Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alouetté, gentille alouetté...

Warning - this contains some detailed photos of our us harvesting our excess roosters.

This summer our broody hens hatched out seven chicks, of which four turned out to be boys.  Now, hopefully you know by now that you don't need roosters for hens to lay eggs.  Additionally, when you have more than one rooster fighting for dominion over the harem things can turn nasty.  Our dominant, three-year-old rooster Kazoo will not share the coop with the young upstarts, so every night we have to go out with a flashlight and rescue the recalcitrant boys off the roof of the coop and shove them in with everyone else. Since it's hard to find homes for excess boys, we decided to take the plunge and do our first chicken harvest.

Neither of us had harvested chickens before, so we watched some youtube videos.  I liked this one the best. We dressed in Troy's cooking clothes.  Set up an ice bath, trash can, hanging hook, cutting board, and knives, and caught us a rooster boy each.

We didn't have a cone, so we simply tied them up by their feet and bleed them out by cutting a carotid artery on the side of the neck.  The chickens are already in a semi-stupor when held upside down, and once they loose significant blood pressure, it all ends pretty quickly. 
Troy decided he wanted to try skinning his chicken.  Here it is after being rinsed off.

I wanted to go traditional by plucking my bird.  There is definitely a knack to it, and while there are a few pins left in the skin, it wasn't that hard.  This is my bird after plucking.  Really does look like one of those imitation rubber chickens.

There's the crop.  Don't want to cut that open accidentally.  This is where all of those biology dissections really come in handy.  Pulling apart viscera is the same on all animals.

Yes Mom, that's me doing the nitty gritty.  I really did stick my hand repeatedly into the chicken.  (Ask me about the time I didn't eat chicken for several months after being threatened to stick my hand into the chicken or go without.)

When we were done we rinsed out each carcass and placed them in the ice bath to finish cooling rapidly, finally putting them in a freezer bag and into the freezer.  Since these birds are all from breeds that specialize in egg laying, they don't have the plump breasts that meat birds do, so these won't be great roasting birds.  Also, at four months of age are probably beginning to toughen up just a bit.  Most roasting birds are harvested at 10-12 weeks old.  These'll probably go into a soup or stew pot.


Gail said...

I'm thinking of becoming a vegetarian now. :)

Mardi said...


I'm really proud of you! You did your homework and you guys did a great job. Thanks for documenting it for the rest of us.

Luci said...

We ate the first of our harvested chickens on Sunday, in a lovely chicken veg rice soup. DH said he felt a little queasy putting the chicken in the pot, but I poked the leg sticking out and mumbled something like, "That's right, you're in the pot." It was exhilarating to achieve this new level of sustainability.

Idea Hamster said...

I'm in the same situation, with 4 roosters and am looking to butcher my first chicken. You mentioned some useful YouTube videos, can you recommend any specific vids or web sites? Tried to find the carotid artery, but was unable to locate it.

Luci said...

Hi Idea Hamster,

The one I linked in the blog is this link:

I also found this one to have good tidbits of information, like why to do it a certain way.

The carotid is in the hollow between the windpipe/crop in the front and the spinal cord in the back of the neck, just like on humans. You'll want a small blade like a scalpel to make this relatively small cut without cutting into the spinal cord, though that is preferable to cutting the windpipe/crop.

Idea Hamster said...

Thank you for the recommendations. If the weather improves, I'll put what I've learned into practice today.