Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chicken Processing June 27

Yesterday Abby, Mark, and Mom came over and we processed chickens.  We traded Abby and Mark last week 4 hens for a rooster, but they still had three that they needed to dispatch.  They got chicks in the spring and 5/7 were roosters-- we've had the same luck when we've gotten unsexed chicks!  We were left with 18 hens, and really only wanted 12, so there were 6 of ours to process, too.  Abby & Mark have never done it before, so we invited them over to our open-air processing setup so we could share the work and the knowledge.  With 5 of us, it was short work-- Little over an hour, and Abby and Mark and Mom were the best help we could ask for!
 We haven't processed chickens for three years, so we brushed up by watching a Joel Salatin YouTube video.  We realized it's kind of like riding a bicycle-- once you've done it, it all comes back to you pretty quickly.  We knew what was required and so had a great setup-- A cone for slaughter, lots of waste containers and cutting boards and sharp knives, and HOT water for plucking.  That was something that we improved upon from last time we did this-- I have horrible memories of trucking huge dangerous pots of boiling water back and forth from the kitchen, and plucking being slow and hard.  We boiled a pot of water in the kitchen and then kept it near boiling on the BBQ in our processing area.  8 seconds is the perfect amount of time for the dip, and the feathers came off so easily both Jon and I groaned at how easy it is when it's done right.  Now we know!
 Here's the chicken processing crew enjoying a beer after all the work was done.  Everyone went home with 3 stew birds, and-- though I would never say that killing birds is "fun"-- it was as smooth and quick as it could possibly be!  Jon and I have only done roosters, in the Great Watershed Farm rooster incursion of 2012.  The hens were neat!  Very different than roosters, filled with egg yolks, lined up like a conveyor belt inside these little egg machines.  We were not surprised, as the gals have proven to be excellent layers, and Abby & Mark are also sharing the spoils of their 4 new hens already.
I believe that as a meat-eater, it is my duty to be okay with the necessary cycle that eating meat necessitates-- Animals have to die for me to eat, and the closer I can be to that process, the better!  We got 22 birds and planned on putting 10 in the freezer within a few weeks.  I'm happy to have had some eggs from these gals in the meantime, and now to have 3 delicious pots of soup from hens that were pastured on our farm for a month.  Next year we plan to get pigs, and Abby & Mark are talking about getting meat birds and we may follow suit, and continue to combine our efforts at processing time.  Many hands makes light work!
Thanks to Mom, Abby, and Mark for an excellent day accomplishing a task.

OOOhhh!!  I almost forgot.  Our rooster has a name now.  Meet Ron Swanson and his 12 ladies!

Three days' worth of eggs from the hens (54, would actually have been 56 but Jon ate 2 for breakfast).
Some egg stats: 
Total egg count is now 470
over 25 days
average of 18.8 eggs per day
Total cost: $170 (waterer, layer mash, oyster shells, fuel to pickup hens, a few bits of hardware)
Cost per egg: $0.36 (not including avg. 1/2 hr of my time each day managing the flock)
Income from farm gate egg pickups (the only legal way to sell them): $28
Total cost including income: $142, per egg $0.30

**This is just because I'm a cost of production nerd.  To be honest, I enjoy the chickens so much that I don't feel like it's work-- every time I eat one of the eggs and are blown away by how good they are, it's worth it.  I love sharing eggs and initially planned that I would supply Mom and Aunty Jayne with eggs, because it's as much work to look after 12 hens as it is 3, and they do so much for me it's nice to have something to give back.  I'm not in it to become a commercial egg producer, and it's been awesome to give everyone who comes in the yard a dozen eggs.  We've met some of our neighbours this way, and we keep Sherman in eggs, too.  I feel like I get a present every day from the hens, and then I get to share them with others.  I'm keeping track of the numbers in case I want to ramp things up in the future, but with the restrictions on selling "Farm Gate Only", it's very unlikely.
Mostly, I just like to eat really, really yummy eggs!  :)

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