I'd like to hear from anyone who raises chickens for meat. I have 7 chickens
3 of which are roosters. I've raised them from small, but one of the roosters is
at the age of maturity and is getting so darn mean. I'm going to have to do something
with him. He is making life miserable for all the other chickens in the pen, and I have
only 1 good laying hen that gives me 1 egg a day, and I don't want her to be so
stressed all the time./ she's a sweetie. Since he's gotten so mean, she's looking
pretty ragged. I'd like to butcher him, he's HUGE. But I really don't know how to go
about it. Can anyone advise me on how to do it ? Thanks. P.S. We do
seasonal work (contracting) and income is less in winter, so I need to know how to
butcher the roosters when we need the meat in winter. I'd love to hear some of
your experiences and stories about this subject. I'm sure some of you have some
great tips and also amusing stories. Living & Learning.................. PeggieK
Anyone raising chickens for meat ?
Peggie, my girls are "dual purpose" birds: good for eggs and meat. I do not plan to butcher them, though. I'll raise a flock of 25 or so meat birds in the late spring next year to freeze as broilers/roasters: cornish or cornish cross.
I'll be very surprised if someone is able to give you complete instructions on butchering/processing here (stories, yes), but there are many web sites and books that are pretty comprehensive. www.the-coop.org has lots of good info, especially on their "classroom," as does Mother Earth News and www.homesteadingtoday.com. The Storey books and the Rodale ones are very helpful on processing as well.
I will say that one rooster is almost too many for four hens, let alone three. I have one rooster to nine hens. And even he's not necessary, but as he's a gentleman, I'm keeping him. I had three roosters, but two of them went to a friend's freezer. I won't keep a rooster who is a jerk to the hens.
PeggieK - do also keep in mind that once the birds reach full maturity they are most likely too tough to eat except for recipes calling for long slow cooking - like stews, etc. The chickens you get at the market are quite young.
Also, birds from breeds specifically developed solely for egglaying can be very scrawny meatwise. You might not end up with a product worthy of all the butchering work involved.
I also agree with Zeppy that keeping a lot of roosters around to use for meat as needed could end up badly. Not only will they start to viciously fight amongst themselves, but they will run the hens ragged breeding them, which can take it's toll on the number of eggs you get.
Zeppy, well stated. If he's a jerk, get rid of em. That
could cover a lot of different areas, couldn't it. LOL
I'm not hesitant to try to butcher him. I've dressed out a wild
turkey that DH shot one year, I guess it would be similar ?
I also clean and filet my own fish, and used to clean rabbits
when my Dad & I used to go hunting, oh and squirrel too.
So, I guess I could do it, but I'm just not sure how to go about
catching him and if he's gonna scratch and claw me all up etc.
Seems the older I get, the less desire I have to want to be
scrappy, LOL I dread the fight most of all. Think I could
just talk him into laying real still and letting me whack him ?
I didn't think so either. :)
Most everything I have ever cleaned and dressed out have been
shot or caught from hunting and fishing. They have always been
dead by the time I got to them, so there was no fight. But I have
a feeling this mean ole rooster is going to give me a run for my
money. He's definately a jerk. PeggieK
Yeah Breezy, I hear ya about the roosters just
hanging around until needed. They are just kind of hay-
burners, and should be butchered and sent to the freezer
This is the first bunch of chickens I have raised to this
age, so haven't had this problem before. But, if I'm
going to raise more chickens as time goes by, I guess
I'd better learn how to weed these nasty fellers out when
it's the best time to do it. I'm sure this won't be my last
experience, as we have moved to the country and are
planning to retire in about 10 - 12 years, so I'd better learn
to grow veggies, and raise meat, so we can be sure to have
something to eat after all our prescriptions are bought. LOL.
Living & learning....................... PeggieK
Wow PeggieK - you're of much stronger stock than I am - lol!!! If you're that experienced at dressing game, a chicken should be small potatoes.
I will caution you about those rooster spurs though - they can do some damage if you're not careful.
One thing to keep in mind for the future if you'll be raising your future flocks from chicks. If you have the time, gently handle them as much as possible when they're young - it'll make future handling when they're adults much easier (although it also could get you too attached to them come butchering time. . . .).
