Today I butchered chickens. Gathered in the corral (krell) were Bertha, Bambi, James (new guy), Butch, Little Buddy, and myself. It's been very hot and dry, but today was overcast with a light drizzle of rain, perfect weather for processing some chicken carcasses. We used a propane powered turkey fryer to boil our water. After waiting and waiting and waiting, the water still was not hot. My mother-in-law, Bertha, began gathering chickens anyway. "Gathering" sounds rather peaceful. There was lots of wing-flapping, feathers flying, and squawking. I just watched them.
Bambi decided to do the honor of cutting off their heads while Bertha held their bodies. Once they are dead, they really do flop around for several minutes, hence the expression, "running around like a chicken with its head cut off". After they stopped flopping, we would hold them in the hot water. This makes feather removal so much easier. They almost fall off when you touch them if the water is hot enough. I offered to remove the guts, which is probably the least favorite job among us chicken butcherers. You have to be careful not to pierce the intestines. Once the guts are all removed, you can save whatever "innards" you want. James kept telling me to save the livers but I'm pretty sure he was talking about the lungs. Whatever.
The dogs like to chew on the feet. I've read that chicken feet make very nutritious broth but there is so much dirt and poop caked onto the bottoms of their feet that it just seems gross. We have a friend from Vietnam who asked us to save her the heads last summer. She proceeded to make chicken head soup, feathers and all. I did not taste it.
Little Buddy wanted to kill one. Bambi held his hand on the hatchet and helped him whack a few. I told him he also needed to help us pluck the feathers if he was going to kill them. I was trying to show him it's not just all fun and games to kill an animal, and that there has to be a purpose behind the killing. He did not care for the feather plucking. He did enjoy it when James and Butch helped him cut the feet off the carcasses.
All told I think we got about 18. We rinsed the bodies, threw them in garbage bags and into the walk-in cooler at my mother-in-law's house. Tomorrow I'll bag them individually for freezing. I'll also take some of them home to skin and cut into pieces. That way when a recipe calls for chicken thighs, I won't have to defrost several chickens all at once.
It is a ton of work to do all this, but we feel good knowing where our food comes from. I enjoy working with the others. The chickens we butcher ourselves will last us all winter.
And in case you were wondering, no, I did not eat any chicken today.