And Now There Are Broilers

Life is funny how it twists and turns to take shape in a way that you never saw coming.

Growing up, I remember my Dad butchering chickens in the backyard. He would grab one, lay it on the block, one crack of the ax and it’s head was gone. Then he would drop it and grab another one. Only when he dropped it, it didn’t die. Well, it was dead, but it’s nerves weren’t. I don’t know all the scientific ins and outs of this, but it was pretty darn freaky! The chicken jumped back up and ran all over the yard, blood squirting out where it’s head should have been. Soon our yard was covered in chickens flopping and running around headless. This was a nightmare, twilight zone experience for a child.

Then I grew up. I ran away from all things farm. Then life brought me home again.

10 years ago I only bought chicken breast from the store. Once my husband brought home a whole chicken and I looked at him like he brought home an alien for me to cook.

Then, another time, he made chicken tortilla soup. With a whole chicken. And I mean the WHOLE CHICKEN. I thought I had just popped a cherry tomato in my mouth, when I commented how it was the weirdest textured tomato I had ever eaten and he stoically announced that it wasn’t a tomato at all but a chicken heart. OK, that still kinda gags me out.

But as the years have gone by, knowledge and an ever-increasing hunger to be completely self-sufficient have brought me around to being OK with butchering our own chickens.

First, we began to read.

I read a lot. In fact, there is not a day that goes by, no matter how much farm work is going on, that I don’t get at least 25 pages of something in. I can thank my Mema (Grandma) and my Mother for instilling that in me. Many nights I fall asleep with a book propped up on my chest. This life is a learning adventure, and as long as there is something out there left to discover or experience, I will keep on sucking up knowledge.

When I began reading about factory raised chicken I was appalled. These pretty little packages of meat I was buying off my grocery store shelf where sick, poisoned, tortured birds who had been raised in filth, never seen the sun shine, and likely had ammonia burns before their lives were ended.

This was my healthy chicken breast.

So we began eating organic chicken, organic meat completely.

Then, a little over a year ago, I believe God brought a very special family into our lives. Through a course of random events, we met another homesteading family, very similar to ours. Hanson Family Farm is the name of their farm, and I highly recommend you look them up.

 http://www.hansonfamilyfarm.com/

We became good friends very quickly. It’s a great thing to have like-minded people around you. We share each others joys, sorrows, frustrations, and victories. We spur each other on in new endeavors and cry on each others shoulders when the work load from those same endeavors feels overwhelming.

It was from the Hanson family that I tasted farm raised chicken and remembered what chicken is supposed to taste like. There truly is no comparing it to anything at all that you can buy in a grocery store. It is so flavorful, juicy, and wonderful that it blows the doors off of any factory bird you can get. This is chicken raised on what it was meant to eat: Grass, insects, and perfectly grown, organic grains. I knew as soon as I had that first bird that we where gonna have to raise our own.

While Preston is all good with the processing part, I was still on the hesitant side of things.

I’m fine with the raising part. I can move chickens around, feed, water, so on, no problem. It’s the killing part that I struggled with. I’m not against it, I know it has to be done, it’s just hard for me. I have a Hippie Mom, I love her dearly, she raised me to love all animals. If you have a hippie mom, you can understand.

Last fall our wonderful farm friends had a batch of meat birds ready to process and invited us down to help. Help we did, and it was an eye-opening experience. I got to watch how the guys humanly killed the birds in cones and how they bled out, and essentially fell asleep. After the bird finished bleeding, the guys scalded them and put them into the plucker. This thing is awesome. Check out this link to watch it in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-pbRxIlpuw

This is not us, just a YouTube I pulled to give you a visual. Believe me, I’ve plucked chickens by hand. This thing is AWESOME!

So, once the chickens were naked, us girls got them. I learned how to make the cuts, swoop, swoop and pull out all the guts, INCLUDING the heart!, and pick any pin feathers that could be left.

Once that was done we plunged them into ice water to soak.

I walked away from that day knowing that we could do this and feeling able to do it with confidence.

So, that brings us to the present. Tomorrow brings our first batch of broiler chicks. In the morning we will be setting up the brooder, getting everything ready for the tiny chicks that will live wonderful lives and then give back to our family.

This is the circle of life, this is living off our land. This brings a peace and security that no trip to the grocery store could ever bring.

As my Shadow says, “Tomorrow we get the chicks! We feed them, we love them, we take care of them. Then we eat them! And they are really good!”

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5 thoughts on “And Now There Are Broilers

  1. So happy I found your blog. 🙂
    We got layers this spring and I love them. They are my pets, my garbage disposals, they follow me around like little puppies, and they provide gorgeous delicious eggs. I love them.
    I am VERY convinced the chicken I buy at the store for my family is NOT healthy. So i would love to get some broilers next year. But I am scared! 😉
    My parents raised meat and egg chickens when I was little for a year or two but I dont remember much.
    I guess I will just take the plunge. How old are they now? Have you butchered yet? 🙂

    1. Hi Janet! Thanks so much for reading 🙂
      I was a little apprehensive about adding broilers to the farm. The butchering was intimidating for me. But I am very glad that we took the plunge and did it.
      If you buy broilers they only take about 8 weeks to grow out. We raise ours on grass, bugs and organic broiler feed that we get from Coyote Feel Mill in Elgin TX.
      We invited several friends over that were interested in the butchering process the day of butchering. The guys took care ofthe killing part, which was done very calmly. We used a couple of traffic cones that Preston widened the tops on and hung them upside down between two saw horses and some 2*6’s we had sitting around. The guys would put a bird in the cone, upside down, slit it’s neck, quickly, (Sorry if that’s icky), and the bird simply fell asleep. There was no squawking or noise. They bled out in about 3 minutes and then were transfered to the boiling water pot, where they were dunked, the guys pulled the big feathers, chopped the feet and heads, and then gave them to us ladys. We had a table and water set up to clean all the pin feathers and pull the organs. After the bird was cleaned, we put it in a big cooler full of ice water, where it stayed for 24 hours to rest. Then they were packaged up and put in our freezer. Each bird took about 15 minutes, from start to finish. Having people there to help made it go by really quick and we had a lot of fun.

      We are now raising our second batch of broilers. They should be ready to harvest around new years.

      Even though it’s still hard for me to raise them from cute little chicks and then butcher them, there is absolutely no comparing them to anything you can get from the store. The meat is juicy and full of flavor and the taste is so much more rich. They are the best tasting birds ever.

      1. Thanks! That is so helpful and encouraging! Sounds like you had a smooth operation! Very smart! 🙂
        Did you raise Cornish Cross? We have Freedom Rangers available at our local feed store. They seem to be more “chicken like” and can walk around longer. Maybe I will start SMALL! 😉 I cant raise them until spring, its below zero this morning! haha
        Thanks again for your helpful response!!

      2. They were a Cornish cross. Good luck with your birds when they do come! And I’ll send you some warm thoughts from Texas where it was a sweaty 85° today!

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