Yesterday was a really big day for the Hudgens Homestead. We finally butchered our first chickens. It was only a couple of chickens because we kind of wanted to get our feet wet before we dove in all the way.
The good news is we now feel prepared to delve even further into the meat chickens and home butchering. The chickens we butchered were the ones we had hatched and raised right here on the homestead so we knew exactly how they had been fed what they had done and how they lived.
I wanted the process to include everyone in our family, including or actually especially Jonathan. You see Jonathan is responsible for the daily care of the chickens and he is very attached to them. We made it clear when we began keeping chickens that they were not pet but were livestock. We taught Jonathan that even meat from a store begins as a living animal but they do not receive the human treatment that we would raise our animals with.
Jonathan was responsible for catching and calming the chickens (holding them upside down calms them). Ronnie was responsible for dispatching and I was responsible for cleaning and butchering them. Ronnie did help butcher the second one because he wanted to know how to do it too.
Jonathan talked to each chicken and told them how he would miss them. Sometimes Jonathan just sums stuff up in a way that only Jonathan could come up with but it says it all. Jonathan said "I know Mom, the chicken meat will be on my plate but the chicken's soul will be in heaven". I couldn't have put it better myself.............
I had set up the back deck for the butchering process. I had a stainless steel table I had gotten from a storage sale and I made sure it was disinfected. I used my camp chef stove that I use to do my out door canning in the summer to prepare the water that needed to be between 165 degrees and 175 to de-feather the chickens. I made a "killing cone" from a used vinegar bottle and screwed it to a post on the deck. A used 5 gallon bucket found at the city recycle center became the "gut bucket". And some string off of some bales of hay became the rope that we hung them from to clean them.
When we finished processing the chickens I took them in to give them a final rinse and put them in some food bags to cool them for a day. The next morning I but the cooled chickens into vacuum sealer bags and vacuum sealed them for storage in the freezer until I have time to can them.
The butchering of a few chickens may be a small step but it is one more step toward self-sufficiency and the more self-sufficient we are the closer we are to freedom.....................