Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raising your own Chickens: Planning for Processing

A lot of folks are taking to raising their own chickens these days, whether they are a few backyard egg layers for your own breakfast omelets, or a pasture full or meat chickens to fill your freezer, it's becoming more and more common for folks to raise their own.  I think this is GREAT! We love birds, and knowing someone is raising them in their backyard means it's that many birds NOT put into battery cages - but that's a discussion for another day.

Talk about free range!!

The trick is - whether you are raising for meat or for eggs, eventually you may decide it's time to put them in your freezer. If you only have a few, a stock pot for scalding, a few friends (or kids) for plucking and a good sharp knife for cleaning them out might be all you need. Or someone really well versed in knife wielding can skin one or two for you, and save the energy of plucking all together.

That surprise rooster that the city won't allow you to have... find him a new home, or send him to the stew pot!

But what if you have 20, 30 or 50 birds? What if you named them all, and now you don't have it in you to butcher them yourself?

The options in Colorado are slim. Even the big Butterball plant in Longmont shut down. There aren't many folks in Colorado that do custom poultry processing, anymore.  And we can tell, we get more phone calls every year - sometimes from folks that are frantic and need their birds butchered NOW!

Some meat birds, and young layers hanging out in the summer time



We have 2 options, you can come to us and we'll do your birds, or rent our gear and do it yourself.

The trick is to plan ahead, either way. We have limited time to butcher birds - we both work jobs off the farm, have livestock and plants to tend to, and frankly, I don't want to butcher birds every single weekend, sometimes we need a break, too! 
 

Planning ahead and trying to schedule when the birds arrive to you and when they should be ready to butcher is key. We've had folks call us in January, with their birds ready to go, just to find out that our processing is outside, and we can't do it in freezing weather.  Or to find out that the day they need butchering, we already have 200 other birds scheduled and can't possibly squeeze in another.  PLanning ahead means we can save a date for you, or suggest one that isn't already booked, so you can get your birds at a time when we will be able to process for you.

Turkey weekend is our busiest processing weekend all year, and it takes all winter just to recover!
 

Wait, what was that you said? You don't butcher in winter? Nope, we sure don't. We've done it in the past and it is MISERABLE and just no fun for anyone involved. The hoses freeze, the birds freeze to the wet processing table - it's no fun. So if you are thinking of getting rid of some old egg layers, get them in before winter.  And whether you bring birds to us or someone else - plan ahead and schedule ahead with whomever is helping you. It's no fun to see that your birds are ready to go, and then discover you have no place to take them!
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