Thursday, 10 October 2013

Plucking work!

I harvested four meat chickens this week - stunned, bled and hung them in the chiller to relax. I would love to tell you that I weighed the chickens and calculated their feed-to-meat ratio and harvested them because I knew they were at the peak of their development. This is a lie. Like all jobs tackled around here, there was a much more basic reason: the meat chickens were getting a bit cramped in their shed so I freed up floor space by harvesting some of the biggest birds first. And we were out of chicken.

The underkeeper ran them over our plucking machine for me this morning. These ex-chickens are eleven weeks old, fed on medium protein food, on a free range system -

I bought two varieties of the same ' Farm Ranger' meat breed, one with brown feathers and one with white. The brown feathered variety is meant to grow marginally slower than the white variety; I wanted to stagger my chicken harvest, a half dozen at a time, because it's so tiring to do them in bulk. And, if an emergency came up and I had to put off the harvest, I would end up with a freezer full of fat chickens. That's a costly waste of chicken feed.

Once plucked, we found no obvious difference in growth rates between the brown and white varieties. The only difference is that the white ones pluck easier and more cleanly than the brown birds. The coming cold weather means that the birds are changing their feathers, so the brown guys are extra stubbly.

White Ranger (L) and Brown Ranger (R) with its five o'clock shadow!

There's some good flesh on them already, and only a little fat. Gutted and packaged, each weighs just over 2 kilos (about 4 1/2 lbs) each. I can leave it another fortnight before harvesting a few more cockerels. This is great news as there are 114 partridges in the chiller that need plucking for the weekend.


Pam said...

Eeewwwww-five-o-clock shadow on a chicken! Could you try waxing? And I don't know if I could relax after being stunned, bled and hung. I'm just sayin'. Looks like some good eating, though.

Jennifer Montero said...

Pam - There *is* a wax bath for finishing chickens to remove the stubble, but it's an expensive bit of equipment. A blow torch is useful too, the kind for brulee-ing your creme in the kitchen.

Peruby said...

MMmm...I love me some chicken! Bon apetit!

Kris said...

I had a farm-raised free-range chicken-n-dumpling dinner once (prepared by the farm wife). I never knew chicken could taste that good. I've eaten hundreds of chickens over my lifetime and the only one that I remember/savor is that one. I envy you your harvest! Yum.

Seester said...

Normally the crispy browned skin of the chicken is my favorite part, but I think those pictures have put me right off of that.