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.
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!