Peggie, grab one leg and flip him upside down (then grab the other leg and hold both). He'll be calm this way.
Hey Breezy, I think it's those spurs that I'm afraid of the
most. He's a really big rooster. I have a toy poodle that
weighs 7 lbs., and he towers over him by about double. If I
didn't know better, I'd almost think this rooster was a turkey !
He's every bit as big as the wild turkey my DH shot hunting.
And solid black all over................ and mean ! ! He even
looks evil !
Zeppy, if I get him by one leg, will he start flailing all over and
struggle ? I think I am having a hard time because I don't know
what to expect (what kind of fight) once I get hold of him. He's
really intemidating, but I'm determined that I've got to do
something about him on behalf of the rest of the flock if
nothing else. :) gotta take care of the girls ya know.
You just put on some gloves and a denim jacket and you'll be fine. You could lure him with a nice tidbit. Once they're upside down they calm very quickly. Not sure of the physiology behind it, but anyway.
Sounds like you'll do just fine, w/ your experience.
Hmmm....PeggieK, if you've dressed out those other animals then your rooster will be a piece of cake.
Easiest to grab them at night, while they are on their roosts. Grab both legs and only go in the coop with a small flashlight. At that point in time you can put him in a small holding pen or cage until the next day (daylight).
Rather than doing the typical chopping block I think you'll appreciate (and so will the rooster) going a more humane route.
String a cable (rope, chain, whatever) between two trees. Tie the rooster's legs together and then tie him to the cable, upside down, of course. As he hangs there he'll become very quiet. If you slit the jugular vein on his neck he will bleed out and basically go to sleep, very little wing-flapping or disturbance. (That is one reason why I gave up the chopping block. When you cut a chickens head off they take off running here and there, bruising their meat as they run into obstacles, etc.)
At this point you can choose to dunk the chicken in hot water and commence to pluck the feathers, then butcher as usual. However...being the lazy sort that I am, yrs ago I decided to forgo the water dunking and decided to just skin the bird. This is easily done by grabbing the dead chicken and pulling the breast skin apart and then just "undressing" the chicken. It's much easier than plucking, much faster also. (Besides, lots of times when I cook a chicken I pull the skin off the meat anyway.)
For ease of butchering, you can at this point cut off the thighs and legs (all in one piece) and then remove the breast meat. All that will be left is some scrawy wings, the head, the back, and the guts. Unless you want to save the giblets you are pretty much done.
Give it a try and compare the time and end result of doing it this way with water-dunking/plucking/saving the whole bird, etc. Will be good practice for ya anyway.
As for the meat, depending on how long his hormones have been kicking in will determine his toughness (as well as his diet and whether he's been free-ranged vs caged). Friends of mine love roosters...they slow cook them for hours and put the meat into stew, casseroles, etc.
Hope this info is beneficial to ya.
i've had the best success with tenderizing my rooster at least a month before butchering. i put them in a smaller holding pen about 10x14 it hold at least 20. they all grew up together so i have no problems. if they are older you will have fighting. so better to put them in the pens younger. we feed unmedicated turkey start and mix 1/2 scratch. i also feed them greens or cut grass.
when buthcering time come we use cones and kill them that way no mess and no stress on the bird. i can roast them and they are as tender as can be. the meat falls off the bones.
Wow! Shoe, the way you describe it you make it sound so calm and gentle and not like murder! LOL I've been sitting here for quite some time trying to figure out if I can actually kill then eat something. I don't really see myself running around the back yard with an axe but your way sounds do-able. I have a feeling no one is going to come running to kill things for me and I guess they wouldn't do it for free either.
I do have a stupid question that sort of fits in here. I didn't want to waste a post to ask stupid stuff. ;) When you grow and butcher your own animals (we can keep this to chickens), how do you know they are healthy? I know companies that mass produce over preserve, over salt, over chemical, etc the food they sell. If you are growing your own, how do you know?
Hmmmm.........................lots of wonderful information,
thank all of you, this really helps. I'm getting more and more
courage every minute. Who knows, by the end of this
day, there may be a killin around here..............Oh, by-the-way,
I'm still talking bout chickens LOL. not the DH :)
Shoe, your way almost sounds like the same basic idea
of how to filet a fish ? Kinda just take the good meat parts
without disturbing the innerds too much ?
