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#62160 - 09/10/02 06:33 AM First time
Anonymous
Unregistered


I finally got around to culling out my excess rososters this past weekend. I had 7 dark brahmas that had to go. Since I hunted in my youth (rabbits and deer, never birds), I wasn't completely unfamiliar w/ the task of cleaning. The main thing I had to do when slaughtering was to just do it. I made a nice secure stump, tied their legs together with a piece of wire, and chopped off their heads w/ a meat cleaver. Once they were done kicking around I had a rope line set up to hang them from (that's why I used the wire-it made it easier to just hang them up on the line). I had no desire to do the plucking bit. Since I almost always skin my chicken before cooking it, I went w/ the skin em from the get go method. Starting at the neck, the skin peeled right off. I removed the feet and wings before starting. I took the carcasses into the house to do the final cleaning up and cutting into pieces in the kitchen sink. All and all it was a pretty simple job.

However, I did have a bit of an emotional hangover from the whole thing. After all I had raised these guys since they were two days old. What's more, of all of my chickens, the brahma roosters were the most friendly. The last one was the toghest, and the only one that I messed up on when chopping off the head. I had gotten down to two birds-my two favorites. One was going to live, while the other was going to die. My mask slipped a bit then, as did my hand I'm sorry to say. I had my wife and daughter make the choice (they haven't been all that involved in this chicken thing, so didn't have any emotional attachment). Thank god my mother-in-law was there too-she helped with the butchering and kept me focused on the job at hand.

I also must admit that I put this off for a bit longer than I should have. They were just short of 19 weeks old. In my own defense I should note that brahmas are a slow developing bird and they were just too scrawny still at 12 weeks.

The upside, of course, is the knowledge that they had a caring home to live in while they were here, and I have nice healthy meat to eat. I boiled up all of the backs, and two of the breasts and made a truly wonderful stew. I have several other recipes for sloww cooking chicken, so the toughness should not be an issue-it certainly wasn't in the stew. In fact, what I got in the stew was pleasantly firm meat, not that musshy stuff that I have been eating all of my life. Reminded me more of the texture of wild rabbit :)I'm looking forward to raising a bunch next year from my own eggs.

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#62161 - 09/10/02 06:51 AM Re: First time
Anonymous
Unregistered


Steve, I'm sure that a lot of us are right with you there on the emotional hangover!! I found when I ordered a bunch of Cornish X's that it was a bit easier emotionally as I knew they were ALL going to be butchered .. that and I didn't spend the time with them that I did my other chickens...
but good eating though....:-/

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#62162 - 09/10/02 08:30 AM Re: First time
Susie Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 1902
Loc: Arkansas
Steve,

I can totally relate to all you have said here! I have found it easier to sort of have an idea of who is going to be butchered when they are chicks, much like cochima described. I avoid "knowing" those chickens. I do sort of make pets out of my hens even though I know they can't stay around forever, and that is hard sometimes.

It's interesting that you mention having trouble choosing which rooster to take to the chopping block. That is my biggest hang-up with all of this. I hate deciding! We have a couple of small pens and when cockerels get near the butchering age, we will pull them a few at a time and seclude them in that pen, feeding them a bit different for a few days. I cannot make the decision about who is going to that pen. I leave that one to my husband. I also can't do the actual head chop. Thank goodness my husband can. I can be out there. I can watch it. I can clean them and pluck them and none of that bothers me at all. So, together we make a pretty good team I suppose.

I do focus on a couple of points to help me get over the butchering issue. One is, my birds live a grand life and even the ones who are butchered by 20 weeks lived a really LONG life compared to the commercial birds. Around here, they are headed toward the processing plant at about 28 days! Also, thinning out the roosters keeps the rest of my flock healthy and happy and that is important. And finally, being willing to butcher is the only way I can keep hatching chicks, which is probably the thing I enjoy the most!

We hunt also so I understand where you're coming from on that. I have to say, it is different to me to aim a gun versus the more hands-on process of butchering a chicken. I think that's why I see the two as so different. Not to mention that we don't always have the best of luck hunting and I feel like it is a lot of work, compared to grabbing a chicken out of my backyard. Still, they live a nice little life and the butchering is fast and easy for them. And I can also tell you it gets easier and easier for you. That helps!

