Bopping the Horde Boys
April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
I realise that some people would be distressed to see the pictures, so images of the boys post axe have been obscured by one or other of these rooster images. Clicking on the image will open the actual picture. (And if you need to remind yourself why it is that we feel good about killing chickens that we’ve raisied, named and got to know, please read Walking the Walk, and have a look at the 39 Day Blog about commercially raised meat chickens.)
We’d put the boys into the bach house overnight, as we wanted to be able to take them away without disturbing the girls. This meant Neroli and Lily sharing the Summer Palace house with Bessie and Poppy (and Claire and Ella) overnight, but we thought it should still be ok, as long as we made sure to separate them at first light. We only needed the bach house for the boys, so this was easy to do.
And the whole process was definitely easier this time around. In part because we have so much more space – we had a big log stump for a chopping block, set up well away from the other chooks and any neighbours. There was a lovely leafy fig tree to hang them up from and to keep us cool under, and a tap nearby for rinsing everything clean between. So slightly before sunrise we got everything ready, and brought the boys across, one by one.
Plucking took the longest. We try to dry-pluck, because it’s slightly better for flavour (as you aren’t dunking the bird in scalding water). The downside is that you have a quite short window of opportunity to do so before the bird cools down too much and the feathers tighten. And you do have to use a bit more force too, which can lead to some tearing of the skin. But you develop a rhythm pretty quickly, and then it almost feels like unzipping – weird, I know, but that’s the best description I can think of. The key thing is to not try to take too many feathers at a time. And to work smartly – extremities cool fastest (and are the hardest to pluck), so you start with wings and legs, then neck, back, and finally breast. We also made sure we worked from the smallest (Olly) to the biggest (Ivan).
This was by far the longest we’ve ever left boys before killing. They were 22 weeks old, as opposed to <10 weeks (commercial free range meat birds) 5 weeks (franken-chicken). In theory, once they start crowing the meat gets tougher. Since Boissey started crowing at six weeks, this was not a good thing, and folk wisdom would have suggested that they would be pretty unpleasant to eat. (Although Olly and Kim should have been ok, as they still hadn’t started crowing. Kim had been trying his best to be sexually active, but Olly didn’t seem to even know he had gonads.)
Time for some numbers. As you can see, the weight range for our four boys is pretty huge. Actually “huge” applies to pretty much everything about Ivan, including (unsurprisingly) his flibble glands.
The first weight is live, the day before. The second weight was post-axe-and-plucking, and the final weight is dressed and ready for the fridge. The percentage is what is known as the ‘dressing-out percentage’, or ‘how much meat does X amount of live chicken turn into?’
|Ivan||4.41 kg||3.59 kg||2.95 kg||66.9%|
|Kim||2.94 kg||2.42 kg||1.84 kg||62.5%|
|Boissey||2.72 kg||2.22 kg||1.76 kg||64.7%|
|Olly||2.32 kg||1.80 kg||1.34 kg||57.7%|
The numbers are quite pleasing, and Ivan’s somewhat terrifying – he’s the size of a small turkey!
We’ll age the carcasses in the fridge for another couple of days before freezing them. Boissey we will keep back t roast next weekend – to celebrate the turning of the seasons, the renewal of our carnivores’ licenses, and the glorious end to four colourful lives.