When I catch catfish, I always skin them with a pair of pliers
if they're small pan-size. So skinning instead of plucking
sounds practical to me.
Zeppy, sounds like the proper apparel for the job is a great
idea. Gloves and sturdy jacket sounds a little safer. Don't
think I'll need a has-mat suit, huh? Chuckle, chuckle.
Farmgrl, I've seen those cones on some of the websites.
They seem like a good tool to have. I've got a good pair
of loping shears that DH uses on the trees, wonder if that
would do the trick on the neck ? Do you behead them while
upside down in cone and let them bleed out ? If so, what do
you use to behead them ?
Ya know, my dad used to actually go to chicken slaughter houses
and buy chicken blood. He swore it was the best catfish bait
in the world. He would use it, clotted on treble hooks. I just
thought it was gross. He sure caught some big catfish tho. He
would buy 55 gal. drums of it, divide it up in pint containers and
sell it to a bunch of older black gentlemen. They taught him a
lot about catfishin.
Badseed, I'm just guessing, but I figure that if my chickens
don't appear to be sick, and the meat looks and smells
good, they're ok. Gotta be better than those that have all that
stuff done to them that you mentioned.
Living & learning (and lovin it)...................PeggieK
farmgirl, we made some cones one yr out of pieces of roofing tin. I wish I had had the money in those days to buy some ready-made ones cus our homemade ones needed constant repair!
We gave up the "cones" (we only had two of them) when we were butchering quite a few birds at a time and that's when we went to the "clothesline" method (rope between two trees). We could hang 8 to 10 birds at a time and bleed them out fairly quickly.
When I raise meat chickens I keep them in a chicken tractor pen so they are on a special diet and will agree with ya it sure makes a difference in their tenderness and taste!
Yo, Badseed! "Wow! Shoe, the way you describe it you make it sound so calm and gentle and not like murder!" Hah, welp, ya gotta understand that these animals were specifically raised for their "service" and they are just fulfilling their end of the bargain. We take extremely good care of the animals during the course of their lives and they live happily.
As for how to tell if they are healthy...a healthy chicken simply looks healthy. If they have good conformation, healthy eating habits, feathers are nice, eyes are bright, legs/feet are not deformed from being beat up on or from disease or malnutrition, etc, then chances are your bird is fine. You can also inspect the innards during butchering if you choose; they should look of good color and of course no sign of any internal parasites/worms, etc. With proper housing, feed (I'm one of those who do not use medicated feeds, and for good healthy reasons), plenty of area for range, plenty of sunshine, and a safe place at night I'm sure you'll seldom, if ever, have problems with your chickens.
PeggieK, holler back if this turns into a chicken-pickin' day for ya! As for those catfish, yummy! I can skin a catfish much faster than I can scale other fish. Your Dad must've done LOTS of catfishing if he bought blood by the barrel! Zowie! We tend to use chicken livers here (keep that in mind when your butcher your rooster) cus they stay on the hooks better.
And now folks, 'tis rabbit season here so I best get outside and start checking my rabbit traps. Ya'll have a great day!
we made out cones out of small gage wire fencing and used duct tape around the ends so we wouldn't get cut. we made 2 which worked great for us being only 2 people and only butchered 6 to 8 a day so it wasn't over whelming for us or the refridgerator lol. when we put the birds in the cone we would slit thier throats then brain them and let them bleed out.
Okay, you all are going to have to work with this city kid trying to turn farmer. LOL I really am learning a lot and taking it all in.
What is a cone and what is it's purpose?
I understand bleeding but what is braining?
I really don't want anyone to be offended by my remarks. I explain to my kids every day that being eaten is the purpose of certain animals. I sort of have my hands full with a 12 and 10 year old that decided to no longer eat beef or pork. When they first wanted to do it, we explained about all the extra beans, peanut butter, etc they would have to eat to get protein. We figured it would be short lived phase. I think this has been going on now for close to 2 years. It is a pain to cook dinner and I have eaten enough birds to grow feathers! LOL
Shoe, YOU know I was ribbin' ya! You and your Shoelette talk to my 10 year old enough to know what I have on my hands. ;)
Badseed - I feel your pain - lol!! My husband hasn't eaten ANY red meat or red meat products since he was 15 years old (he's 48 now).
