When we bought our latest flock of 18 chickens, the plan was to raise some as egg-layers and some as meat birds. As longtime city slickers, neither of us had ever butchered and processed a chicken, so we knew eventually we’d have to learn how and give it a try.
Eventually turned out to be sooner than we’d anticipated.
Chareva moved the chicken coop yesterday, and when she stepped inside afterwards to top off the supply of food and water, she discovered to her horror that two of the chickens had gotten trapped and mangled by the wire mesh. Both had broken legs – one poor bird, in fact, had a leg torn off. (Yes, we will be revisiting the design of the coop to figure out how to avoid a repeat incident.) The only merciful option was to put them out of their misery.
So Chareva quickly reviewed how to process a chicken on YouTube and got to work. (If the sight of someone killing and gutting an animal grosses you out, you’d best stop reading now.)
First she hung the birds upside down and slit their throats to bleed them out. Then she removed the heads.
When the birds stopped moving, she dipped the bodies into a pot of hot water to loosen the feathers. Then she hung them upside down again and started plucking. Most of the feathers came off pretty easily.
Online videos suggest using a propane torch to remove the fine feathers. We don’t have a propane torch, but a makeshift version seemed to do the trick. (As we discovered later during dinner, the tiny feather shafts that remained stuck in the skin had the consistency of crispy rice.)
Next came the tricky part: removing the organs without spilling the contents of the guts inside the carcass and ruining the meat. Chareva worked slowly and methodically, gradually working her way through the neck and tail with small cuts until she was able to release and pull out the organs. At this point, I was convinced she would have made a fine pioneer woman. Nothing about the entire process fazed her.
The birds were small, so she elected to cook both of them for dinner. She added olive oil, garlic and rosemary, then roasted them on top of some sweet potatoes from our garden. The rosemary came from our garden as well. Aside from the olive oil and a side of green beans, this was pretty much a farm-to-forks meal.
Like I said, the birds were small, but the flavor was excellent. When I was a kid, I liked chicken. As an adult, not so much. Chicken usually tastes bland to me. I thought my taste buds had changed, but now I’d say it’s more likely the chickens that have changed. I don’t know what kind of chickens I ate as a kid 45 years ago, but I doubt they were factory-raised chickens pumped full of hormones. Heritage-breed chickens raised outdoors on a farm are chickens done right.
Next time, of course, the “done right” part will include butchering the chicken because it’s fully grown and ready for the oven.