Friday, August 27, 2010

The Great Chicken Masssacree - Part 1

I'm going to lull you with pretty pictures while I tell you that I spent most of yesterday butchering chickens. (Ah, the glamorous life of a writer...)
This was our first time to do this in quantity -- a dozen birds -- and it went amazingly well, due to John's advance prep. We took our time, cleaning everything after each bird with a good wipe-down of bleach and water solution and keeping everything covered to avoid attracting flies and yellow jackets.
And then in the  evening we sat on the porch, listening to an NPR report about salmonella  and the recall of a billion eggs and the not-so-great conditions on factory farms. As we listened and sipped our gin and tonics, we enjoyed the tantalizing aroma of roast chicken.


There's a web album below for those of you interested in picture of the process.  Click on the picture to view.

And here's a LINK to a website with very complete instructions, should you want to try this at home.

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30 comments:

Marilyn said...

What a day you had, it's not something I would like to do now but as a child on a farm I was involved when it was time to kill one or two. I decided not to view those photos but love the others in your post. I had never heard of yellow jackets but a quick look online and I see that they are a wasp.

Martin H. said...

My grandmother always kept chicken. When it was time for one of them to reach the dinner table, we called on the services of the woman who delivered the newspapers. She'd wring the bird's neck and gran would pluck and 'draw' it.

Interesting slideshow. I was intrigued with John's plucking machine. What my grandmother would have given for one of those.

Joan said...

Good for you! I can smell the chicken roasting from here I'm sure.
My dad refused to kill chickens. My mother a born and bred kiwi country girl, felt no such qualms and chopped their heads off quite happily. We children watched and oh my goodness but I can remember headless chickens running about! It was all to much for Wigan born dad who refused even to eat them.

Friko said...

Sorry, too squeamish to watch the slideshow.
But I do like to eat roast chicken.
Are you telling me they DON'T grow on trees?

Brian Miller said...

it is a necessary step...bet it was some of the best chicken though...and you knew where it came from and what it had been fed....

Pat in east TN said...

Been there/done that but not with a unique plucking machine. How awesome is that!?!?! I remember when we had our own chickens the taste difference was amazing.

pat said...

ummm I have to take a pass....

KarenB said...

Very interesting! That plucking machine is just awesome!! I've never killed or plucked but since I can certainly eat I don't have a problem with the process as you presented it. For those who have not viewed the pictures, they were not gory in the slightest.

Bouncin' Barb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bouncin' Barb said...

Whatever the subject your blogs are a pleasure to read. There's something interesting about your writing be it killing a chicken or a beautiful picture of a sunset.

Barb

Vicki Lane said...

Marilyn -- Yellow jackets are the most aggressive of our stinging insects and they are attracted to blood. But we saw only one.

Martin -- the plucker is miraculous! I'm sure your grandmother would have agreed.

Joan -- It's part of living on a farm. And if one eats meat ...
I like the fact that it is as humane and stress-free a process as could be imagined.

Wouldn't it be nice, Friko, if they did?

Brian - Yep, we feel really good about the whole thing.

Pat in TN -- we were delighted to find that there really is a wonderful taste difference.

Pat - which is why I confined the pictures of the process to a slide show.

Karen -- I thought I was pretty tasteful in what I showed. Not a lot different than walking by the meat counter in the super market.

Thanks, Barb! There's always something interesting.

willow said...

That plucking machine is incredible!! My Kansas in-laws gave my city kids a crash course on slaughtering chickens one summer back in the early 90s, one they've never forgotten. ;^)

(your handwriting looks amazingly like mine, btw)

Linda said...

How does one sign up for the Waynesville workshop?

Jill said...

Interesting process. I have always wondered how that was done. I have often thought of having chickens myself and like you said; that is part of living on a farm. A very tasteful part. Much better than what the grocery store chickens go through.

Vicki Lane said...

Willow - I actually have a slightly more legible handwriting that I use for letters -- that's my grocery list hand which even I sometimes can't decipher.

Linda - I don't actually know. JC Walkup is putting this together. I need to get up with her and get some more info.

Susan T. said...

What a delicate presentation of a true, but bloody fact of omnivore life! While reading, I could just catch a whiff of gin and more than a hint of the roasting (and disease-free) chicken. Mmmmmmm

marĂ­a cecilia said...

Well, dear Vicki, it seems you never stop surprising us, you live a real farmer life where glamour has many faces... and for sure they must have taste delicious, more than any others!!!!

Elora said...

Congratulations on surviving Chicken 101, Vicki, and with your appetite firmly intact! Way to go, girl!!!! And from others' comments I gather you had some mechanical help in the plucking department. Ohhhhh, how I envy you! I am The Plucker!

