Thursday, June 21, 2012
Chicken Butchering Part 1 - Equipment Needed to Butcher Chickens in Your Backyard
As a therapist, I find that if I can identify something as much for what it is as possible, then I have an easier time processing it. So I say butchering b/c that is what we did. My H is a butcher. It's not all bad. We are not all Daniel Day-Lewis throwing chunks of guts at people who piss us off, cleaver in hand, glass eye rolling maniacally.*
Also. I'm struggling with how to present the information I learned and in what format. Because it's really too much for one post, and should be broken down into several.
So this is how we are gonna roll out:
This post: General information about the atmosphere, who organized the "class", who attended, how we set up, and gear needed.
Next post: The killing, topical videos, and evisceration.
Final post: What to do with all the extra chicken parts and how to freeze chicken appropriately.
My friend C and I were going to butcher the chickens just by ourselves, but then the opportunity arose for her to offer a class through the Seattle Farm Co-Op (where she volunteers) for people who want to learn how to cull and eviscerate their chickens. Seattle has a no rooster policy and since the Co-Op sells chickens to people, they have made it their goal to offer support and assistance for all aspects of chicken keeping - including culling.
Three people decided to join us, as well as C's neighbor and her farmer friend who taught the class along with C.
I arrived early, after toting 4 anxious and angry roosters, a cuddly toddler (who was deposited at her GM's) and an Ion full of assorted gear from the South Sound to the North Sound, and unpacked all the stuff. One cooler filled with ice? Check. 4 roos? Check. Stephen Colbert totebag filled with super sharp knives, a cutting glove, plastic bags, a sharpening steel, plastic gloves and a bottle of water? Check check.
C got water boiling in a large pot on her grill, while I stood around unsure of what to do. She posted pictures of chicken parts, information about how to eviscerate and a colorful diagram of all the chicken cuts - I drank coffee and listened to the crowing of my dominant Roo. She sanitized her table, strung twine to hang the birds from (on a tree limb over some grass) - I stood around looking fabulous.
Eventually everyone trickled in with birds in carrying gear. We all quietly said hi to each other and made small talk. The mood was positive but slightly subdued and I know at least one other person besides myself was feeling nervous and anxious about getting started. C's farmer friend showed up. We all looked at each other. Time to start!
Make no mistake - I was there to bleed a chicken. When I say I'm gonna do something, I do it. In order for me to feel like I participated in this whole process, I needed to kill one of my own roosters. We set up stations - kill station, scalding station, evisceration station, and made sure that bleach water, a hose and kitchen towels were available. I was a little nervous/interested to see how the whole process would go, seeing as the mosque down the road was letting out of afternoon service just as we began, and whole slew of mosque going folk were streaming back to their cars as we strung up the first chickens. I didn't see any odd looks but again felt a little leery when a school bus trundled down the road and let it's grade school riders out, uh, right in front of the back yard fence.
Cripes. Nothing more alarming than a bunch of knife wielding hippies, hunched over steaming animal carcases talking about gizzards and asking which bowl the legs go in.
The gear needed to do a backyard culling are:
Killing area - a tree branch or a beam across chairs or something of that accord. Strung high enough so that the chickens don't hit the ground.
Twine - to cinch the feet and hold the chickens up side down.
Several Buckets - for feathers, offal, and any unusable parts. Also to catch the blood if you want to use it.
Cutting knives - the sharper the better. One large and one small. We all agreed a cleaver would have been nice, but not essential.
Gallon plastic bags - for putting the birds in after.
Bleach, Apple Cider Vinegar and water - for sanitizing
Cooler and Ice/Refrigerator
Big pot and heat source/thermometer - for scalding chickens to get the feathers off
Place to eviscerate - such as a table or an area over a tarp to catch all the nasties
It not really that technical, when I write out the list like that! The most invaluable asset to my first chicken butchering was having two people there who knew what they were doing (C and her farmer friend). I felt supported and in good company.
The mood of the class was respectful, informative while still remaining jovial and fun. I thought it was a good balance. At some point most of the women started sharing their birth stories (how the fuck we got on that, I'll never know) while the resident two uteran-challenged men stood by listening mutely. Turns out ladies who like to butcher their own hens also like to have their babies at home. Hm. Odd.**
Next post: Culling, Evisceration and Videos/Pictures
*If you haven't seen Gangs of New York, rent it and get ready for a gritty little treat.
** Or AWESOME. My home birth was radtastic.