Cock-A-Doodle … Don’t

IMG_2815At the time of year I wanted to get my chicks there was a 15 chick minimum. I decided to get 14 hens and one rooster.. and the free one they would throw in I expected to be a rooster. My research showed two roosters to 14 hens was a decent ratio and if either rooster got stupid and mean, I could get rid of one and still have the one. But.. the hatchery ended up sending 12 hens and five roosters. That ratio proved to be very unhealthy in the flock. There was a lot of aggression and the hens started getting beat up. I also had some of the roosters starting to do their little aggressive tap dance towards me and I was beginning to become concerned about my safety. When I had to bring a hen in for a week to let her neck heal from being grabbed so much to the point she was bleeding I decided I had had enough.

IMG_3756 (1)I decided to try and sell the extra roosters. The local Craigslist was where I advertised three of the five roosters. The most aggressive and the runt were the easy choices. Then I had to decide between a male that had genetics for colored egg, an Easter Egger or dark brown eggs from the Cuckoo Maran. I really liked the Easter Egger. I liked his red color and the way he carried himself. He got along with Jose.. the Black Astraulorp roo I am keeping. The Cuckoo Maran was large and noisy. He also was getting and breeding the hens in the coop and nest boxes as well as in corners under the coop since the other roosters would not let him breed the hens. They also got tired of all his crowing and would chase him when he started in with all the noise. And so he made the list.

Craiglist also had a regular ad where some one will buy hens or roosters for $5 per bird. I knew they were processing the birds to eat and decided to give the boys and the ad about two weeks. If no takers then I was going to give them a call to come and get the roos.

I am a frequently on Craigslist looking for things. I always check out the free stuff and also like to see hat kind of chickens are local to me. While on Craigslist one day I happened to see an ad for Black Copper Marans by Bigfoot Birds. These birds lay a very dark brown egg and I was curious what they sold the chicks for as I thought I might want a few to add to the flock. Then down at the bottom of the ad was some information that really caught my eye. They stated they will help people “clean” their birds for $5 each. If you wanted to watch and learn that was fine. If you just wanted it done with out having to see it that was fine too. I immediately sent a text asking for an appointment as the time had elapsed and I needed these roosters gone. I was sent noon on Valentines Day as  my appointment time.

IMG_4426 (1)Since there was starting to be some aggression towards me I was not sure I wanted to chase and grab roosters with the chance another one would decide I was a threat and get me when my back was turned. My solution was to reach in the back coop door with the pop door still closed and grab them by the foot and pull them out. I had two small dog carriers that they were put into. It took just a few minutes to get the three roosters caught and put in the carriers. I then put the carriers in the chicken run and opened the pop door. It was amazing that taking those three out of the mix almost immediately gave me a calmer flock. The three crowed and scuffled around in their carriers but since they could not reach the hens everyone was much more relaxed. It was at that moment I was glad I was taking steps to get rid of those roosters.

butcherI was pretty lucky the chicken breeders were about 15 minutes from my home. James met me outside the facility and inspected my birds for mites, ticks and health issues. We then proceeded to his processing area. There was a table with a plastic tablecloth covering it, a very large stock pot on a grate over a wood fire, and some 4×4 end posts with a 2×6 attached about shoulder height. Attached to that horizontal 2×6 were bleach bottles.The bottoms were cut off and they were attached bottoms up. The top was also cut but there was still some left creating a bit of a funnel. [photo from HERE with pretty much directions like I am giving in this post]

We waited until the water over the wood fire reached a temperature of 150 degrees. Once the water was the proper temp it was time to start processing the birds. The first rooster was put upside down into the bleach bottles and his head pulled through the neck at the bottom. The bottles kept him contained and snug. Then, with a very sharp knife, the head was removed.

IMG_4141 (1)It took a few minutes for him to bleed out and this part is not for the faint of  heart. Even without a head he would kick and squirm. It is nice this farm offers to do this and allow people to be elsewhere when it is being done. I have a background as a vet tech at one point in time and had a husband that hunted .. so the blood and what was actually being done did not bother me. The birds were humanely dispatched and I was going to have meat in the freezer. Still, they were my babies at one point in time. The health of my flock and the concern I could get hurt if I did not do this steeled my resolve this was the best thing to do.

Once the bird bled out he was grabbed by the legs and dipped a few times into the hot water. I was told dunk in and out just enough to get the hot water up next to the skin but not so much you get the flesh cooking. The bird was then laid on the table and the feathers pulled out. I knew I did not have a problem processing my birds but in my mind removing the feathers was the hangup. I was not sure how to get all the feathers off. I was a little amazed how easily they pulled out with just a few dips in the hot water. It did not take long and I had a feather free bird.

I was then shown how to remove the legs and the insides. The heart, liver and gizzard were put aside to take home as well as he cleaned bird. I was  also shown how to clean out the gizzard and how to remove the tough lining. A quick rinse with a garden hose and the bird was ready for a bag. I was told to bring one gallon Ziploc bags but none of the boys fit in them. I needed something around a two gallon size to get the entire bird inside and zipped closed. Not sure if they make that size so will need to do some research and see what can be used in the future.

I did the best I could to get most of the bird in the bag then put him in a cooler with ice. Then we went on to the next bird and at that time Shannon, the owner of the farm, came out to say hi. Since James had the processing under control I got a tour of the breeding pens. We had a nice chat about breeding and I learned a lot. I thanked her for the service I getting rid of my extra roosters. She stated she heard over and over from people that came to buy chicks that they had these extra birds and were upset at having to feed and care for them. She heard stories about aggressive roosters hurting people but they had no knowledge and/or desire to end somethings life. So she decided to step into that place of teaching or just being someone to do the dirty work for people. I was the third person to take advantage of their new service and she said the feedback has been very positive. I told her this service is very needed as roosters can become a liability. I had received no interest in someone purchasing the roosters and I desperately needed them gone. I also told her that although I was now comfortable doing it myself.. I would come back to her farm because I enjoyed the company so much.

IMG_4428When I got home I did a more thorough cleaning of the birds. I also cut the necks off and put them with the hearts, livers and gizzards in a pot of water to simmer. I then got out my Food Saver and put two of the birds in bags for the freezer. The smallest one was 2 pounds 13 ounces and the middle bird, the really aggressive one, was 3 pounds 3 ounces. The large Maran rooster went directly into the pot. He was at 4 pounds. I am sure purchasing a chicken at the supermarket is a bit cheaper than what I now had in the pot, especially since I just spent $5 to process him. But I do know how he was raised and what he has eaten. There are no growth hormones, GMO grains and he had a great life until he was processed at six months of age.

I must admit I had some moments when I felt a bit bad about what I was doing. But my flock is more relaxed and the hens are not getting so beat up. The rooster I had in the pot I was going to use to make some Chicken Spaghetti and it will provide me lunch for a while. So yes.. I am good with processing my own chickens.  And now I have no issues about raising chicks and dealing with the roosters I am sure to get.

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