September 29, 2015

We survived our first chicken harvest; the rooster did not

A few nights ago I decided it was time for the babies to sleep in the large coop with the adults.  They had been mingling nicely in the yard together for a few days, but at night all the adults went to roost in the large coop and the babies went to the small coop.  The little henhouse was really getting to be too small for 22 growing birds.  I closed their coop up before they went in for the night, and as I expected, when it got dark, all the babies frantically piled in front of the door to the little coop.  So I scooped them up a couple at a time and pushed them in through the chicken door to the large coop.  Initially all was okay.  There was a lot of chirping but nothing crazy.  

Then as I got to the last few babies, I heard a terrible squealing noise inside so I ran to look, getting there just in time to see the rooster pin a poor white baby to the ground and peck her hard, pulling out bunches of feathers.  I yelled and he looked up at me, beak full of feathers, giving the baby enough time to escape.  It didn't take him long to catch her again though.  I went running around to the back to try to catch him but they ran out into the run.  He chased her and pinned her a couple more times before I finally scooped him up and shoved him into the baby coop to isolate him.  I gently picked up the baby, who had buried her head in the dirt and was shaking all over.  Amazingly, she didn't look too injured, just terrified.  The rooster pounded on the walls of the coop and thrashed about crazily, but a calm settled in amongst the other birds.  I put the poor little white bird in with the others and she snuggled in with the pile of her sisters who were sleeping in a corner on the floor.  For their first night in the big coop not many of the babies attempted to claim a spot on the perches.  

I sent a message to my husband: it's time for a chicken dinner.  

---Warning: the next part of this post is a little graphic ---

We left the rooster in the small coop with just water for a day so he could cleanse his bowels.  Then Josh went and got him out. 

We set up this contraption in the workshop with a cone, similar to things we had seen online.  The bird goes in the cone, like he's doing a headstand.

Then you pull his head through the bottom...

And off with the head.

Josh held him in the cone for a minute or so while he thrashed a little, but this was much more contained than the old stories of when you cut the chicken's head off and he runs around the yard.

The five gallon bucket caught most of the blood, but there was a little splatter, which we promptly cleaned up so the workshop wouldn't permanently look like a crime scene!

Next the rooster came out to our work station we set up on the deck.  I boiled a pot of water on the stove and brought it out for the first step: plucking the feathers.  The water is supposed to be 150 degrees to make the feathers easier to pull.

Josh dunked him a few times.

Until the feathers started to release.

Then he went into a bucket of cold water to stop him from cooking.

Time to pluck!

And pluck!

And pluck some more!

Finally, he got most of the feathers off.

Now it was time for a bath.

The tail feathers wouldn't come out but that part of the bird gets cut off anyway so we didn't worry about it.  Here's what the plucked bird looks like.  Now it was time for evisceration.

First the feet come off.

Then the neck.

Then the bowels and organs.

Next he took off the wing tips.

And one more bath to clean the insides and outsides really well.

And wah-lah!  It's dinner!

We weighed the finished product and surprisingly he is only 2.5 pounds.  He looked huge compared to the other birds but I guess a lot of that is feathers.

I put him in the fridge last night but he's getting roasted tonight.  I'll post a picture of him when he's cooked.  I can't wait to taste him.  I've never had chicken so fresh before.

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