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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Planning for chicken processing

This post is a doozy. We may have gone a little overkill with the planning (what happens when your day job blends with your hobbies), but better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, right?

We started with 56 birds and with the loss of 2 from flip and early processing of 2 that looked like the end was near, we are left with 52 birds to process. That still felt a little overwhelming, so we were grappling with the decision of whether or not to bring the birds to a nearby farm to be processed or to do it all ourselves. Since we went through the whole ordeal on our own last year with fewer birds, we weren't overwhelmed with the concept itself, but just by the amount of birds.

To help us with our decision, we did some cost analysis and mapped out the steps for both processing the chickens at home or having someone else do them. 


For total costs, we are looking at a difference of a little over $100. Since we already processed 2 early, those are factored in to the total cost below.


The cost of having someone else do them came from some calling around and the plucker and cone rental required some investigation as well. We plucked the birds by hand last year and knew that plucking 52 birds by hand in one day was something that could potentially end a marriage. Two different types of feed above are the crumble starter and the grower. If we had someone else do the processing, then the cost for the bags would be included and the rentals clearly would not be factored in.

In the process map below, we thought out each step and what materials we would need for the step (found in the text below the box). Anything in red is something that we would either need to buy or rent that we don't already have on hand. While we have one nozzle sprayer for the hose, it was going to make things a lot easier to have one for the second hose so that we could both use them for two different steps in the process. In the clean area for evisceration, I included a sub-step to explain what is involved. Hopefully helpful for those who are thinking about doing it yourself. The "chill and hold" step is optional, but something we took into consideration in case we get backed up before that step. The freshly plucked chickens will have a place to hang out and "chill" out of the heat and away from flies.



We also mapped out the steps for bring the chickens to a nearby farm to be processed, along with the materials or straight out cash that would be needed. I've also listed some questions that you may want to consider asking if you are having someone else process your birds.



So, what is our final decision in the end? We are opting for at home processing on our own for a few reasons. 100 extra dollars in your pocket is always a great thing. The stress on the birds for transport also weighed into our decision, but mostly the pride of knowing that we did it ourselves.

Some helpful resources:

Shrink bags from Nadya's Poultry in Vermont (ships all over the US)

Plucker rentals listed by state  - though it doesn't hurt to call around to local farms if you don't see one listed here. The farm we are renting from ended up being by word of mouth

Butchering by Adam Danforth - A very beautiful and informative book that gave us all the information we needed when we processed our chickens for the first time last year

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