To those gentle souls who have been dreading the inevitable post about harvesting chickens, be warned, this is the one. Don't worry, I won't post any blood and guts photos, though.
The plan last Sunday was to butcher 5 chickens and learn how to do it quickly and humanely.
Saturday night when the chickens had gone to sleep and were easy to catch we went out with a flashlight and nabbed the five largest roosters - the White Giants, which Rog and I have been incorrectly calling the Foghorn Leghorns - and closed them in the rabbit hutch (Death Row) until morning.
The meat chickens are Cadence's project and she is taking full responsibility for the harvest. [The irony is that Cadence announced she was a vegetarian when she turned 12, and she strictly followed that decision until a couple years ago when she was 19 and traveling in South America. Now she eats meat and believes that if you eat meat, it is important to know that the animal lived a good life and it is appropriate to slaughter it yourself.] She penciled reminder notes to guide her through the steps.
The inverted chicken was placed head-first into the restraining cone. When a chicken is upside-down it gets very quiet and still. With a sharp knife, Cadence cut its throat and let it bleed into a bucket. Next, she dunked the dead chicken into hot water to release the feathers. Then, she held it over the rotating chicken plucker, which zipped the feathers off in a moment. At this point it looks pretty much like any chicken you buy in a grocery store to roast. She cut off the feet and carefully cleaned out the insides.
Here is the chicken a few hours later, after being grilled for our dinner. It was amazingly tasty. Sara and Cadence agreed that harvesting the chickens did not make them feel bad; it felt right. Despite how big it looked, this first chicken turned out to only weigh 2 lb. 15 oz. after being dressed. We decided to wait a couple weeks to harvest any more so they get a bit bigger. So, the 4 other chickens on Death Row were set free. Little do they know.