I've cooked only poultry, seafood, & vegetarian meals for the last 16 years.
However, I WILL say that out of my entire family, all of whom have high cholesterol, high blood pressure/hypertension, diabetes, etc. (including my brother, who is 6 years younger than myself) - I have absolutely NONE of these problems, & to be honest I do attribute it to my enforced eating habits.
I do indulge myself with a steak or lamb curry or spare ribs when dining out or when my husband is away on business, but to be honest, I really don't miss it all that much.
LOL Breezy! It's a challenge anyway cooking for 8 people. The few veggies hubby likes, the rest of us don't. The veggies we love, he won't touch. So I cook double veggies. Then the two oldest kids won't eat beef or pork so that means two meats. When we have burgers, the oldest two eat veggie/soy burgers. If we have metts, brats or hot dogs, they eat turkey dogs. Our chili is now made with turkey. Unfortunately for the wallet, we all love seafood! ;)
Most of our sausage or bacon or ground meat is also turkey. The kids are all tall and at normal weight and hubby and I are overweight. Hubby also has heart disease and awful cholesterol while I am healthy as a horse and about the same size. ROTFL Our Dr. lived across the street from us until we moved, for the last 15 years. He knows I keep ridiculous hours and work outside every day until it is not humanly possible and he says there is absolutely no reason I should be overweight and blames genetics. Sigh. I wish I could say for a fact, eating all this fowl helps with weight but I can't. Hubby has not had his cholesterol checked in awhile and I wonder if it is any better?
I do have to say there is a drawback to all the bird we eat (processed from the stores) and that is the fact that the sodium numbers are ridiculous!
I often wonder why: you can buy all beef weiners and all turkey weiners and they cost more than the ones made with a mix of beef, pork and chicken? And..why can you not buy all chicken weiners? Why not just make beef/pork ones and turkey/chicken ones? LOL
I musta really wanted to send this!
This message was edited Dec 5, 2005 8:22 AM
Gee - I don't have any problem at all buying all-chicken & all-turkey sausages. They're very popular around here & come in all sorts of interesting types & flavors - kielbasa, hot dogs, Italian-type, chorizo, Andouille, gourmet flavors.
In fact, just this past weekend I bought a 3-pound package of all-chicken gourmet Andouille sausages at Costco. Can't wait to use them in gumbo, jambalaya, & pasta dishes.
We can find turkey sausage, bacon, polska, smoked sausage, etc. It is the hot dogs I question. Why can they not make turkey and chicken hot dogs for the same price as mixed meat ones? Why are there no chicken wieners?
Before we moved, I was buying turkey wieners and I try to buy a few when they are 2/for or bogo and one of the regular employees pointed out huge pkgs they got buy mistake. They were 24 (like 3 pound) packs for like $2. I picked up a couple then she and I laughed because I left a couple. Out of guilt for their fridge space, I took them all. LOL
Do you have CostCo's by you? That's where I often get bulk packs of great poultry sausage. In fact, the ones we have here, apart from the Andouille, now carry bulk 3# packs of pure chicken breakfast sausage, which I'll be buying & trying next time around.
Both the breakfast & Andouille are an excellent brand too - "Amy's" - who normally sell via gourmet food catalogs like Williams Sonoma, etc.
Last year my husband bought my 5 year old son about 15 broilers to take care of. I, of course, ended up with the chores. I never raised anything before. Luckily, when it came time for them to be butchered, I was out of town. My husband had them taken to a meat processor for $4 each! It was the easy way out, but not very
I saw a special on PBS this summer about chickens. The man used one of those cones and it did look very easy. I never thought
I would be able to kill anything like that, but after watching how it
was done, I think I that is how we are going to do it next time.
I found that McMurrayHatchery.com has those cones in their catalog.
Also, some neighbors gave us 4 (laying) hens and a rooster after that. The rooster got very mean, after the second time he attacked
my son, he was gone. It was sad because he was a beautiful rooster. He was also bothering the hens alot.
Good grief - $4 each for butchering + what it cost you to raise & feed them????
I can buy pricey already-processed free-range organic chickens here for far less than that.
