A true blue homesteadin' family afternoon - butchering the roosters!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The clocks been ticking for a while for our young roosters - really as soon as we could identify that the larger proportion of our first batch of chicks from last December were the male gender it began tick, tock, tick, tock.....  Slowly, ever so slowly they put on weight - we saw them mature & grow (thankfully they grew well :) )  We fed them up on our homegrown barley & let them free range around the farmyard (well truthfully they always came up to the house yard - why we often wonder do all the chickens always end up here even though they have the other 239 acres to range on too??)  They were such placid roosters - just like their father "Handsome" & like all the sweet, gentle hens that dwell in our little "chook nook" nearby - their mothers (& aunties & surrogate mothers & other ones who couldn't care less about them).  As the calender continued to show the passing of time, we knew their time on Sunnyside was coming to an end - finally we heard the sound that propelled us into action - an immature roosters first attempt at crow.  Thus began one of our most anticipated, yet dreaded experiences of our farming career.

Photo by Zai

Butchering young roosters is much easier than it sounds.  I'll admit we were balking at first thinking of what a huge job it would be  (as with many things they always seem much more difficult than they are).  Well let me encourage you  if you are waiting to try this - it is really very easy & there is loads of information on the internet about it (we used this video as our guide)- don't let them scare you with thoughts of needing fancy dancy plucking machines or lung scrapers or even weird contraptions to kill the bird - our grandmothers all used to butcher chickens regularly without these items.  The few things you do need are an incredibly sharp knife, a bucket or sink filled with hot water for scalding  & lots of willing helpers.  

All ready for the final chop - hanging roosters upside down calms them (even though it looks terribly mean).

We had 5 roosters to butcher & we were a little unsure how we were going to catch them (this is often the hardest & definitely the most entertaining  part in keeping chickens).  Thankfully our chicken shed has a lockable chicken run (although it is rather large as it was originally built for ostriches).  We were able to usher the roosters & their sisters (who always stayed together) in there & it was an easy matter of running up & down & pouncing on them - in fact it took under 5 minutes to have the lot caught & carried upside down (because this keeps them calm) up to our house yard where operation "rooster cull" was set to commence.


The worst part by far was the killing & that was easily accomplished by cutting one of the jugular veins in their neck with a sharp knife - quick & painless for them & for us.  Doing this with the children around really bought home to them what is involved in eating meat - it's just too easy to get your meat from the shop & forget about it.  But as we reminded the children God gave us these for meat - in fact whenever we thought of the many roosters growing down there we would thank God for providing us with meat.  

Once that was done we had such a fun time with the rest of the process.  Plucking them was an easy chore with our boys & girls "teams" racing to see who could do them first.  Of course we decided to let the boys "win" that one & have the honour of  doing the extra rooster ;)

The part that I loved, loved, loved was the cleaning out & then cutting up of the birds.  I always was one to enjoy dissection in science lessons & of course I enjoyed doing theatre work in my BK (before kids) life as a radiographer, so it's probably natural that I took front foot in this part of the process.   OK maybe I didn't quite wield the knife like a well practiced surgeon, but no one in our family is complaining - we got lovely clean meat & had fun in the bargain.  The most difficult part was not cutting into the bowels, but this was even accomplished by us amateurs (I did 3 carcasses, Dave did 2).  We even took the time to give/have a fantastic anatomy lesson - with our children enjoying every stop of the process with us (most of the photos were from Ellie - in fact I think she documented every little cut I made)!  We were blessed to have enough meat for 5 meals at the end plus a big pot of stock - made with our own homegrown herbs (it smelt soooo.... nice simmering away)!

We enjoyed our first taste of our 'Sunnyside chicken' meat last week.  I'm going to admit to you I let Dave taste it first (I've heard too many dreadful stories of home grown chickens being dry & stringy etc.) - not that he knows that ;)  !!  Well we were pleasantly surprised that it tasted just like chicken - fancy that!!!  It was perfect & tasted no different from store brought ones!

So lessons we've learnt for next time:

*  Keep your scalding water at a good 60-65 degrees Celsius (140-150 Fahrenheit).  We allowed ours to cool & it made the plucking so much more difficult.  Once we replaced it with hot water again it was much easier.

*  Don't pluck anywhere near the house - we did ours in the house yard which is fine, except we just threw the feathers on the ground expecting a strong wind to take them away.  We should have collected the feathers instead of leaving them there as they often get carried on shoes into the house.

*    A teaspoon makes a fantastic lung scraper - you don't need  fancy, dancy contraptions a good old teaspoon does the trick!

