  Once it was halfway down, we made a few slits in its belly so it wouldn’t tear and have the intestines fall out.  Then we pulled it all the way down.  Then, because the skin was inside out, we slit it between the arm and head, so we could pull the arms out.  After they were out, we pulled the skin all the way off.  Even after you pulled the skin off, there was still a little bit where the tail used to be, and we cut that off too.

Then we then we slit the belly from its bottom to its neck and pulled out the intestines, bladder, kidneys etc.  We also jammed our pinkie finger down its bottom to push the very last of the intestines out.  Then we yanked out its diaphragm, lungs, and heart.  There was usually another little bit of goo that we got out too.  Then we took it off the nails, put it on the butcher block, and chopped off its hind feet.  We put it in the cooler filled with ice water after that.  Then Mom took them inside, washed them and cut them up.  I butchered two all by myself.

:)  If you did not read most of this post, in short, we butchered 9 of our young rabbits.

We had breaded rabbit legs tonight!  They were delicious!  Here is a picture: