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Monday, July 26, 2010

Butchering Chickens or...A Chapter from Lord of the Flies?

The Three Sister's
This past weekend we traveled over the mountains to Eastern Oregon to the hometown of our good friends to butcher half of the 50 chickens we had purchased together.
  Way back in March our friends offered to raise meat chickens at their house,living on 97 acres it seemed like 50 chickens would be no problem.The chickens could free range with no problems. But no one thought about what it would really be like to raise 50 roosters and the chaos that would rein over the chicken yard.The mini gangs forming,each with its own corner of the acres that surround the house,the fights over who would sit on top of the feed bins or the tractor.The thumps and bangs as the crazy boys chased each other over, under and through the out buildings.
  When we first arrived on that beautiful sun filled day the whole rooster craziness was kind of funny but after a couple of hours it hit us like a truck,this is insanity,it was like a chapter straight out of "Lord of the Flies." but there was no one coming to save us,we had to save ourselves and our friends and quick.
The Smith Ladies and I decked out in our aprons ready to pluck some chickens.
   We decided that some of the most aggressive birds HAD to go first maybe then things would calm down a bit.We butchered the 25 birds over two evenings.We chose to butcher in the cooler evening hours so the meat would not spoil and so our friends two little ones would be fast asleep. The morning after the first round of butchering the roosters who were left were much quieter.Was it because they were trying not to draw attention to themselves? Was it because the worst of the group were gone? Not the second because by afternoon we realized we had a few more bullies to take care of.Once the butchering was done life was slowing down and the birds who were left were a much more manageable number.
  While visiting we had several conversations about was this really worth it? Yes,maybe,kind of. We all felt like we did not really like buying meat in the stores and if we were going to continue to eat meat we had better be willing to butcher at least part of our own meat.Was it a better value? Kind of,the birds at the half way mark came out to be $6 each,not bad for Free Range chicken meat.The cost ends up evening out in the end.But we are all still pondering the "How to " part.Meaning, how to raise our own meat in a quantity we need without making ourselves CRAZY.
  Here at our house raising more than 12 chickens for meat is not an option.And even with that smaller amount of birds our layer hens get pretty ticked off at the company we are forcing upon them.
  Our friend brought up that in the past they have had dual purpose birds on hand.These birds were layers whom they considered to be available for butchering.This allowed them to butcher as they needed. But this has never involved 50 roosters just a few hens.
  So Chance and I have found that we have come full circle when it comes to the point of how to raise enough of our own meat to feel like we are doing well at it.With living in the city it may just not be possible to raise the amount of meat we would like to be able.Maybe there is a rotation we just have not found yet only time will tell on that point.Even if we lived on many acres would we do it? I think if we lived on a full blown farm we would have other meat we were raising as well so the pressure on the chicken production would be eased a bit.

We still have 25 more chickens to butcher in the fall.We decided with our friends that letting some of them go longer was a good idea since some of the birds were still a bit small.Hopefully things will be quieter at our friends with the craziest birds gone.
  The trip was not all work.We did take some time out to visit near by Bend.Issac and Sol made a goal a few years back to go to every skate park in Oregon so of course we stopped at the local skate park so the boys could ride for a bit.One more park checked off their list and a review of "Not so Great" given.
 John Boy,Issac's new room mate.
  We also strolled through Sister's,just for old times sake.We did spend some time dabbling in the creek on our friends place,it's not deep enough to swim in but wadding around knee deep can be just as nice on a hot dry day.
  Issac and Sol found a new friend in the wood shed,John Boy and after dragging him around all weekend for all sorts of adventures Issac was gifted John Boy with the stipulation that he is always present for house parties. At least he is quiet to the point of spookiness, unlike some room mates I have known and I don't have to share my room with him.
  Now that we are back I have started my "No,I can't " campaign.I am behind on my own projects,I have canning to do now that the things we are wanting are coming in,I have this blog to write and reading a book while laying in the hammock is a valuable past time that's just like all of the summer fruit,better enjoy it now before the days are gone and we are stuck back indoors for the winter.


  1. But why were there so many roosters? Was this chance? It sounds very hard. I don't like buying meat at the store either, but I still do. Mostly, I just find us eating less and less meat, which is hard because my daughter's body really craves protein. We eat a lot eggs.

  2. We ordered all roosters because they are mostly unwanted by chicken keeping people and tend to be cheap to buy as chicks.It's not too hard to do on a day to day bases and when many hands come together to do the work it makes things easier.( I will spare you some of the jokes that popped up.)
    But the all rooster chaos should have been on our radar,half of the folks involved in this are or were teachers,who better to know what happens when you fill a "room" with all boys.And Chance and I are the parents of two boys who fill our house with boys,we should have had the foresight but none of us did.
    It was a hilarious riot at times but one and all are glad to see things are more peaceful.
    I understand the protein bit with your daughter,if I don't eat any meat for about three days I start to feel crappy and then end up wanting a huge chunk of red meat.

  3. Rooster chaos! You are a brave lot, I can only imagine the fun you all had. Well free range chickens at the farmers market are like 15-20 bucks, in store they are 8-15 so I would say it was a deal. But you have to be willing to do the work, and Iam not prepared to raise and butcher my own birds yet. Bigger property one day i'd do it. stay cool!

  4. It feels weird to suggest this since I won't eat them myself, but have you considered keeping rabbits? I've read that they are a very efficient way to grow protein. And worms love their poop into some of the best garden soil ever.

  5. Chance vetoed my request for rabbits.Rabbit meat is only good to have once in a while since their bodies do not have enough fat to support our fat needs as humans.You can actually starve eating to much rabbit meat. But Chance said no because if you don't get the butchering cut just right,the rabbit's cries sound just like a human baby and being a soft hearten fellow he just says No.
    I really wish I had some rabbit poo,that is the best stuff for gardens.