Thursday, November 3, 2016

Butcher Day

Butchering Day

Or, the last supper for the Cornish Cross

Eight weeks ago, to the date, we picked up our fine yellow feathered chicks. Tiny little balls of fluff, we couldn't have known how much these chicks would affect us. we purchased twelve of them thinking that we might loose one or two, but hoping for the best. 

 New house for the Chicks, a brooder really, we named it the Mini Coop and I added an R in parentheses to make it sound smoother. So it was dubbed the Mini Coop(R)

Though the front looked similar to the Big Brother coop, the back was plain chicken wire so we could be sure they were cool/warm enough. Chicks don't need much space at this age (so we were told from the feed store guy we got them from) since they like to huddle to feel safer.

By the next day, they were looking bigger and there seemed to be less space between the chicks. Nah, that couldn't happen over night! Well, it was. It took exactly three days for the chicks to out grow this Brooder! This was the harbinger of things to come for us.

We started with Chick starter, free access. We checked on them twice a day, AND THEY ATE, AND ATE, AND ATE! we jury rigged a larger wire cage and they stayed there in the coop for about three weeks.   
I tell of their growing so fast, they outgrew their feathers in an earlier post, and it's true-these birds didn't fully feather out until week 7 and by then their habit of waddle a few steps then lay down- and it didn't matter where they were, their breast feathers were actually rubbed off at the skin. 

We were told many things about the Cornish Cross from friends on the chicken forum we belong to, but you know the way stories go. You believe half of what's told to you, and you discount the rest. The reason I wanted to go with the Cross is speed to freezer, plain and simple. I thought that we could fill our freezer fast with a fast growing breed, but wow- the worst we heard was also true.
1. "They can't walk well": True. they get so big so fast, they don't have time to have their strength catch up to their size. They waddle and take only a few steps before the plop down, seemingly exhausted. 
2. "They don't move fast enough to get away from predators" True. But since we don't free range like the Eco-purists feel everyone should, we have them in a netted canopy pen where they are safe from Dogs, rats, cats and Mongoose and they are still considered Free Range  raised by the USDA government's standards. 
3. "by the time they get old enough to butcher, they will be too big for their bones and will be crippled"- Not for us. After slaughtering them today, we found no broken bones, though one bird did dislocate a shoulder joint after flapping out of a killing cone while bleeding out.
4. "You can harvest them at 5 weeks"- True. Boy, Howdy you can. These grow out so fast that unless you restrict their feed at night, they will grow so quickly that their muscles and tendons won't keep up[1].

We decided to go past the 5 week threshold and butcher at 8 weeks. It seemed to be the right timing for us. The last three weeks they just looked so uncomfortable. they laid around a lot,  not running or jumping much like an adolescent chick should. Eat, drink, poop- repeat. It's all they do.

Well, the post is about the butcher day and butcher we did. All 10 of the surviving Cornish Cross and two of the Original 6 hens. these were culled from the egg layers because of their mean attitude towards chicks. Since we want our flock to be self sustaining in both egg layers AND now meat chicks, we need hens that aren't going to kill the babies.

Since there are plenty of videos and photos on how to process birds for meat, I am not going to go into that in this post. I do want to say that the Aloha spirit is strong in HPP as we had one new friend and one recent one show up to help us! There is something about a person that will voluntarily help you butcher any animal. It is a bloody situation no matter how you try to keep it 'normal'. This made the day go smoothly. Thanks Barbara for your hard work with just the offal and a chicken for your pay. Thanks also to Jeff, though you had to keep an appointment, you still showed up which helped keep the moral up for the rest of us. I have your chicken  waiting for you in our freezer. Either JoAnn or I will make sure you get it or it's equivalent.

After all was done today, we butchered 12 birds with an average of 5+ pounds for the Cross birds and just under 2 pounds for the older hens. that gave us 56 pounds of chicken freezing up nicely in our fridge. This will go a long way in decreasing the higher food costs on the Island.

Though it was an amazing experience, we will not be getting the Cornish Cross breed for our meat production again. We like the "happier" look to the pullets we have of the Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red breeds. They act more like chickens where the Cornish Cross acted more like eating pooping door stops. Until we find a good grower that isn't going to be lame, lazy or sad looking, we go with the regular chickens for now.

Next post: Expansion- for real.

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