Until today. This morning I decided that I was going to bite the bullet and just get those darn birds killed.
Why such an attitude? Well, because I had decided last year that if I raised more meat chickens, I was going to do the butchering myself instead of taking them to the local processor.
Not that it wasn't handy to take them in, it was. Not that the processor didn't do a good job, they had. It was just that it was so darn expensive: $3 per bird to kill, gut, and shrink wrap. And if you didn't want your birds whole, it was $1 per "cut": $1 to cut in half, plus an additional dollar to cut into quarters, plus an additional dollar to cut into parts. . .
I think you can see how this could get kind of pricey if you didn't want all your birds back as roasters. Which DH did not. After 24 whole birds from the last batch we had raised and paid to have processed, DH said he liked it better when we had butchered them ourselves and then packaged into the cuts we wanted. Such as bags of chicken wings (handy for Super Bowl time!!), packages of leg quarters, packages of boneless skinless breasts, packages of whole chickens cut into frying or barbecue pieces. . .
So, going into my broiler chicken endeavor this year I knew who would be doing the processing. Me. Hopefully with some additional help, but most likely not. DH hates butchering chickens. And with his long work days bringing home the figurative bacon, I can't really expect him to cheerfully assist in chicken termination. Both of our daughters are in school full time, with homework to do after class, DD1 works a 15-hour work week on top of college classes, and DD2 is knee-deep in football cheer season. Not to mention their reluctance to help with eviscerating fowl.
So, me it was.
It was with this knowledge that I faced the task in front of me this morning. Thankfully not twenty-four chickens, but only a dozen. It seems that the minimum number of birds for live shipping from the hatcheries has gone down this year. So I got a much smaller number of broilers.
Yet, a dozen chickens is a lot to take on by yourself. There's the killing, the plucking, the gutting, the washing, the parting out, the packaging. And let's not forget the clean-up afterward.
Seven hours after I began, it is all done. The killing. The plucking. The gutting. The washing. The parting out. The packaging. And yes, the clean-up. Including cleaning up me with a long hot shower so I don't smell like dead chicken.
broilers enjoying their last meal,
not knowing what the next day would bring
stump and hatchet ready
the chicken holding nails
hanging to bleed
Here our pictorial ends. It is rather difficult to take pictures of yourself taking a chicken through all the stages from cluelessly letting themselves be caught (at least, the first few were easy to catch; after they left the pen and didn't come back, the rest got rather suspicious of me), to headless, to featherless, to removal of feet and wingtips, to gutting, to cut and wrapped for the freezer. It's a messy process, and I really didn't want to get my camera smeared with poultry 'products'. I also just wanted to keep cruising through the process and get it over and done with as quickly as possible.
Now that it's over, I have come to a few conclusions.
--I don't want to do this again by myself. My hands ache from the plucking and gutting.
--I still don't want to rely on the store for my chicken. It's just not the same.
--For next year's chicken, I need to find someone willing to process it and package it into cuts for me without costing as much as the local processing plant.
--Or maybe I'll just stop dealing with raising broilers and find someone local who raises pastured chickens and offers them for sale. Support small scale agriculture :0)
Yeah, it was that bad. I've been there, done that, with the meat birds for about ten years now. I still want my healthy, naturally raised chicken to eat. But I don't think I can take processing them all by myself any more. My hands are needed for too many other things to go on forced sabbatical because of chicken processing damage. The last time I processed birds, it took three days for my hands to return to normal and pain-free. I'm too young to feel like my hands are stricken with arthritis.
As an added point in coming to this conclusion, the concluding of my broiler processing endeavor, my ten-year-old butchering stump is shot. It's really punky. The nails popped out after chicken number five, and I had to keep monkeying with trying to pound them into a solid spot with the back of the hatchet. No stump, no chicken-head chopping. Decision made.