Eight weeks ago Nancy called me from a feed store in Weiser, Idaho asking me what I thought about her purchasing a dozen baby meat chicks and enough organic mash to raise them for the next eight weeks. She had gone with our neighbor Craig Krosch to a feed supply store that specializes in top quality grain and feed. Craig purchases a finishing grain for his cattle there and goes every two weeks. (We often say that if you were born a cow you would want to be Craig’s cow because he would take such good care of you.) Nancy thought it would be good to try their chicken feed after talking to Craig. I had stayed home to put some finishing touches on the chicken coop which recently became home to twelve Bard rock laying hens. They too were young chicks and the thought of raising an additional batch of meat chickens was a new idea. But, because we always desire to learn new things here at our homestead on Timber Butte I told her to bring the new chick’s home. To our amazement these small fluffy yellow chicks grew to full grown 5-8 lb. birds in exactly eight weeks and were ready for the freezer. Yesterday we spent the morning butchering and for folks who haven’t raised chickens specifically for this purpose I’ll give you a quick rundown on some of the things we learned.
The first thing we learned is that certain chickens are specifically bred to do nothing but gain weight fast. Watching them gain a pound of body weight a week was an amazing thing to see. We treated them exactly the same as our young laying hens in terms of feed, space and water, yet they grew twice as fast.
Not having butchered that many chickens at one time we took the advice of our good friend Margaret Robnett and improvised a butchering funnel. She told us to use a road construction cone, but because I didn’t have quick access to one (legally that is), I formed one out of sheet metal. This device contains the chickens wings when their head is removed keeping them from flapping all over and bruising the meat. It worked perfect. We also took Margaret’s advice and used lopping sheers (the kind you use to prune trees) to remove their heads. Kind of a gruesome thought I guess, but humane and functional.
In the end we figured that it cost us just a little shy of $10 a chicken. This isn’t a great savings in terms of buying a commercially wrapped chicken from the market, but knowing how this meat was raised and that they ate all organic feed is a good feeling. Next year we plan on doing it again with at least twice as many birds.
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