If you purchased chicks way back in March when the Cheshire Horse was having its sale, you may be ready to harvest any roosters that ended up in your flock by accident. Not everyone wants to have a rooster for their hens, and in some areas in or around cities, you may not be allowed to have a rooster. If you’re ready to say goodbye to the males in your flock, then read on!
Chicks arrive all cute and fluffy. They enter a gawky, adolescent stage that is quite ugly, and then develop their full adult feathers and are invariably beautiful chickens. Male chickens, roosters, can become quite aggressive and attack hens and humans and other roosters violently. It’s rarely wise to keep more than one rooster in a flock, and even that might be more than you can handle. Remember, you don’t need roosters to get eggs.
On slaughter day, you should have everything ready ahead of time. Set up a place to kill your chickens that is away from the live ones, to keep trauma to a minimum. An upturned traffic cone or metal cone does very well to pop the chickens in, head down, for the killing. This keeps them from hurting themselves and you during the process. Very simply, using a sharp knife you will cut the neck about an inch from the chicken’s head, in a semi-circular fashion. This severs both main arteries and allows the heart and gravity to drain the bird of blood very quickly, allowing it to die with little or no pain and no panic.
Once the bird is drained, its head should be removed with scissors or axe. If you plan on plucking them, there should be a large pot of simmering water available to dip the chickens in. This relaxes the pin feathers, and allows you to pull or pluck them out more easily. A plucking machine speeds this up tremendously. Another option is to remove the skin and feathers entirely, discarding them. The skin is slit at ankles, along the breastbone, and at the neck then peeled gently off like a coat.
Once the feathers are gone, decide if you want chicken parts or a whole roaster. Generally, chickens that weigh less than five pounds are cut up, and larger ones saved for whole cooking. For chicken parts, you can carefully cut off the breasts (see attached video), then remove the wings and legs from the main body. There is no need to gut the chicken, as the main carcass is simply discarded.
For a whole chicken, you need to carefully remove the guts. Someone with small hands should do this, as the innards of a chicken are quite tiny. Cut carefully around the anus and vent hole of the chicken, then tie it off to prevent the escape of any feces. Enlarge the hole gently and reach into the opening, just as you would when stuffing a Christmas turkey. Remove the guts slowly and carefully, being sure not to puncture anything. Some people save out the liver, heart, and gizzard, while others discard them. Gizzards must be split open and cleaned out of grass and gravel before storing.
Cleaned or pieced chicken should immediately be immersed in cold water to allow the flesh to firm up. Then clean the chicken thoroughly all over with fresh running water, paying careful attention to the inside cavity of whole chickens. Once clean, whole or pieced meat can be bagged in freezer baggies or in vacuum sealer bags and frozen.
One fun way to store your chicken is to pour in flavored sauces before freezing and sealing. During the thawing process, your chicken will automatically marinate, providing a gently and deliciously flavored chicken.
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