Meat Chickens – Initial Reflections

It’s been about a week since our first batch of meat chickens all graduated to the freezer.  We’ve enjoyed a much simpler set of morning and evening farm chores, are already using one of the electric netting runs that had been surrounding them on a goat run, and have eaten two of the chickens.

I’m sure we’ll have more to say about this first experience at some point, but we have some lessons learned that are already clear.  In no particular order:

  • Plucking seems to be the hardest part of DIY chicken processing.  We used the “Power Plucker” – a drill bit that has rubber fingers to pull feathers out of a scalded bird.  It worked well, but took some practice, and we haven’t gotten a good plucking done in just 90 seconds like the website brags.  We have yet to find the best way to hold the drill down while doing this.  The Power Plucker works, but a tub plucker would be a lot better, I think.
  • Scalding, until we built the temperature-controlled scalder, was really hard.  Once we had the scalder built and a bit of practice, it was a breeze.
  • The Rainbow Rangers were a bit disappointing to us as a breed.  Our chicken experience is all around large breed and heritage breed layers, and the Rainbow Ranger hybrid is, as I understand it, a bit closer to some of the more industrially-oriented characteristics than we’re accustomed to.  They were not nearly as foraging-oriented as we’d hoped, tending more to gorge on feed until it was gone and then lay in the shade in the grass.  Judging by the couple of gizzards I cut open during processing, they definitely did eat lots of grass, but their behavior wasn’t nearly as free-range-y as that of our layers.
  • We waited too long to get them out on pasture.  We knew this was happening at the time, but weren’t done with the coop in time.
  • We waited too long to start processing.  Way. Too. Long.  The first were done at 12 weeks, and the last at 15.  The birds got huge, and I think the meat is a bit chewier than ideal based on their age.
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