Breezy...I'm right there with you and your hubby. My wife hasn't touched red meat since she was 16 (is now 40-something). For years I felt like I was a short-order cook having to make certain things for her, certain things for DD, and then I get to figger out what I want from both of those "menus"!
Fortunately we all love seafood and when it goes on sale I snatch it up. (By the way, for those of you near a Harris-Teeter, they have crab legs on sale now for 2.99/lb! Jump on it! Sale runs till tomorrow.)
Badseed, no worries here...I knew you were ribbin 'me. If ya didn't I'd figger you were mad at me. And yep, "Shoelette" (I'm gonna tell her you called her that!) and your DD share lots of stuff...probably more than we both wanna know, eh?
By the way, a cone...picture a large funnel. The bird goes into the funnel, head thru the skinny end, and the head sticks out. The birds body is resting in the wider end and when you cut their throats the bird can't flap all over the place. Debraining is simply sticking a sharp thinbladed knife (fillet knives work great!) in the birds mouth then upwards, piercing the brain. This is not only considered humane but also helps the feathers to be plucked much more easily. Does that help, BS?
I'm not up on all this turkey weener talk cus we don't eat many hotdogs...we'll buy them as a treat when out and about sometimes though (with everything in the world on them!). (Everything, here in the South means mustard, ketchup, onions, chili sauce, and cole slaw...yummy!)
Well, thanks a lot Horseshoe!! Even tho I just finished dinner you now have me drooling at the thought of a hot dog with "the works" - lol!!!!
hah! Sorry, Breezy...didn't mean to have you salivating all over your keyboard! :>) If I get to Va anytime soon I'll treat you to one!
Hey Shoe, how does braining the chicken w/ a filet knife
make it easier to pluck the feathers ? I guess I'm a little
Yep...it is confusing to me too. Apparently what happens is when you "brain" or "debrain" the chicken the body of the chicken tends to relax its muscles (this is why they don't flap around so much) This relaxation also tends to open the pores that hold the feathers to the skin, causing them to be released easier.
The hardest feathers to remove are the wing feathers and the tails feathers. All the other ones (to me) come out rather easily, as long as the bird has been dunked sufficiently in the hot water bath. (Personally, I'd just prefer to skin the bird and be done with it, so much easier!)
Awesome ! ! Who woulda thought that would relax the chicken
and make feathers come out easier !! Wow. Good info.
That black rooster flogged my hand today. I was out breaking
ice on their water, when he came from behind the pen door and
nailed me before I could get back. Didn't break skin, but made
me plenty mad. It was 16 degrees and I was trying to get him
fresh water.........................ornery rascal ! His day is coming.......
My dad bought the barrels of chicken blood and put it up in pints
to sell. He had quite a word-of-mouth little fish bait business
with the black folks. They all knew he kept it and wanted to buy it,
so he invested in a freezer to keep it in and sold it. Made him a
good little income in his retirement years. He loved fishing, and
it paid enough so he could keep doing what he loved til he was 83.
I saw your pics of your DD fishing. Reminded me of me and my
dad years ago. Those are great memories. She will remember
those special times long after you're gone. She's a lucky girl
to enjoy it. Our DD loved to fish w/ her daddy until she discovered
boys, then no longer had time for dear ole dad. That's kinda how
it goes. LOL.
You trap rabbits ? Wild ones ? Do you eat them or are you just
culling out the population or for profit ? PeggieK
Yep, DD will have lots of "fishin' tales" to tell! And many of them true, too!
As for rabbits, I raised New Zealand Whites in cages for years, for meat and to sell for meat. Over time we've dwindled down to only two rabbits (and they are my DD's pets). Am hoping to finally rebuild our supply of caged rabbits so we can at least put a dozen or so in the freezer each year.
As for the rabbit boxes...I set those out for the wild rabbits. To me they are very tasty and free! We don't have as many around here as in days gone by (most likely due to the number of dogs in the area now as well as the coyotes and fox). However, in an effort to keep the population alive if I trap one I keep it, trap a second one then we turn it loose, trap another we keep it, etc. Seems to work fine for me AND the rabbits. :>)
We ate lots of wild rabbit, and squirrel when I was a kid.
