Hard to believe it's been 9 weeks since we bought our meat chicks. In that time they went from chicks to teenagers to adults ready to harvest. It really was unbelievable how quickly they grew up, so much faster than the laying hen chicks we bought at the same time. I would say the rate at which the meat birds grew was almost double to the rate of the laying hens, on the same food. They also ate a lot more! I noticed the meat birds didn't really do much of anything other than eat and roost.
We found a place that processes chickens about an hours drive from our house and made an appointment to take them in. I am proud that I never let myself get attached to them, it would have made having them butchered so much harder. When you raise your own meat, you have to separate yourself from food animals while still giving them the best care. Making pets of them is the worst thing you can do, it will only lead to heartache when it is time to put them in the freezer.
When the day came, my husband packed them into the back of the truck in a big wire cage and off they went.
When he got there he transferred them into the crates the people provided. The processing lady giggled at my husband while he was chasing them around the cage trying to catch them. He does not have much experience at this. She gave him a poultry catcher to get a hold of them easier and after that it went much quicker.
After packing them off, he went out for breakfast and then went to buy ice for the coolers. When he returned, they were already done. The chickens were all cut and packaged with labels, just like you see in the store. It was pretty impressive since this was a very small establishment with only one large barn to house the whole operation.
We got the chickens cut into pieces. It was only $.50 more per chicken, and it was so worth it! The whole bill was only $33, for 12 birds!
When he got home, I was all prepared. Table covered with a plastic cloth, Food Saver out and plugged in and bowls to divide the individual pieces. We wanted to freeze them in meal sized portions of the pieces we each like. When we opened the first bag and took out the pieces, we both about fell out of our chairs! The pieces were HUGE! Check out the size of this breast!
All the pieces were really big, even the legs. The birds were between 5 and 6 and a half pounds, not overly large, but the pieces certainly seemed bigger than what you buy in the store. After splitting up the pieces we began dividing them into meals for two. We had to do it in halves as the bowls were not big enough to hold all 12 at once.
Once they were divided up, it was time to get bagging. When putting up a large amount of meat or poultry, you really do need a vacuum seal system. We bought a Food Saver about a year ago, and truthfully we have not used it much. We just can't afford to buy large quantities of meat at a time, and that is (in my opinion) one of the only times it is worth it to use the Food Saver. The bags for it are not cheap, however I did notice that Amazon has off brand rolls at a lesser price. I am going to order some and see if they are as good.
We ended up with 26 bags of meal portioned chicken. More than enough to last us till the end of winter. It's nice to know we won't be having to buy any chicken for a while.
Now I am not going to say this is a cheaper way of getting chicken to eat. Considering the cost of starter feed, (50 pounds a week!) the litter for their brooder and then their coop, the labor of daily feeding and cleaning and the extra electricity for the heat lamps.....well, they are not exactly cheap to raise. But the taste and quality is superior and we know that they were not fed any hormones or antibiotics. We also know they were treated humanely and with respect while they were alive. This means a lot to us. But this was our first time and we learned a lot. We will do some things differently the next time around. Live and learn!
Have a great weekend!