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We butchered our meat chickens a few months ago, and it’s taken me a little while to write this. You can read part one and part two here. I absolutely LOVED putting nearly 50 chickens in the freezer, but there were a few issues. Here are some more mistakes that we made, so that you might learn from them so you don’t make them too.
Mistake #10: Growing the birds too long.
We let our birds grow until I thought they were “big enough”, which turned out to be about 15-16 weeks. I found out later in one of my Facebook groups that Cornish Cross should be butchered at 8-10 weeks! That’s quite the difference, and resulted in us spending way more money on feed, and more time, than was necessary. We actually spent probably nearly $10 for each bird in feed alone. If I’m doing the math correctly, only raising them for 8-10 weeks results in spending only $5-6 per bird. Talk about a huge savings! We won’t be raising them for that long again.
Mistake #11: Butchering too many at once.
This time when we butchered the chickens, we did about 2/3 of the birds at once. This wasn’t a big problem, but it made for a lot of work at one time, and some sore and achy backs. Plus it didn’t leave much room in the fridge for the meat. Keep in mind that you need to let the meat “rest” before actually processing. So you need to have room to allow it to do so (more on that in a minute).
Mistake #12: Not using a kill cone.
When we butchered the meat chickens, we just took them one by one to an old stump and used an ax to chop off their head. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the way we did it. It worked, and it was humane. But the chickens running around with their heads off, throwing blood everywhere, was kind of a gruesome sight. I think a kill cone would cut down on the mess.
Mistake #13: Not plucking the birds.
When we did our butchering, we didn’t have a chicken plucker. I thought it would be an unnecessary expense. And have you ever tried plucking a chicken by hand? Fuggetabout it!! Even soaking them in hot water beforehand didn’t help enough. It took so much longer to pluck them that we decided to just skin most of the birds. I thought that would be good. I figured it would be leaner and healthier without the skin, and definitely quicker. Turns out, the skin is very beneficial to keep on the bird. It helps keep the moisture and oils in the bird while you’re cooking it. Next time we raise meat chickens we will definitely invest in a chicken plucker!
Mistake #14: Not letting the meat “rest”.
Apparently we screwed up big time on this one. Every time I’ve cooked our meat chickens, they have been tough and dry. I think the dryness was due to the skin not being on, but I wondered why they were tough. I asked my lovely Facebook group what I did wrong. Their advice? EVERY kind of meat needs to age, or “rest” for at least a few days after butchering. Wow, wish I had known that before! I knew people did that with beef and wild game, but I didn’t realize it was just as important with birds.
If you don’t let the meat “rest”, it will be tough. Meat needs to sit in a cool area like the fridge for several days. Trust me, you don’t want to make this mistake! Our chicken is quite tough and requires long, slow, moist cooking in order to get it to soften up. Most people probably wouldn’t even mess with cooking this chicken any other way besides in the crock pot, but I don’t use the crock pot much and I refuse to let these chickens go to “waste”.
We already had some old hens that we butchered before the end of the year that are really tough. Side note: old hens make very tough meat. Probably better if you let them “rest” after butchering, but still pretty tough. I usually only pressure cook the old hens, or use them for broth. Not doing that with these meat chickens, even if it means eating tough meat!
All in all, we will be doing meat chickens again, but we will learn from our mistakes from this first time. Make sure you also read part one and part two. Have you raised meat chickens? Do you have any helpful tips? Comment below so I can learn from you too!