Culling old chickens

So, I know you’re anxious to know about the slab, but that’s for another post. Sorry, you’ll have to wait another day or two.

For now, I want to share with you a task that we had to take care of that had nothing to do with the house build.

You may remember that back in April, we acquired a flock of about 20 old hens from some friends of ours. We were told they were roughly 5 years old. We did not expect many eggs out of them, but for several months during the summer we got about 10-12 eggs out of them every day so we were happy. Then the end of summer came and between the diminished daylight and the molting and the fact that they were old and that they kept eating their eggs, we didn’t get very many eggs out of them. For the last month or two, we’ve only gotten an egg or so a week. Very frustrating. So, we decided it was time for them to go.

Warning: this is a Homesteading blog about homesteaderly things and one of the things we do on this homestead is produce our own meat. The following pictures may not be suitable for all viewers. While I will not be posting “how-to” pics, or ones that are too bloody, some people may not like seeing dead chickens. I respect your decision to click away if you’d rather not see anything objectionable.

For those of you who are ok with that sort of thing, read on.

As I said above, this is not a how-to type post. There are plenty of those out there, and I especially found the one by The Prairie Homestead and the video by Joel Salatin she linked to at the end of her post to be useful.

This is more of a “this is how we spent our day” post. Actually, how we spent a day and a half, even into this evening as the canner is busily boiling away as I type this.

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Hubs was the main chicken dispatcher.

He was also the main feather plucker.

My brother and sis-in-law joined is to help with the task.

Sis-in-law ended up doing most of the cleaning.

Flower Girl was rather eager to help with the whole process.

She thought that the tiny egg yolks we found inside some of the hens were really cool.

One of the hens was obviously still producing some eggs as we found different size yolks.

Nearly 12 year old Princess Girl was not nearly as interested in getting her hands dirty as her little sister, but she did process one chicken completely from catching it in the run to putting the cut-up meat into the jars.

I’m so proud of her. And when she wasn’t helping with the actual processing, she was a great gopher, as we all had dirty hands, she’d be the one to run and get stuff for us.

She also took a lot of these pictures since my hands were perpetually covered in ick or water.

This chicken wing looks like an octopus tentacle!

Since these chickens we’re so old, we knew that their meat would be pretty darn tough.

By canning the meat, it is pressure cooked as it is canned. This high pressure cooking/canning for over an hour makes the meat nice and tender.

And yes, I’m canning after dark.

These are great for use in soups or as chicken salad, etc. And I’m so excited that we were able to put these chickens to good use since they had become useless in the egg production category. It feels great to be able to produce some of our own food again. I’ve missed that since we moved back to Nevada and spent so much of our time building the homestead living systems.

We’ll, that’s it for the day. I’ll update in a day or two about our slab, I promise.

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3 thoughts on “Culling old chickens

  1. Vickie

    Your canned chicken looks great! I think it is so great that you involve the whole family, because it seems that people don’t want to know where their food comes from anymore, yet this is a very important fact of life! I remember watching my grandpa cut off a chicken’s head when I was young and I decided right then and there that I was a vegetarian! But then, grandma made her famous fried chicken and, oh the aroma, I just couldn’t help myself. I ate that chicken and loved it! I am so excited to see how your slab turned out. Post again soon!

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  2. Life of a Frugal Wife - Going Back to Basics

    Impressive! Good job 🙂 It looks delicious. I want chickens in the worst way, but sadly we have to wait until we move. We are homesteading in the city for now. The one thing that gives me the chills is culling. How can you not get attached LOL! I’m probably overthinking it, but I see a lot of posts where they name them, play with them, and talk to the them. It is weird, but oddly I can see myself doing it. I love how the kiddos were involved 🙂 That de-featherer contraption I see on the tarp, I’m guessing that is rubber stripping and a PVC pipe?

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    1. Maridy Post author

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Culling can be an issue for sure, if you are one to get attached easily. It helps me to know from the very beginning that these are working farm animals. They have one purpose from the very beginning – to feed our family. My enjoyment of them is just a bonus. So while I do name them (yes, almost every single one of our 32 chickens has a name and I can tell them all apart), I don’t get too attached. It helps the kids not get too attached as well to teach them from the very beginning that their “pet” chicken will one day be on the dinner table. They know where their food comes from and they understand the circle of life.

      And yes, you’re right about the de-featherer/plucker. It is a pvc cap that hubby attached to a drill and made some holes to put rubber strips through (made from rubber bungee cords). It plucked the chickens just fine, but honestly was more trouble than it was worth since it takes two people to run it (one to hold the chicken and one to run the plucker). In the future, we want to figure out how to run it with just one person.

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