Chickens to the slaughter

Separating chickens at dawn

Raising your first chickens, killing them, and eating them has gotta rank up there with other Firsts worth a little attention. Now, I’m at least part of the way there: the killing this time was done behind closed doors, with me on the outside—chicken PROCESSING. Still, first enough to be worth a few photos… I’d been cutting it close with booking a processing day for the White Rocks, the local processor is known to get solidly booked for weeks. I finally called yesterday, looking for a date in two weeks, and was told there was also a cancellation for tomorrow (today!). I checked out the WRs, and, man, how could I imagine them getting any bigger (I think I was mesmerized, waiting for them to explode)? So I called back and booked. We drove over last night to pick up crates (20 minutes each way), then it was up at 5:30 this morning to load ‘em. As soon as I opened the door, all of the Frey’s dual purpose darted out immediately, as usual, while the WRs, who mostly go nowhere, stayed in: it was kinda fitting that the Frey’s stood around in unfenced-in freedom, ready to run (and they would’ve!), while the WRs kinda dumbly looked out at their crates (above).

Crated chickens

Five to a crate, 25 in all, 30 minutes or so to loaded…no need to chase down these lumbering beasts (while I was packing, most of the Frey’s figured out no good was afoot and entirely disappeared around the other side of the chickenhouse, something they’d never done before, while a couple stayed to watch).

The chicken processing place

The processor is on a farm, a low building where birds go in live on one side, and come out the other, cleaned and chilled, weighed and government-inspected, ready to go…

Unloading chickens at the processing house

Bob and a processing guy unload. It’s 6:45am. The paperwork is quick and painless, I didn’t even have to write or sign anything. The only sign of bureaucracy in action is the required chicken purchase number, a serial number that’s on the form that you fill out when purchasing the chicks. And the on-premises government inspector popped out and did a little of his own paperwork. Other than that, just processing choices. For a few cents more (like 75-85), you can have the chickens halved and put in separate bags, or halved or quartered in the same bag. We got 10 halved and separated, for when cooking a whole fat chicken would be a little too much. Modern conveniences?! :) I also chose to get the organs back (in the black bag; below).

Picking up freshly killed and chilled chickens

Eleven hours later, it’s 5:30pm and we’re back. Matthew helps pack the big birds for the trip home and into the freezer. Average weight is around 8lbs (3.6kg), where the Frey’s are maybe barely 3lbs. Hmmm… Not the most satisfying little adventure, with three 40-minute round trip drives, and the chickens disappearing through yet another middleman, reappearing neatly packaged for $3 more… With the processing fee tacked on for good measure, these are EXPENSIVE chickens, but I’ll do the math, and review the overall, somewhat unsettling White Rock Experience…later. On the other hand, you can’t beat the results: a lotta REALLY plump chickens! Next up in Meat Birds, Take 1: waiting for the free-ranging Frey’s to bulk up, and THEN it’ll be a fully DIY field-to-table chicken dinner!

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18 Responses to “Chickens to the slaughter”

  1. AnnaMarie says:

    I always figure that the extra expense to raise it yourself and have it humanely and cleanly slaughtered is much, much cheaper than time spent in a hospital with Salmonella or E-coli.

    I have to buy my organic chickens right now but I sure don’t begrudge the cost.  Hopefully someday soon I’ll get to raise them and enjoy Chicken TV before they go to freezer camp!

  2. Nancy Bond says:

    Kudos to you for taking your birds from coop to table!

  3. Meg says:

    Wow, that’s amazing! Congrats on the chicken harvest!

    I’ll be curious to know the per pound cost when you total up the processing … though, even if the birds do turn out to be significantly more expensive than what you’d get at a store, it’s got to be worth it that you raised your own and were able to get them processed at a small, local  place.

  4. David says:

    Good job humanely raising your chickens, and thanks for the photos.  Do you have any details re the slaughtering?  Have you been inside?

    Also, beside the costs, please let us know how they taste!

  5. Deborah says:

    I can’t believe how quickly they’ve gone from chick to table.  My chicks are around 3 weeks at the moment and are growing slowly – silver laced wyandots -.  I to will be really interested in your costings.  Are they for your consumption only or for sale as well?  If the latter how much would the cages cost because that would cut out one car journey if you are thinking of raising them commercially.

    Many thanks on allowing us to drop in on you experiment btw, its fascinating, another piece of information to tuck away and have when required

  6. Compostings says:

    Incredibly interesting! Thank you for sharing in such detail.

