I shall spare you visuals of the dispatching part of the process, however I will show you the set up we use to dress chickens. We usually raise 60 - 80 chickens / year and we usually have 3 - 4 "chicken days". ( our family euphamism for kill days). We always have several roosters that hit the magic weight zone first so they fall into the first day, then the majority are done 2 or 3 weeks later with the last few stragglers a week or so after that. We raise big chickens, we prefer our birds to dress out at about 7 pounds. (Refer back to our four sons. )
Actually, just an economics of farm animals note, the cheapest weight you will put on any meat animal is the last 20 percent of the total weight. During the time after the frame is grown out, you will get the most bang for your feed dollars in terms of feed conversion to usable product. The trick is to do this without simply laying on fat. Part of this can be accomplished with genetics, heritage animals tend to put on less fat. (Although berkshire pigs will always lay on heavy back fat if you over feed them). Learning how to feed at this critical time can make the difference between profit and loss, but I will have more on this topic in the coming week.
So, here is our setup for doing chickens
As I said, we remove the heads and leave the birds in the cone until they have bled out. They are then dunked in a pail of HOT water.
The birds are then hung up at the plucking station
You need to work quickly but carefully to avoid tearing the skin. A small bird like this can be done in a few minutes.
At this stage the birds are brought to me in the kitchen. I rinse the birds, remove any small feathers the boys have missed, pat dry and place in plastic bags for freezing. All of our birds are frozen whole, if I need them cut up I will do so before cooking. Just remember to remove the pea size glands in the neck, they can change the taste of your chicken, as they release bitter lymph fluid into the meat when cooking.
So that is how to dress a chicken. The procedure is exactly the same for a turkey. The turkey will require a little longer dunking in the hot water to loosen the feathers, but it won't take you long to guage the time needed.
It takes a little practice to get everything right, but like anything else the more you do, the better your skills. There are always a couple of birds that seem to tear, just roll with it. As long as I have good looking turkeys for the Thanksgiving and Christmas table I'm good. Even the slightly wounded birds taste so much better than anything you get in a store!
Hopefully this will inspire you to try dressing your own chickens, raising your own birds is great but if you can't dress them out it is not a self sufficient system. Have a great day everyone!