Chicken Processing 101……

Whew! What a day and what an experience. Before yesterday, the only time I ever tried to do anything with a chicken besides take it out of the package, none of the parts resembled anything you’ve ever seen. But yesterday, I learned all about the chicken from the inside out. It was sort of like science class, or at least that’s how I approached it. As a softie and a squeamish person, it helped. I could probably write a short novel about the day, but I will just hit the highlights for the sake of time. All the pictures are at the end.

The Process (You should probably skip to the next paragraph if you are squeamish.)

So here’s the basic process for those who have never seen it done so you can follow along. You put the chicken into the killing cone upside down and cut their main arteries. When they are upside down, they go into sort of a trance or something and it is mostly peaceful, for lack of a better term. Once drained, they go into the scalder which is a tank of hot water. The water needs to be maintained at the right temperature to loosen the feathers. Then they go into a plucker, which is a machine with little rubber fingers which pull the feathers from the bird. Next you remove all the unnecessary parts, inside and out. From there, they go into a huge cooling tank with lots of ice to get them to 40 degrees as quickly as possible. Then you bag and weigh them.

The Set-up and Equipment

We had all of our equipment under a tent with a screen all the way around. No issues with bugs or flies at all. The set up worked well, except we think we need to pour a concrete slab or maybe put down some gravel for the future. From an equipment standpoint, the plucker was good. The cones were fine. But that scalder and roto dunker left a lot to be desired in my opinion. The pilot light kept going out so we would lose water temperature. The root dunker couldn’t keep up with the plucker so we were standing around waiting on chickens to clean. I think the Featherman people are going to hear from us. Even being new to this, it should not have taken us from 9 until 4 to process the number of birds we had.

The Product

As first time broiler chicken farmers, we’ve been so consumed with daily care and keeping them alive and healthy, we hadn’t had much time to think about the end product. But the past few days, the little niggling thought about how good the product would be has been there – will they be big enough? I’m pleased to report that with 120 birds, we averaged just over 5 pounds per bird, with a few weighing in at a little over 6 pounds fully dressed. The goal is between 4 and 5 pounds, so we feel we did pretty good. The proof will be when we cook one tonight. I can’t wait!

Many thanks to our family and friends who came to help! We could not have done this without you! Having such a great team really made the work fun and the day go by quickly! I can’t wait for the next go around!






17 responses to “Chicken Processing 101……

  1. Thanks for sharing your process, I like to see how others do things and learn from them. What kind of chickens do you have that got that big?

  2. Fascinating – it was great to learn about the process … glad to know the chickens are in good hands and move into a trance before the process starts … blessings to all!

    • Thanks. At least I have one of those funky food things licked. Now I just need to work on that GMO thing.

      • Head Farm Steward

        You and me both. I have missed a few sales because we are not GMO-free…yet.

      • I’m not sure anyone around here even grows non-GMO grains in terms of feed for the animals. What I worry about is the GMO that’s in so much of what I eat directly. 50+ years of eating this crap is a hard habit to break!

  3. Yeah. It’s pretty rough. How many birds? Did 9-4 count packaging time? You’ll get better. What did you do with the blood, feathers, etc? If you are composting them did you add enough carbon or can you smell the rot?

    I’m settling in with my scalder. It just needs a little attention. The roto-dunker and I still have issues. I haven’t contacted David about it but now that I have run 600 birds through it I think I can make a good case. It has a lot of sharp edges and the motor isn’t powerful enough. And it shocked me. It was a shocking experience. I realize it’s a first-generation gadget but…still.

    • 9-4 did not include bagging and we did about 130 birds, give or take a couple as we did some young roosters at the end. We had the exact same issues with the rotodunker except for the sharp edges. We could only do 2 birds at a time in it and it was twice as slow as the plucker so we hurried up and waited a lot as a result. But the scalder was the major hold up in the process. We got better at the cutting as we went and I think we’ll get even better. No problem with the smell. How do you cook yours? How much water ends up in the bags with yours?

      • We use a turkey fryer with our shrink bags. We dunk the birds for about 2 seconds and not much water gets in at all. The key, I think, is the 1 foot long capped PVC post we set the birds on for inspection and bagging. The bird has plenty of time to drain before it is bagged and it gives us a convenient place to work on the bird. Pictures of a similar post system can be found here.

      • We ended up with about 2tablespoons of water in the finished bags we opened yesterday. Someone mentioned the PVC thing, but we didn’t think about it before. I bet we’ll have one in two weeks though.

  4. Pingback: 600 Birds Later… « Chism Heritage Farm

  5. Wow, awesome set up – the tent is a great idea. I also really like the pvc gizmo for draining prior to bagging- even I could make one of those. And beside the pond like that – what a beautiful spot to help the job along!

    • Thanks. The tent was ordered online and it was only a couple hundred dollars. The Three Stooges (aka myself, my son and his fiance) put it up by ourselves fairly quickly. It ate a little into the profit, but was so worth it! We are going to try that PVC thing next time as well.

  6. Congratulations for your success in raising the chickens so healthy and persevering in your goal. Thanks so much for sharing this experience. We have only backyard chickens raised for eggs, but sometimes I think of what I will do when the time comes. I’ve really wondered how it was done. Any of our relatives generations back who had chickens used a ‘traveling chicken butcher’ who simply came to their place and killed the chickens for them. Too bad there aren’t such people anymore!

  7. Pingback: Preparing for Chicken Processing « Chism Heritage Farm

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