  7. Full of Compost says:

    Is the cost of processing different for larger or smaller orders? If you bring in 100 chickens is the cost per chicken different than if you brought in 1000?

  8. granny miller says:

    You are fortunate to have a processor to do your chickens.
    DIY processing is a chore – especially during the warm months.

    I have home slaughtered 50 chickens in one day with 2 people helping.
    It’s a nasty, nasty job – 5 gallon buckets of guts, chicken heads,feet & feathers everywhere – not to mention the smell!

    Home raised chicken isn’t cheaper – just safer.

  9. Curmudgeon says:

    This was a most fascinating read. Thank you so muc hfor sharing it with us.

  10. Amy says:

    I have got to get out of the city and back into the country where I can have chickens again! Thanks for the post! Have you thought about doing turkeys?

  11. I am very curious to see what the overall cost would be on the entire venture.  Thanks for detailing it for us.  I will keep posted to find out the rest of the results

  12. Mike (tfb) says:

    Here are the answers I have so far!

    Cost: I’m hoping it’ll be around $3/lb ($6.60/kg). I SHOULD be able to just add up the sales slips, but I’ve somehow stashed them here and there…who knows why?…and haven’t got round to gathering them. At our farmer’s market, one vendor has free-range chicken for $2.80/lb, and rate for small flock chicken, not necessarily free-ranged, is around $2.50. None of this is certified organic, and ours won’t be either (the farm is overall certified, but livestock isn’t automatically included).I’ll detail all this in a post as soon as I’ve added it all up!

    Who’s gonna eat ‘em: These will probably be used here. We still have a dozen Frey’s that’ll reach whatever weight they’re going to within the next couple of months, so it’s quite a little stock of CHICKEN. But I’ll also give some away as thanks for various things! Chicken as currency…!

    Processing cost: It’s $3+tax, which works out to, I think, $3.45. Then it’s extra for cutting and separate bagging, that works out to just under a buck. So it could be as high as $4.50 or so per… I got 10 of the 25 halved. I’m not sure if there’s a volume discount. Here in Ontario, Canada, the small flock maximum is 300 chickens per year, total. If you buy over 300 in a year, you need a chicken quota, which costs. I don’t know anything about that. In any case, I imagine it’s a different ballgame when you’re up above 300…

    Home processing: This was seriously considered, a couple of home slaughter vets were up for it, but I wasn’t this time around, I’ve got way more than enough stuff to do in the garden. I’ll start my, um, killing spree with the Frey’s, one and two at a time…

    Other meat birds: I’ve THOUGHT about just about everything, ducks and turkeys particularly. I’m starting with chicken… :) I’m not sure if in the immediate future birds are for farm use only, or for sale, so that has to be worked out after Chickens, Take 1! Part of it is facilities. Like, right now, I’d have probably gotten day old White Rocks to take another try, but there are still the Frey’s around, plus the new layers, so that’s the Chickenhouse, full.

  13. nika says:

    It is SO tempting to go this route.  Have killed (lab animals), chickens, guinea hens and this weekend my first duck (she had serious splayed legs so this was a mercy and not what I really wanted to do). 

    While I still get flashbacks to the actual act of killing, thats natural, but what I really dislike the most of all is plucking.  I do not mind any of the rest of it compared to the frustrations with plucking.

    Loving your blog, this is my first time visiting.

    Nika

  14. shantipeace says:

    Wonderful to see everything here. Can I ask you some advice? About mizzuna and other such greens. If I just keep picking off the leaves and leave the roots will something keep growing back?
    I heard if I leave my lettuce go to seed then it will come back next year. I guess this is true. Is it re-seeding itself through the seeds from the flower or thru the roots?
    How about other such greens?

    Any help would be adored, thanks

  15. a says:

    poor poor chicken. i eat chicken and other meats all my life, but it’s sad to see these cute lovely chickens ending up into packaged meats. i am a hypocrite indeed. i ‘ve never killed a chicken in my life. first time visit your blog. love the harvest section. from malaysia. have mild heart defect which means may not have the energy to work as  a farmer thus envy your life. hard work though. maybe not suitable for me

  16. Crystal says:

    I also have a small farm in Southern Ontario and would like to start raising chickens. Where did you find a custom abattoir for such a small number of chickens?

  17. Tony Davis says:

    We recently started a chicken farm in the RGV of South Texas. It is exhausting, but rewarding. Thanks for posting and I am a regular visitor of your site. For the reader above looking for a chicken coop, I got mine here, please visit: http://www.originalshelters.com

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