My dad was a painting contractor and it was seasonal. So
in the winter there wasn't much work, but lots of time for
fishing and hunting, which put meat on the table and helped
to save money. That's how I learned to clean and dress
all the animals. Besides, I was the only girl, I had 3 brothers.
So what else was I going to do ? LOL I hope you are
teaching your DD to dress out all those things you catch.
She will be a great "catch" some day. Even tho I always
said "eeewwwww" about it as a kid, it has come in really
handy as an adult. My DH brags, he's the only one in his group
of friends who has a wife that is that "cool". haha He teases
and says he just married me cause my dad wouldn't tell him
where his favorite fishin hole was otherwise.
One time we moved to Texas panhandle and I saw the biggest
rabbit I'd EVER seen. DH let me shoot him if I would clean
him myself. I did, and later found out that it was a Jack-
rabbit. I didn't know about those, all we ever got here were
the little common cotton-tails, so I was in for a surprise.
(As the guys all snickered at my ignorance) That was the
toughest, biggest rabbit I've ever seen. Don't think I'll do
that again. Livin & learning.................................PeggieK
I imagine you're careful about Tuleremia Peggy?
Around here a lot of folks won't hunt/eat cottontail anymore because of it.
I had always heard that you should not eat a rabbit until after the first hard frost of the year. Otherwise, they have been called "bearded" rabbits. I think that refers to an infected rabbit having a swolled area under his chin. Is this an indicator of Tuleremia?
Hmmm..................never heard of Tuleremia. What is it ?
I know that here in Okla. we don't even rabbit hunt until after
the first good snowfall, because there's some kind of worms
that aren't good for people. Don't really know what they are
or what they're called...........but it's always been the rule of
thumb as far back as I can remember. Suppose that has
anything to do with Tuleremia ?
I'm not too worried though, the last time we have been
rabbit hunting was back in 1984. Lots of things we used to
do, we just don't do anymore now that Daddy's gone. But
they sure are sweet memories, and it is good to have the
basic knowledge to be able to clean and dress the game if
need be. (Or a big black rooster) lol . But thankfully
we never got sick from eating any kind of wild game so
guess it was ok, at least then. What is Tuleremia ?
Now that we've moved to the country, and are trying to
become more and more self-sufficient, never know when we
might just take up eating more of the wild game again.
Glad for forums like this, so I can learn all the new things
I need to know.
Living and learning ....................PeggieK
Great thread.. I love BBQ rabbit. It was so so good. RedRose's DH cooked it. It was raised rabbits.
hmsty...the "bearded" rabbit you might be referring to could be one of two things. Some rabbits, mostly the caged/pet kinds have a layer of fat under their necks called a dewlap...it's perfectly normal and is not a sign of any disease or sickness. I've never seen a wild rabbit with a dewlap though.
Another choice might be when a wild rabbit has harbored the larvae of a bot fly in their skin. You might remember them being called wolves/warbles. When the larvae leaves the rabbit it may leave behind a scab or swollen area; am wondering if this might "stand out" in a beard like way (if the larvae bored into the neckskin of the rabbit.
Tularemia is a bacteriaal infection that is found at times in wild rabbits (also ticks and other flies as well as other rodents). I've been fortunate to have never come across it in our area. I hear tell it is a somewhat rare occurance but if you get it it'll sure make ya sick! Fortunately is can be cured with antibiotics.
Edited to say Thanks for the link, Breezy (guess I was typing/talking while you posted it.
This message was edited Dec 8, 2005 4:30 PM
I think the bot fly larvae on the skin or fur was the thing that was
why we never hunted rabbits until after the first snow. Sounds
like it makes sense.
Breez....thanks for the link. I read it and didn't know all those
things. Wonder if cooking the meat well kills the bacteria,
kinda like salmonella in chickens ? The link didn't say any-
thing about eating the rabbit, just catching it from contact which
of course wouldn't involve cooking. If cooking would kill
it and make it ok, that's about like chicken. I always sanitize
kitchen surfaces w/ bleach after preparing chicken because of
harmful bacteria on it raw.
Horseshoe, you eat your wild rabbit don't you ? Is there a
way to tell if you get one that has Tuleremia ? Are there
any signs to look for ?
Living and learning .......................PeggieK