Turns out I am highly allergic to chickens. Not in the break-out-in-hives where’s-the-epi-pen sense, but in the I-can’t-stop-sneezing, blood-shot-eyes, uncontrollable-runny–nose sense. As if I needed another reason to dislike them. But there it is.
Today was our first chicken slaughter of the season. We don’t slaughter them ourselves. A couple of guys in the area run a mobile chicken slaughtering operation. They come with a fully-equipped trailer and spend the morning killing and cleaning birds. They only thing they don’t do is catch the chickens. That is up to us.
Steve warned me last week that I’d want to wear long sleeves today so when I was home I stole a few of my dad’s old shirts that were on their way to Goodwill. It’s not just anyone who can pull off catching chickens in Joseph A. Banks, you know.
Normally we’d catch 75 birds but because people have been eagerly awaiting fresh chicken and because we’ll be serving it tomorrow night for our inaugural Friday Night Dinner, we upped the count to 100. That’s a lot of chicken.
Catching them really wasn’t that bad. We had plenty of people (Ryan, Steve, Brian, butcher Brian, and me) and were able to use our numbers to our advantage. The chickens freaked out, of course, and we all came away with a scratch or two, despite our long sleeves, but it went quicker than I’d expected. Actually, Bob freaked out more than the chickens. We tried to put him outside just to keep him out of the way, but he had a bit of a panic attack and started chewing on the house in a somewhat pathetic attempt to get back inside. He was much happier once he was back with his friends.
About halfway through the allergies hit me. I’m sure it was all the feathers and dirt and such from all the chicken flapping about that was happening. My eyes started to itch and my nose started to run and sneezing fits overcame me. I thought it would get better once we finished and were out of the house, but no such luck. Things just got worse and worse.
I went down to watch the slaughter process and when Steve came to ask me something my eyes were so red and swollen that he thought I’d been crying over the dead chickens. Definitely not. By the end of the day my nose was hemorrhaging snot. I rinsed three times with my netti pot and it didn’t help at all. I’ll try again before I go to bed. Now all the congestion has turned into a sinus headache.
If anyone has any natural allergy remedies, let me know! Local, raw honey and apple cider vinegar are fine for most days, but I’m going to need something much, MUCH stronger for Thursdays.
But enough whining. On to chicken slaughter!
We catch groups of 10 chickens and put them in these giant orange crates. They stay here until the guys are ready for them.
They can process six chickens at a time. Each chicken goes into one of the stainless cones you see on the right side of the photo. It’s head sticks out the bottom. They slit the bird’s throat. This kills them instantly, but allows the heart to continue pumping for a minute or so which is the best way to drain out all the blood. (This is the Kosher/Halal method of slaughter.) We do not stun or gas the birds because that prevents them from fully bleeding out.
Once they are fully drained, they are heated briefly to loosen the feathers. Then they go in a machine that is kind of like a washing machine, but without water. It has rubber fingers all around. As the birds bounce around, the feathers are removed. After that the innards are removed and the birds go on ice in a refrigerated truck to cool completely before we butcher and bag them.
If anyone is interested, here is a great video demoing the process from Mother Earth News and Joel Salatin.
Now I must go blow my nose again. Maybe this time it will actually help relieve some of the pressure in my head. I’ll leave you all with something a bit more pleasant than chicken slaughter.