Time's Up, Chickies!
But all good things must eventually come to an end. The chicken coop was here when we moved in but it was in pretty sad shape. Yeoldfurt put a lot of hours into refurbishing it and we bought the chicks to begin with so we could have fresh eggs. Since roosters don't lay eggs, they were freezer-bound from day one.
I've butchered chickens the old-fashioned way many a time and the only part I really dislike is the de-feathering. It's messy and tedious and you end up with wet feathers everywhere. So a few weeks ago, I did some research online and found a site that described a method of skinning the chicken. I never thought of that! It promised to be a much faster process and since the skin is where most of the fat is on a chicken, this method would produce a much healthier end product. So I printed it out and that's the method we used.
Initially, you tied the birds' legs together and hang them upside down so they eventually pass out. Here are three of the boys, waiting for their turn. Even with the little pea-sized brain that chickens have, you have to wonder what they must have been thinking. I warn you that the next two pictures might be too graphic for some. This is about butchering chickens. Any meat goes through some pretty gruesome stages before it's fit for the freezer. So scroll down at your own discretion.
After the birds have hung for a few minutes, Yeoldfurt used an axe to cut their heads off and then hung the carcass on a tree hook we have to let them bleed out a little. There is surprisingly little blood in a chicken, but there's enough to get you messy if you're not careful. We found out the hard way. With the bird hanging from the tree hook, Yeoldfurt used his little pocket knife to trim the hide starting at the legs and working down. The hardest part proved to be the wings because they are relatively fragile limbs on a bird and, even with using the knife, you have to pull pretty hard on the skin to separate it from the bird.
When the skin was completely removed and the bird was gutted, Yeoldfurt took a short break and let me take over. I rinsed them off good with the hose and put them in plastic bags in the ice chest. Icing them down right away hopefully kept them from drying out too much. When all the birds were done and the tools were all cleaned and put up, Yeoldfurt took a well deserved break and I took the cooler up to the house to clean the birds a second time and vacuum seal them for the freezer. (Thank you SanJac and MrsSanJac for our FoodSaver...what a nifty contraption!) The split halves fit very nicely in the vacuum seal bags I had made up.
Since these birds are skinless they will have to be cooked in such a way that they don't dry up like shoe leather. But I've already thought of a few ways to accomplish that. There will be times when I do want a bird with the skin on, like for roasting with stuffing. But on those occasions, I will splurge on store-bought and let someone else deal with wet feathers!
The article said it would take about 20 minutes to do one bird but we found that it took about twice that long. Maybe the author of the article was exaggerating his own prowess at the process or maybe we were just slow because we had never done it this way. It took us about five hours, start to finish, but that included about 30 minutes to get set up and another hour to clean up and package the birds for the freezer. If we had been doing it the old fashioned way and de-feathering them, it would have taken even longer, I'm sure. I told Yeoldfurt after the third bird, "Now I know why our great grandparents only did one chicken at a time!"