Saturday, November 15, 2008

(Chicken) Harvest Time

I have been looking forward to writing this post. This is meaningful to me- knowing where these chickens lived and foraged and what they ate (from the time they were chicks), having watched them run through the yard (wings flapping), watching them perch in the lower branches of trees and on our garden gate, all the while knowing that we would eventually be eating them, made me all the more appreciative of them from the start. Please forgive my run on sentences and improper use of punctuation- pregnancy has further impaired me.

It was easy to know which ones would become supper. Our meat birds were white and all our others, shades of brown. They were easy to spot from my kitchen window even when they were at the very back of the property and I wasn't wearing my glasses. They were beautiful- even Jamey agreed.

I'm not getting sentimental here. They were meat birds for the table from the moment we ordered them. I guess I just want to convey how meaningful it can be when you take the time to really know where your food is coming from. It takes the meanings of appreciation and thankfullness to whole different level. Levels that we are happy to share with our kids- who witnessed the entire process below as a normal occurrance. This is where chicken meat comes from, after all.

Due to my condition, I stayed inside during this process, layed up on the couch in my usual position (as of late). I have helped the other times we harvested chickens and enjoyed it. This time, I thought it would best for me to remain horizontal. So, Jamey has written the remainder of this post for me and Ben and Kim took pictures. Thanks to all of you who helped. Here's Jamey...

WARNING - graphic (to some) content.

Well, yesterday was the day we finally harvested the eight meat birds that we got back in July. They were 17 weeks old and had seemed plenty big for awhile, but we had trouble finding time to do it, since it was a pretty long process last time we had harvested a batch.

This time was different. First, we had lots of help. Ben & Kim and neighbors Ted and Kimberly were interested enough in the process to pitch in and help despite the rainy weather.

First off, we used the cones again to hold the birds. The metal one I had made earlier wasn't big enough to hold the large roosters (~8 lbs.) but was ok for the smaller hens. I made a new cone out of the best material I had available--plastic lattice. Looks pretty strange, I know. Anyway, the cone keeps the bird nice and calm while cutting one neck artery to allow the blood to drain out.
This time around, we decided not to use the scald and pluck method, instead hoping that skinning would be much quicker. It did go very quickly. The skin, with feathers attached could be peeled off in a matter of 5-10 minutes.

The next step was to remove the organs, making an opening above the vent just large enough to get a few fingers inside and remove the intestines and organs. We saved the livers and hearts and will be using them for pate. We rinsed the birds well and then bagged them for the freezer.

Brother Ben, Ted and Jamey

The skinning worked really well--I know some people would prefer to have the skin on, but this way suits us just fine for the way we usually cook with chicken. It wasn't nearly as long of a process this time, which had a lot to do with having so much help. I figure we probably ended up with somewhere in neighborhood of forty pounds of chicken from the eight birds. Pin It


  1. So how do you cook your chicken without the skin on? I've never seen a skinned chicken!

  2. Zoe,
    The three ways we eat chicken the most are 1) adding already cooked, shredded chicken to a dish 2) smothering skinned chicken pieces with some sort of yummy sauce (like barbecue) and baking it and 3) sauteing skinned cubes of chicken as part of a recipe. None of these forms use the skin. I cook a whole chicken at once in my crockpot (just add a half cup water to the bird and let it cook all day) if it's a small bird, or in a large stockpot with water if it's a big one. Then, I clean meat off the bones and freeze the shredded chicken in bags ready to use in casseroles, curries, etc. The chickens do look a bit funny- naked, I guess, but since we don't really like the skin, I think this will be perfect for us:-).

  3. ok, ben looks way too excited to be holding that chicken, in the last picture!! :)

  4. I'm glad you guys are posting again (and you are taking things easy - thank you Jamey for finishing the post!)

    Because so many people in our Permaculture Guild are interested in chickens for meat, I reposted your blog post above to giving you credit of course. Please let me know if this is problematic.

    Thanks for all you do,

  5. No problem, PhoenixJen:-). We didn't go into too much detail, in terms of procedure. If folks have specific questions, we'd be happy to answer them as best we can.

  6. Just checked in and was quite surprised and pleased that you are back at it. Congratulations! Of all 7 of my pregnancies the 2 that I wasn't sick ended in miscarriage , so count it as a positive.

    We have at least 6 chickens that we have to butcher. A few still in question if they are hens or roosters. I can't imagine throwing away that flavorful skin. It adds such a richness to chicken stock. It does sound a whole lot easier to clean them. I'll have to ponder this idea.

    I'm having to figure out what to do with a W.V. wild turkey that our son brought home last week. He too skinned it. Guess that's what I'll make for our family Thanksgiving bird. Sure hope I can make it edible. If not we'll eat lots of mashed potato filling, sweet potatoes, peas, and cranberry.

    -JJ's Aunt V.

  7. Hey small world I would have never thought my old college roomie and I would both be living a life that included butchering chickens. We butchered 30 last summer. We went in with two other families. We didn't do free range because we didn't have a place for them to do that. But did do organic or all natural feed. I'd like to do it again but we need some way of containing them, my mom doesn't want them running around the yard.

    We kept ours whole and used them for roasters. YUMMY!!! they are gone now.....I would like to do it again. Of course now we will be filling our freezer up with a deer.

    I am excited to keep reading about your endeavors.

  8. I'm so happy to find this! We will be butchering our ~25 roosters this Saturday (4-17-10), and I desperately want to use the killing cone method. (I grew up under the "lop their head off with a hatchet and let 'em flop around" rule.) However, we can't see paying the price for a commercially fabricated one. I can't wait to try making one of lattice. Thanks for the tip!


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