On Monday, we processed 156 meat birds. We kept 100. We have already sold the other 56. We were originally planning to do one more batch of about 180 birds, but in our quest to cut back on things on the farm, we have decided to just do this one batch.
We receive our chickens as tiny little two-day old chicks. They spent the first two weeks in a brooder where we can control their temperature:
At two weeks old, the chickens move to a mobile chicken tractor. They spend weeks 2-8 in this tractor which we move 1-2 times a day. They get fresh grass, bugs, sunlight, shade, and protection from predators in these mobile chicken tractors:
And then at the end of week eight, we process the chickens. By selling about 60 birds, we will end up spending about $500 on these birds. Which means we will eat our 100 chickens for about $5 a bird -- which is fantastic. Next year, we'd like to still just do one batch, but try to keep 125 and sell 125. This will allow us to completely break even which is what our goal is here on the farm. I'm sad that I only have 60 birds to sell as they are already sold, and I have no extra, but I am excited to feel that everything is more manageable.
These chickens are not easy. The processing day prep and clean-up is a lot as is the actual day we process. All in all it takes three days to do the whole thing. Next year we just want to do one time going through this in order to keep our time down.
In addition, moving these tractors and keeping the birds fed and watered isn't easy either. It's time intensive in hot weather. We are hoping that next year we can do our ONE big batch later in the fall to keep our temps down.
While I don't enjoy processing chickens, I do think it is incredibly important that my children (and myself) understand where our food comes from. The decision to eat meat is not to be taken lightly. I know many people who only want to buy meat that no longer resembles the animal it is. I think that is not fair to the animal, truly. Their life is incredibly valuable.
(Please know that I respect you if you choose to be a vegetarian, but this is not the choice I have made for my life. I have decided to not get into this debate on my Blog because I truly believe we can respect the other's choice.)
I was very proud of my three oldest children on this particular processing day. We told them all that they would get a "tip" at the end of the day based on how hard they worked. Isaac was the chicken catcher for the processing portion of the experience. When we moved into the garage to package them, he then because the "freezer boy" putting all the chickens in their appropriate freezer. Sidge ran the plucker this year. He took the chickens of the rack for the scalder and put them into the plucker. During the second part of the day, he was the "fisherman" as he got the chickens out of the chill tank and brought them to the garage for packaging. And Abigail was the "wagon puller" during the first portion of the day. This included pulling four chickens up hill over and over again. She did lose steam, but when we moved to the garage, she picked up again and told me the numbers on the scale. It was so fun to see each of them really commit to help us as a family for the day.
Sidge, as I have mentioned on the Blog previously, LOVES farming. I gave the boys a writing assignment the other day. I told them they could write about anything they wanted. Isaac chose roller coasters. Sidge chose to write about processing day. Here is his paper (below). I wanted to share it because you can see how a farming kid just takes all this in stride. This is where chicken meat actually comes from!