Elora

NCmountainwoman said...

A Whiz Bang Chicken Plucker! Wow! There was a time when I would have welcomed one of those. When I was a kid, my job was plucking the chickens. I was too young for scalding or singeing or the other dangerous chores. Fortunately, I was also too young to remove the entrails.

Thank goodness we never did a dozen at once. You definitely deserved that gin and tonic...and the wonderful roasted chicken.

Michele said...

I don't miss that part of farm life - that was a previous life for me. Your pics were fine - nothing anyone who eats meat could take offence at. And good for you for raising your own, outside where they can be chickens. The egg problem is just another step towards facing how horrendous modern animal husbandry has become. I say let those poor animals be outside and true to their own nature, and show them some respect before sending them to someone's plate. It's good for everyone.
Love your blog and your books :)

Deanna said...

My dad came from a large family (13 kids), which meant any time we'd visit my grandmother, there was always many mouths to feed come dinner time. She always served chicken because that was something she could raise and butcher herself. I remember helping her occasionally, but it was never as hi tech as yours. She could wield a mean hatchet. What she would have given for one of those pluckers!

Enjoyed both the blog pictures and the extras!

NCmountainwoman said...

My "Killer Recipes" came today. I immediately turned to Ba's Poundcake and lookee, lookee, lookee! The page was signed by Vicki Lane! Thank you so much.

I hadn't realized you submitted other recipes but I found them and your signature on them as well. What a great gift. I can't wait to try the butternut squash. It sounds especially yummy for a winter dinner.

jennyfreckles said...

I'll subscribe to the "don't try this at home" line of thinking...But good for you and at least you know what you're eating. I rarely eat meat or fowl these days.

Louise said...

You see, that's why, even if I could, I wouldn't raise chickens or anything else for meat. I'd end up with a geriatric haven of old critters.

Vicki Lane said...

Susan -- as long as I'm willing to eat meat, I think that I ought to be able to do this, And these chickens' (brief) lives were paradise compared to that of the birds on factory farms.

Maria Cecilia -- there are all sorts of glamour, aren't there?

Elora - John constructed the WB Chicken Plucker and I swear, it's WONDERFUL! Well worth looking into.

Mountainwoman -- I've plucked a few by hand and it's a horrible job, in my opinion.

Welcome, Michele! We are trying to move toward self-sufficiency. We've had beef cattle and a flock of laying hens for over thirty years. These broilers are the next step. Upcoming -- a milk cow and pigs -- both of which we had for years and want to keep again.

Deanna - particularly before refrigeration, a flock of chicken was awfully handy for unexpected company.

Thanks, Mountainwoman! The stuffed butternut squash is definitely company worthy!

Jennyfreckles -- We went vegetarian for a year and I found it took an awful lot of time to turn out really good meals for my family. Eventually we gave it up. Plus, living on a farm, this just makes sense for us.

Lots of folks feel that way, Louise. But here again, the farm experience is different.

Star said...

Very interesting, especially the plucking machine. That's a very good invention. Your chickens didn't look old enough to go in the cone. Did you cut their throats yourselves? I kept chickens myself for ten years and enjoyed it very much.
Blessings, Star

Vicki Lane said...

Star -- They were 10 weeks which was the recommended age for 'harvesting.' Believe me, they were plenty big -- six plus pounds and one seven something.

John and Justin cut throats; I didn't. I could if I had to but preferred the job I had. (I find the inner workings pretty fascinating.)

June Calender said...

Nearly sixty years ago, but I well remember totally non-automated chicken killing on our farm. Often me with a hatchet in one hand, the over placing the chicken [held by the legs] head on a stump. Very accurate hatchet blow. Then I did the plucking, cutting up, frying [roasted was only for holidays]. What a heartless little beast I was. In my memory those chickens were as different from the pasty textured grocery store birds as were the garden tomatoes from the tasteless red blogs we have today. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Lots of memories for me, Vicki. My grandparents raised chickens and every Friday night they dressed the hens and fryers which Granddaddy delivered, along with eggs they'd candeled during the week, on Saturday morning. Then, when I was in my late teens, living in Ohio, I worked in a poultry plant, so I'm aware of all the "steps" needed. My primary job was "drawing" (the insides and giblets out). Some people are prone to poultry infection - I'm one of them. Many rounds of penicillin needed for my poor hands.

Pat in Florida

Merisi said...

Your chickens lives a dignified, well sheltered life.
Factory farming should be banned, but will not as long as we insist of gorging ourselves on huge quantities of meat every day.