Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We Bought a Farm: Processing Complete

We have survived. Eight-two chickens in the freezer. And we have all lived to talk about it!

Dan, Dad, and JB started the processing preparation early in the morning on Monday. By the time I got home after co-op around 1pm, they were just underway with the actual "processing" part of the process.

Many people have asked me what the processing actually entails. I decided I would show you in photos.

The chickens are first moved from the pasture to a brooder up closer to the house. The kids helped with catching chickens four at a time, and giving them to Grampa.

Grampa then took the chickens to be killed.

I have skipped the "Killing Cones" picture. This is the part where the birds have their throats slit. They die as quickly as possible. Grampa did this part. People have asked if I watched it. Yes, I did see it a few times, but I attempted to just be as unattached to this part as I could. People have also asked if the kids watched this part. They did. We did not hide it from them.

There is some debate whether this is the best thing for kids, but ultimately, we have heard from many farm families that this seems to be the best way to handle this -- just have it always be a part of their lives. Isaac wasn't interested in watching, Abigail was there some of the time, but Sidge was outside and participating nearly the entire time. He was loving the whole thing!

After the chickens are dead, they go into a "Scalder." This helps loosens their feathers. Dad is dunking them in the picture below. They were dunked approximately ten times. You dunk them fairly fast as you don't want them to cook.

After that, they go into a "plucker". This machine can take all the feathers off four birds in one minute!

From there, they entered Dan and Dad's station. This is the "Evisceration Table."

Once Dan and JB are done with them, they are dropped into a freezing "Chill Tank." Once all 82 birds were in the tank, it was 7pm. We took a break to have dinner as Dan's parents were in from out of town and joining us for a meal. 

I did not help much with the processing at all. I was in the house with kids and cooking dinner. It was really a three-person job.

After dinner, Dan, JB, Grampa, and I finished packaging the chickens. JB took off the necks, and Dan checked the chickens to make sure they were in good shape for packaging (removing any wayward feathers etc.). Here is a photo of Dan doing his job. By this time of night, we were all pretty slap-happy and having some good laughs. This picture made me laugh hard:

Dad and I put them in bags, Dad dropped them into hot water which takes the air out of the bags, and then I weighed and labeled each of the birds. 

Here is just one freezer, filled with chickens:

The chickens ranged in size from 3.5 to 6.5 pounds. 

Another question is how we are storing 82 chickens. Well we have one deep freezer and a total of four other freezers on the property that we can use. All in all we only ended up using the deep freezer, and two of the other freezers.

Since we have another batch coming in two weeks, we want to sell about half of these chickens. I am selling them almost exclusively to people we know. It has simply passed through my homeschool group and word of mouth. We are selling them for $3.50 a pound. This is a great price for pasture raised, organically fed chickens who have received no antibiotics and are non-GMO.

As for how I liked the process, I wouldn't say I liked it. I don't like seeing an animal die. I did, however, have an appreciation for what was occurring. I was excited when we got a chicken over 6 pounds. I enjoyed seeing how all this good equipment came together to produce a good product. (We plan on renting out the equipment to help off-set the costs.)

I'd love to answer any other questions so please fire away!


Kristin Albee said...

How do you decide when to process the chickens? Is it always the same time each year?

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Great question! You process the chickens when they are 8 weeks old. This is because their feathers are at an ideal spot and, at the 8 week old age, they stop gaining weight as rapidly while still eating the same amount.

As far as when during the year, typically, you want to raise your chickens between April and November and avoid the cold months.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing all the details. This farm stuff is pretty interesting.

TAV said...

I am amazed you guys know how to do this. Amazed!!!

Rachel and Hans said...

Awesome! Love reading this. Wish we could buy one!

NotThatKindOfFarmer said...

Very interesting article.
Thanks for sharing this with us.