Susie

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#62163 - 09/10/02 08:36 AM Re: First time
Aram Seattle Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 547
Loc: Washington
I recently butchered a lamb and I must say, there was not a second of regret or emotions. Somehow I could do that easily. Chicens though, oh man. I swear there is so much more life it these little guys, when they go, they sure let you know and I think that's the most difficult part of it.

Steve, I don't do it with an ax, though I do believe that they die quicker that way. I have axed two of my roosters and lo and behold I was "a bit off the target", which made me feel so horrible. I think slit behind the ear is a surer way. They just fall asleep.

Like I said, I still feel horrible about butchering, but then I do love and appreciate life a lot. So I always "tell the chicken" how much I appreciate and respect it and that seems to put some sort of meaning to their abruptly ended life. Someone on this board said, "the chicken does not know it is going to die, it is you who does." I sure hope so.

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#62164 - 09/10/02 09:15 AM Re: First time
Nancy Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 08/12/02
Posts: 315
Loc: Michigan
I must be too soft. I am in tears just reading this let alone having to do it. I guess thats why I am only getting 5 pullets for laying only...they will live out their life with me, however long that may be.
I love to eat chicken but the thought of killing one of my own is not something I think I can handle. I do however, give a lot of credit to those who can. My husband could with out flinching but not I.
I do love this board...I just keep learning!
Nancy
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#62165 - 09/10/02 09:33 AM Re: First time
Susie Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 1902
Loc: Arkansas
Nancy,

I understand feeling that way. I really do. I was very hesitant to get into the chicken "thing" to the degree of butchering and it took me a long time to accept it. Having seen a lot of the commercial industry practices helped convinced me. I reached a point where I felt I either had to do my own, the right way, or quit eating chicken. Although butchering is not pleasant, I now cringe *more* if I have to buy chicken at the store. I live in commercial chicken land out here and see the chickens on trucks heading to the processing plant everyday. We have commercial chicken houses just across the street from us so I have a lot of exposure to all of that and it really turned my thinking around. However, I completely understand that not everybody can do this!

Susie

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#62166 - 09/10/02 09:45 AM Re: First time
Rob Offline
Ruler of the Roost

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 783
Loc: Pennsylvania
WE used to do all our own beef, pork, lamb, etc. Now I hate doing any of it, and only do duck and chicken. Poultyr never bothered me, but the 4 legged animals were always tough. I certainly am no devout christian, but taught my sons to always talk nice to the critter before the final deed. I suppose, like a little prayer of thanks. Just like in battle a prayer for the enemy to die without suffering.

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#62167 - 09/10/02 10:08 AM Re: First time
Nancy Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 08/12/02
Posts: 315
Loc: Michigan
Thanks Susie that does help. I live in "farm country" and have not been exposed to the commercial end of things but can really appreciate why you do your own.
It's funny...before I met my husband I could never eat anything off the bone because it resembled an animal etc. Me being the animal lover that I am it was too hard but my husband now has me cooking whole turkeys for Thanksgiving. Maybe I can be turned around...there is hope for me yet...with the support of all of you here!
Thanks,
Nancy
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Nancy

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#62168 - 09/10/02 06:00 PM Re: First time
BC Breeder Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 434
Loc: Canada
I will be going through this soon, and even though I did it alot as a kid, it's almost two decades later and I'm not looking forward to it. Already culled one that wouldn't stop feather picking, felt like such a waste dumping it into a hole.

About what age is a good age to butcher regular sized roosters? They are ameraucanas if that helps. I would like to butcher asap, but don't want it to be a wasted effort providing only skin and bones. They are a little over 18 weeks now. Is there an optimum age balancing taste, texture, size, and plucking ease?
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#62169 - 09/10/02 06:18 PM Re: First time
Anonymous
Unregistered


Vic, your Ameraucana cockerels should be ready to butcher now. A 4 to 5 pound Ameraucana cockerel is good to butcher. I like to feel their drumsticks and go by that. If you want to wait until 26-30 weeks, they'll be a little heavier. But, you'll have more feed invested in them. Ameraucana are not correctly appreciated for their value as a dual purpose breed. Even the females are heavy when fully grown.

A rule of thumb I use is "butcher before 9 months".

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