The Weekly Digs #69

by Becky

We have been buying our chicken locally for the past few years but I had really wanted to grow our own meat chickens this year because we finally had land! Cameron talked me out of it because we have so much going on with the garden and the land and selling our house.

We usually buy from Shamba Creek Farm (if you are local to NWA you can check out their website HERE. They are awesome!). A few weeks ago they reach out to us wanting to know if we would like to buy fully grown chickens and butcher them ourselves. They had a small batch and due to Covid-19, their processor cancelled their appointment because they were prioritizing beef and pork.

I was pretty excited about this prospect because we could get some more experience butchering chickens and save a little money in the bargain. I also wanted to see what Cornish Cross chickens were like since I had heard they are so different than heritage breeds and next year when we do plan on raising our own we were going to do Freedom Rangers to start.

We got 50 of their birds last Friday night to make sure we had enough for a year supply. We brought them home and the kids had already started naming them. Their new names were Chicken Nugget, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Wings, Chicken Sandwich, etc. It was pretty funny!

Saturday morning I woke up at 5am and could not get back to sleep. I was nervous about some animal attacking all the chickens overnight even though they were in cages in an electric fence.

Thankfully they were completely fine and since I was already up I worked in the garden a bit and started to get things ready for butchering.

Everyone else woke up, ate breakfast, and we got to work. We have butchered a few of our roosters before but never so many chickens at once! In the beginning we were really slow. I was trying to get back in the swing of things and then once I felt more confident in my method I was teaching kids.

We spend 4 hours doing 28 birds and then finished the last 20 in about an hour and a half. We got a good rhythm going and everybody was trained and helpful by the end.

I do need to tell you what happened in the beginning though. We were 6 birds into butchering when our brand new plucker stopped working. We checked all the cords, checked the breaker, and checked to make sure it wasn’t clogged.

Cameron looked at me and said, “What are we supposed to do? We have 44 more birds and we can’t pluck them all by hand!” I asked what about the store? Can we return the plucker and get a different one? And he told me that every store was sold out right now.

We had exhausted all our options and were feeling completely hopeless. I told everyone we needed to pray. So we prayed as a family that the plucker would start to work again. We turned it on and off. Still dead. Then Cameron started checking all over the plucker and saw that there was a breaker switch on the plucker in a spot we had not seen before.

He flipped the switch, turned it on, and it worked! I can’t even describe how grateful we were for this answer to prayer.

The other crazy thing that happened was when we were all finished up. We literally had cleaned out all the equipment and started putting things away. I was out cutting whole chickens into pieces since we use them like that more often.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a white bird which I thought was our Americana, we call her Pure White because she is a bright white bird.  After closer inspection I realized it was another Cornish Cross that had escaped out the fence when we were butchering because it was much smaller than the others. It probably went off into the woods and then it came back because it was dusk.

As you may know, you can’t keep Cornish Cross and let them grow up because they will die in misery. So we had to get everything back out and butcher this last bird.  If it was a heritage breed bird I would have kept it in a heartbeat, it was a very smart and lucky bird!

Cameron kept saying, “I don’t know why, but this one is so hard to do!” I was feeling the same way. I think because we were out of butchering mode. But we did it and we finished after a very long day at about 9pm. The actual time for the rest of the birds was 9am-4:30pm and we took and hour for lunch. But then we needed to cut up and bag the birds after dinner.

We were SO tired. We also realized about 10 birds in that 50 birds was a little overly ambitious for our first time, haha! But now that we know what we are doing, I would definitely do that much again because I feel confident we could do it in half the time.  

I also probably won’t do Cornish Cross again. I didn’t raise them but after seeing their characteristics, it doesn’t feel right to me. Since my goal isn’t selling for a profit, I plan on trying some other slower growing options and possibly even heritage birds so we are self-sufficient in the reproduction of them as well.  

In the garden:

  • This week we are eating lettuce, peas, kale, cilantro, dill, blueberries, raspberries, and a couple blackberries from the garden.
  • Picked 20lbs blueberries at a local you pick farm. We are also harvesting our own. But my kids regularly eat a three pounds of blueberries in a day. Hard to believe but it’s true. We are planting a lot more blueberry bushes at our land next year!

In the kitchen:

  • Canned 4 quarts chicken bone broth (And there is a lot more of that to come!)

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