When we decided to raise chickens for eggs and meat we jumped in with 3 silkie chicks our neighbor gave us. They were fun and funny looking, so after they reached about 3 months old we turned them loose to free range during day and only put them in the coop at night. This was working so well we were encouraged to get more chickens. We got some from a hatchery, which when you live on the big island of Hawaii it was a bigger deal than one would expected. Let’s just say lots of chicks died in transit.
When it was all said and done we ended up with 12 (Easter-eggers) or Americana breed chickens and our three original silkies. After weeks in a brooding box under a heat lamp we were able to set them free to range in the yard and only were put up at night. Around 16 weeks we could tell the male from the female but not before one very ill-fated attempt to sex them. Did you know that involves turning them upside down and pressing on their rectum to see whether something pops out. Supposedly if something pops out the chicken is a male. Good luck catching them unless you wait until dark, then it is hard to see what you are doing. Not to mention they don’t enjoy being assaulted. We had 7 males and 5 females.
We started harvesting the roosters at 24 weeks, we choose the sweetest rooster to head our flock, he happened to also be the fastest to mature, then we started culling the others as we needed them. In the beginning we watched you tube videos and dove in. Let me tell you the de-feathering process was a trip. Dipping a large bird in a pot of boiling water is easier if you have a pot large enough to submerge the chicken. If not, you submerge what fits then flip over the bird and dip it again, if it still doesn’t fit then you end up poring boiling water over the bird while it hangs from the porch. By the way the other chickens like to watch this process while periodically tasting the feathers of their fallen brethren. At bit cannibalistic but whatever floats their boats. Oh and leaving the feathers in a 5 gallon bucket for any length of time is a mistake our 2 farm dogs found this with-in minutes and strewn them all over the drive way. The next time we culled a rooster and friend came over and showed us how to clean a chicken without removing the feathers first. If you don’t want the skin the process of cleaning a chicken can be accomplished with in minutes.
So until recently the job of culling and cleaning the roosters fell to my husband but I started thinking what if my husband wasn’t able to do this anymore? I should know how to cull and clean chickens on my own in order to take care of my family. The last rooster we decided to eat I had to man up and get my hands bloody. My first kill was scary yet when it was done I felt proud. I was able to give this chicken a great life and he gave my family a great super healthy meal. The worse part of harvesting the rooster was the actually killing part. The cleaning was really interesting and I challenged myself to not waste even a little bit of the meat. So I took my time and saved all eatable parts of the chicken. Once I removed all meat from the carcass I brought it into the house to actually clean the meat and cook it up and serve it to my family. So not only did I bring home the theoretical bacon I cleaned it and cooked it too, not to mention the growing the bacon part to ensure the bacon had happy healthy life.
Do you have any tips for growing happy healthy chickens? Feel free to comment below.