Friday, September 30, 2011

The Chicken Harvest: A Trial Run

This week we spent much of our time planning and gathering equipment for the chicken harvest.  Our local feed store had a chicken plucker that they loan to clients.  No one in our area had killing cones so we had to improvise concerning cutting and bleeding the chickens.  We bought a turkey fryer because it had a propane burner and a pot big enough for scalding the chicken.  We created a processing area in the barn, complete with utility sink, table, garbage cans and cooler.

After dinner this evening we went to the barn to get the harvest underway.  My job was to catch the chicken and hold it while Rob tied the feet and slit the throat.  We hung the chicken over a garbage can and waited while it bled out.  After the chicken stopped bleeding we dipped it in the water to loosen the feathers for plucking. 

Using the chicken plucker was a little different than expected.  Holding a dead chicken while it's pummeled by flexible plastic rods designed to remove the feathers was a little disturbing.  As with so many things around the farm, I'm sure it will get easier with practice.  The company website boasted that the plucker could clean a chicken in 30 seconds.  Obviously, the person operating the plucker had more experience than we did.  The website didn't mention how long it took an inexperienced operator to pluck a chicken using the chicken plucker.  I'm guessing it was still quicker than we could have done by hand.

Rob handled the evisceration of the birds while I waited to rinse and put them on ice.  I was so thankful that he was willing to do the gutting because I'm really pretty certain that the chicken harvest would have stopped never to be resumed if I had been given this responsibility.  I'm not sure what I would have done with ninety-three roosters but I wouldn't have been eating them.

We got two birds done before it got too dark to work effectively.  In the process we learned that we need a sharper knife.  We also learned that, despite the issues with the chicken plucker, we prefer plucked chicken to skinned chicken. 

Tomorrow we'll spend some more time harvesting our chickens.  It would be great to get half of them done.  We'll see how quickly we increase our skill.  Though the job was difficult and messy, we were able to do it.  There is a sense of accomplishment in that.  I think it's safe to say that we've done something that most our generation in this country has never done and will never do. 

Two chickens down, ninety-two to go.

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