*  Keep the meat sitting in the fridge for 48 hours - this is so the muscles relax after rigor mortise had set in (talking about rigor mortise & food just sounds wrong doesn't it).  This step is often missed & I think that's why home butchered chickens has the bad name it does - relax those muscles!! :)

*  Keep one for a roast - I've been wanting roast chicken since!

*  Enjoy the experience & get the whole family involved.  It really was a fantastic family experience that everyone could get hands on with!

We have always dreamed of being self-sufficient.  Somehow it makes perfect sense to grow your own food - to produce what you use.  We now have our own lamb & chicken, but we look forward in the future to our own beef & pork as well!

 Please forgive the 'no makeup I've been doing farm work all day' look!

5 roosters homegrown = 5 meals of fresh, delicious meat = such a blessing from the Lord!

Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. 
Genesis 9:3 (NIV)
Joining in (late I know) with Amy

May you have a wonderful week!


Smilie girl said...

Great job Renata. I'm sure it was a great teaching tool for all of you and one that you all will benefit from. Even though I'm a chook farmer's daughter, we didn't often eat our own chickens because there is so much work involved. That and the dog didn't like the chook hanging upside down.
Have a great week.

Rachel~At the Butterfly Ball said...

Hi Renata! I enjoyed reading about your rooster butchering experience. I learned how to do it from a homesteading book, and we always get our kids involved in the process too. My boys hope that we get a few roosters in our batches of chicks every year just so they can help with everything! This year we are raising 3 fat turkeys all destined for dinner one day as well! There really is something so special about truly homegrown food. I count it as such a blessing that we are able to raise so much of what we eat even though we don't have a farm yet!

Marsel said...

I butchered chicken (and deer, squirrel, etc) with my dad from the time I was a young girl. It's a great teaching tool in so many aspects. My husband and I are not in a place where we can raise our own food, so I appreciate this blog post which I can share with my kids!

Erin said...

Oh this brings back memories.

Haf Dozen Reasons....... said...

My parents raised their own chickens too.

Mandy said...

I'm so glad I read your post. Over the last week or so, we've confirmed three roosters from our batch of 28 layers. We are probably going to keep one and the other two will sold or butchered. Thanks for the info and the link - it may come in handy very soon!

"Are These Kids All Yours?" said...

Totally remember doing this a kid on our farm :) Great memories....and that is where the term running like a chicken with their head cut off comes from - he he he he.....

Frizzy said...

What a feeling to raise your own food! I'm afraid my daughter will become a vegetarian as it is. She stopped liking chicken as soon as she realized it really was a chicken she was eating as I stuffed and later carved the body of a roasted chicken.

I know for a fact my hubby wouldn't be able to do it. He can't even cut the meet off the chicken from the store.

Haf Dozen Reasons....... said...

With having all alfalfa in WY we dont have any planting to do of our own for about 5-7 more years. My hubs has been doing custom farm work for neighbors that have planted oats a couple weeks ago. And he will plant millet for another farmer when we get back from vacation. The ground is still too cold in WY for that yet.
Last week it snowed there.
We will cut our first cutting of alfalfa around June 20th. The 2nd cutting around Aug 1st. 3rd cutting mid Sept.
In SE South Dakota where we live they will be cutting alfalfa soon. Sometimes they can even get 4-5 cuttings.
Most farmers have their corn planted here and working on beans around all the rain we've had lately.
With the difference of altitude between our home in SD and the farm in WY(450 miles) the growing season is very different too.
Farm info overload!!!

Grandma said...

Thanks for sharing your chooky experience with us! So glad you enjoyed them and that they were yummo. I think a lot of home grown ones are tough because they are let go a bit too long - but letting them sit for a while is probably a good idea. I think that abbatoirs let meat sit for sometime after the kill too. At least you know that your food isn't full of antibiotics, growth hormones and whatever else! Zai's photo and Elly's documenting were excellent - well done!
Hope those poor darlings survive Auskick today!! Give them an extra special hug....
Love to you all
Mum xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Unknown said...

Yeah for self sufficency! We raise Turkeys and rabbits for meat. It is wonderful to have the homegrown meat!

Deborah said...

Well done on the roosters~!! At least now I know of someone I can ask if we ever need help with doing likewise.

We are hoping to get into homesteading and farm life. :o)

Kathleen Peters said...

I love that your kids were involved in this. My youngest son didn't even want to be inside the house when we harvested our chickens this last summer. My oldest caught the birds and brought them to my husband to do the deed.

We borrowed a friend's Whizbang plucker to do our feather plucking. It was awesome. Take a look...

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