Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Harvesting Chickens With A Plucker

Warning: This post is NOT for those with sensitive stomachs. Look away. Just look away.

It was time to harvest our meat birds. We ordered the chicks with our neighbors, splitting the order (each family raising 15) with plans to harvest them together. Jamey, neighbor Bo and my cousin, Conrad did all the work. Sam watched the entire time. Bo's two boys and Sadie watched for a little while. Miriam and I walked out occasionally to see how everything was going.

These first couple pictures were taken the day before the harvest. Here you can see how much bigger the meat birds are than their roommates (young laying hens) even though they are only three days apart in age. They're also a bit lazy- laying down a good part of the day unless they are up to get food. A good sign they are getting heavy. I know they aren't pets, but I had a little heart to heart chat with them the day before. I thanked them for their service and made sure they had a tasty last meal of kitchen scraps. I'm not completely made of stone.



They were predicting a 90% chance of rain, so Jamey set-up in one of our "barn holes" as we like to call them- no doors, just big holes in the barns. Below, you can see one of the cones attached to the wall on the right (it's blue). There is another one back where Jamey is. These are used to hold the birds still and calm while the cut is made in the neck. This cut kills the bird and allows much of the blood to drain out. On the right is the large pot of boiling water. The dead chickens are dipped in the water for 30 seconds to help loosen the feathers so they are easier to remove. In the back, on the left, is a work table where the chickens were gutted.


Here is Jamey showing Bo and Conrad how he makes the cut. Go Eagles.

Here are a couple dead chickens waiting to be dipped into the hot water.

Here is a chicken being dipped.


Since we had 30 to harvest this year, we called up a friend and he so generously allowed us to use his plucker (Thank you, Lee!). We had never used a plucker before. I didn't even know what it would look like. The bucket underneath is to catch the feathers.

Those funny black things sticking out are long rubber nubbins- that's what I call them anyway. They are attached to a barrel that spins around very fast. The chicken is held over the nubbins and as the feathers touch them, they are pulled out clean. If you didn't have a plucker, you would have to pull all the feathers out by hand after dipping them. This is a tedious job for folks like us who only harvest once a year. We aren't very fast. This is one reason that we skinned our chickens last year.

Below is a short video to show you how the plucker works. For all you plucker experts out there, please keep in mind we were just learning.


video

After they could get most of the feathers off with the plucker, they pulled the remaining few off by hand and then gutted them. Our little Junior Scientist Sam noticed something the others didn't. He saw that in the bucket of guts (I don't know what else to call it) there were some intestines that, even after their owner had been dead a good ten minutes, were still contracting and trying to move food through. Fascinating. If you find that kind of thing fascinating, which we do.

Once they were gutted, the chickens were rinsed outside, piled in a big pot or container and brought into the house and handed over to me. I rinsed them again and pulled out the remaining few quills that the men may have missed. Then, I placed two birds each into 2 1/2 gallon heavy-duty zip-lock bags and into the freezer they went. Of the 15 we raised, we gave Conrad two for his help and three are going to my brother and his wife.

It feels great to have chicken in the freezer, but we won't be eating any for a few weeks. It would just be too soon. Pin It

11 comments:

  1. I fast-forwarded over the plucker. I have to say...I don't know that I have it in me to DO that. As far as their last meal...that was nice of you. I'd have done the same thing... It's amazing to me how quickly they grow.

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  2. That's the same plucker we used. It's a great do-hickey, quite helpful. Mr. H bought a book for the plans to make his own.

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  3. Fascinating! I for one, am glad you were so detailed with this post because I am anxious to give this a try. Does hand plucking take a LOT longer? I have no clue where we would get one of those pluckers. Sounds like it would be a good item to go in together with friends to purchase.

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  4. Comtesse, Plucking by hand does take quite a bit longer. The plucker makes short work of it- maybe 15 seconds per chicken once you get the hang of it. Plucking by hand is fine, though, if you only have a handful of birds to pluck. And, as with anything, the more you do it, the faster you would get at it. We're just not very fast yet. I would say find someone who could lend or rent you a plucker if you have a lot of chickens to harvest:-).

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  5. I would love to be able to raise and harvest my own chickens as well... I think I'd get kicked out of the neighborhood for sure over that one though. My kids would totally be out there with their microscope checking out all the feathers, skin blood and guts.... I think it is fascinating as well. I think if we all had a closer relationship with our food we would all be better off. Good post!

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  6. Incredible. I'm so glad you posted this! I was really intrigued as to how you went about "harvesting chickens." Oh, and I skipped over the plucker video too! ;)

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  7. Wow! That plucker is fast!

    We usually do a maximum of three birds on one day, simply because I don't like leaving them out too long in the heat before we can get them in the fridge. And we don't raise purely meat birds, we usually just have the extra roosters/drakes to do, so numbers aren't high :)

    Hand plucking does take a while, I get my DD to help (she is 8 and has little hands, like me lol), which make it a little easier. We have a good chat while we pluck, I'll have to post about it soon, we are chooksitting some meat chooks for a friend and they need to be seen to!

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  8. I would have to agree...chicken in the freezer is great...but too soon to eat...after all that! :) When I was little (maybe 5 or 6) I watched some chickens be "harvested"...the violent way...the chickens ran around without heads...now that was an experience I will never forget!

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  9. Good job! We 'harvested' 50 with a plucker like that one last spring and invested in a barrel plucker for our 200 chickens this spring: 4 at a time! They were the Cornish XX Rock bred to eat and eat and eat...and be ready for the freezer (5-7 lbs dressed weight) in 8 weeks. Not enough time to get attached to them. We 'harvested' on a Saturday and had the biggest one for Sunday dinner!

    What kind did you raise and how much did they weigh?

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  10. Thanks so much for the tutorial! We have been wanting to do this and have chickens growing up in our yard as we speak. I couldn't figure out how to set up a pot of boiling water outside easily and you gave me a great idea, Thanks!

    p.s. love the paragraph under "post a comment" LOL

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  11. Found this post from Homestead Revival- thanks! That plucker looks fierce!! But it sure makes it easier.

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