Monday, August 8, 2011

Chicken Dinner

As you may remember I placed 10 Cornish Cross chicks under a hen on May 22nd.

Because I had been told that health problems occur in Cornish Cross chickens if you give them free choice food, heart attacks and failing legs among others, the Gigantachicks were fed only as much as they could eat in 10 minutes in the morning for the first 4 weeks. Then their mom would take them out for the rest of the day to forage for the rest of the days food.
Around four weeks, they were so hungry and their mother so tired I began giving them an additional couple of tuna cans of wheat and a little corn in the evenings.
All the rest of their food was gathered by them, lots of grass, bugs and worms.
They were very good at foraging, surprisingly so. They were eating machines. I actually watched them catch flies from the air.

Although they did tend to follow us around a bit. They put two and two together and realized that sometimes when a human came out with a dish or bucket, they got yummy food.
Then they decided to just come to the source.
That's when Mr. B's new found herding instincts came in handy.

All in all it was a happy eleven weeks for our free ranging chicks. We had no problems with their health and we did not lose a single one to a predator. They were happy on the farm in their own little chicken cosmos.
One did start to limp the day before we took them in, so it was definitely time.

We chose to make an appointment for our chickens to be butchered at a local, family run business that does poultry processing.
We were told not to feed them for 24 hours before we brought them in (bugs and grass were OK).

We decided it was best to keep them in the pen for the 24 hours so that we could feed the rest of the chickens outside.
I had several bags of lettuce I needed to clean up to take to the food bank, so I kept all the bugs and slugs and put any chewed on leaves into a big basket and gave the meaty chicks a nice last breakfast of salad and slugs. They were very appreciative and stampeded the door. They got out and I cussed, but then they ran in again when I threw the lettuce in. It was very exciting.

The next morning, Buck and I calmly caught them and took them to the processors in two dog crates. When we arrived we were very happy with the cleanliness of the facility and the humane and low stress way that they killed the chickens.

We left a cooler for them to be put in and filled out a card with our instructions- "Keep the feet, necks and giblets."

We left and did a little junk shopping and came back three hours later to pick up our transformed chickens. They all fit in our smaller cooler, which surprised us, and the feet were scalded and clean in a bag. They averaged 4.5 lbs. dressed and it cost $3.50 each to process.

Maybe it was a little short of "homesteading" to have someone else do the butchering, but with Buck on such a tight schedule and the turkey debacle hanging over my head, we decided to take baby steps this time. I do feel like we took a big step forward by raising the meat we eat in a way that was responsible, humane and fairly ecologically sound.
It is difficult to be exact on the costs of raising these birds since we were raising them with all of our Cuckoo Morans (10 adults and 7 growing + the 10 Cornish Cross) and the scraps and feed were scattered for all. We decided to do it this way, knowing that we were probably rounding-up on the costs:
Cost of day old chicks- 19.50
1/2 of total grain- 35.00
Butchering at 11 weeks- 35.00

As you can see the butchering nearly doubled our costs. Although having to set up and spend a day doing it ourselves right now would have indirectly cost more, time IS money sometimes.

We kept one chicken out of the freezer and the next night June came over for dinner and Buck cooked it on our big BBQ, Beer Butt style.

We have purchased and eaten many "organic, free range" chickens and not one tasted this good. It was the best chicken we have eaten, ever. I am not exaggerating. It was lean, tender and full of flavor.

While we enjoyed our fabulous dinner together we made a point to express our gratitude to the ones who made it possible, the chickens.


  1. If you ever do decide to butcher, I have found whole chicken difficult. I skin them, not pluck, and cut off the breast, thigh and leg. I save a GREAT DEAL of time by not removing the insides, plucking it, or even removing the head. You will probably want a burn barrel to put the carcass in though. This also helps out b/c I cook chicken better in pieces than whole.

  2. @The Burrow..wow neat idea. I have only butchered 5 myself but the plucking is by far the worst. I think next year we are going to get some meat birds.

  3. Indeed, I agree with both of you, that the plucking is the hardest of all. I spent many a weekend in my youth plucking chickens- that is why I am so resistant to doing it now.Many times my grandma would have us pluck a few and then we would just skin the rest for canning.
    I am actually thinking I am going to build a chicken plucker. It doesn't look hard and it would be a major motivation to do the butchering ourselves.

  4. We just got finished butchering 3 chickens. It was a little intimidating for us because we had never done it before. Sometimes you just need to take baby steps. We certainly did with having our pigs butchered for us.


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