We butchered chickens last weekend. A project I found quite disheartening and not for the reason you might think. I like to eat chicken and knew from the beginning that was the purpose for those birds. No, it was because they were not ready to be butchered. We got the birds much later into the spring causing them to be smaller late into the fall. Not to mention we were missing 40 birds due to fox, raccoon, and dogs.
They were much too small, even for a heritage bread. But, I was tired of being reminded for what seemed like a couple months that we needed to butcher the chickens before winter. I understood that once winter arrived, our help would not and winter is marked by deer season opener. This really was the last weekend to get it done or I would be butchering myself later or wintering the birds and doing it in the spring. So the date was set.
We set up everything right outside the coop and it worked quite well. We had great help which made the world of a difference too. I caught the chickens in the coop, my husband, put them in the cones and slit their throats, my cousin and my sisters boyfriend dipped the birds in hot water to prep them for plucking, my uncle ran the plucker, my sister took the birds to the cleaning table, where my mom, dad, grandma and dear friend got them cleaned. The birds were then cooled quickly in coolers of cold water, rinsed and bagged. Whew! What a crew! I am so thankful they all showed up to help.
In the beginning, while I was catching chickens, my husband could tell I was disappointed that they were being butchered so small. He came into the coop and told me to just butcher all the roosters and the hens that were on the bigger side. He knew as well as I that we had only planned to winter 30 birds but we do have room for a few more. So that’s what I did. I picked 2 roosters, one of each breed, and the smaller hens and put them out in the pen. The rest met their demise. We also had a few roosters that made their way into the laying side that needed to be removed as well (sorting birds in the dark, I was bound to get a few wrong).
When it was all said and done we ended up with about 40 birds butchered and still 30 layers. Since the sorting, the hens learned how to fly out of the pen and we lost a few more than I thought. I have high hopes for next year. The permanent coop is built and the outside run is done. Since the permanent outside run has been in place, the only birds we have lost are the few that have flown over the fence and the dogs caught before I did. We plan to put netting over the outside run, that will keep them from flying the fence. With the addition of a hot wire around the outside of the pen next spring, I’m pretty sure that will take care of the dogs too. We will try again with butcher chickens, turkey’s, guineas and hopefully a few peacocks.