Our happy chickens make healthy meat!
Many people ask us how we process our extra birds so here is our page to give that information. Since we hatch many birds throughout the year and there are way too many extra roosters or drakes to sell we usually put them in our freezer. Up until that time we make sure they live a happy life, enjoying a relaxing farm life, eating well and being as stress free as possible. Most of our extra males free range and have access to good grass, weed seeds and an abundance of bugs making the meat very tasty.
Processing Instructions for our own meat
We use 2 containers with water. I like to add some salt to the second one because the first one is just a rinsing of the fresh meat. The second one is where it is stored longer as we work on the other birds.
We have several very sharp knives, maybe some bolt cutters for duck legs and a large butcher knife or hatchet for the chicken legs and we put down a split clean trash bag to work on.
Usually Terry is getting around the containers, water, knives and setting up the table as I am getting the birds caught up for processing. My roosters are usually tame enough I can walk up and get them but the ducks can give me a bit more chase.
For our killing cone we use a traffic cone from Lowe's and nail it to a fence post. We cut the end off for bigger heads to go through and this works great to keep our meat from getting bruised. It also allows for the blood to drain out as we work on processing others.
To add blood to your compost heap and around your plants, you can put a bucket underneath to catch it. I add water to help keep it thinned out enough to use.
I forgot to take photos of the roosters being done but may add some later. In this photo you see that we have put the duck, head first, down into the cone and Terry grabs the head in a firm grip. Sometimes the bird is so small I have to hold the legs so he can get a good clean cut and not pull the bird through the end. It is our objective to make only one quick cut, beheading the bird. Doing this as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
The cone has only one nail so Terry is able to swivel the cone over to make it easier for a quick downward motion. Letting the cone fall back to a vertical position for blood drainage.
A word of warning when you do ducks......jump back as they are sprayers. Chickens are less likely to do this and their blood runs easily down but ducks will swivel the neck stub and spray blood as far as 4 ft. all around for the first 30 seconds.
Next we take off the legs at the hock. I will get photos later of how we do the roosters with a sharp butcher knife, hatchet or machete on top of a fence post but with the Runner ducks their legs are so small we can use bolt cutters for a quick snap and then cut the remaining tendon.
We are then ready to put the bird on the table and start getting the meat off.
I take a fillet knife and slit the skin on the breast, being careful not to puncture the meat underneath, especially on a duck.
At this point we get another in the cone and let it start bleeding out.
On this duck the layer of fat is harder to rip aside but on roosters we can easily slit up the breast and tear away the skin all the way over to each leg.
We have found it best to pull the skin all the way off over the leg quarters and pop the leg out of joint first and taking off the leg quarters before attempting to get the breast meat off. Terry likes to splash some water on the meat to keep it wet while working on it.
If any skin and feathers are left on the end of the leg cut those off and tear away.
Grab the leg and fold it back to get it to pop out of joint. It should basically look like it can lay flat on the table.
Cut the thigh meat away from the body. I let Terry do this part but help if he wants me to. I fillet more meat away from the body and he just cuts as quickly as possible to get on to the next bird.
This is the duck leg after he removed it. He trims off more fat before he cooks it but I prefer to leave some fat on it. He puts this into the first container of water.
So after the leg quarters are off it is much easier for me to fillet out the breast meat. This is a photo of one of our free ranging 5 month old Olive Egger roosters.
Ideally I like to start at the front of the breast (the clavicle) and roll my blade around the front to loosen that meat and then slide it up beside the bone and along the keel. I have different cuts to show how the meat falls away from the bone shown here though.
Where my right hand is at, the one holding the knife is where I will start and then use the edge of my knife to slice right beside the bone to where my left hand is at on the keel.
You can see how the meat is left if not starting out well. As I make cuts I do pull the meat gently away and hold it. If loosened correctly it can easily be pulled away from the bone with just my fingers.
The important thing is to try and keep the knife next to the bone to work it loose. As it comes away from the keel and if it is already cut from the front of the breast then you will run into some tendons that will need to be sliced through to continue. There should be 3 unless you leave the small piece of meat in front of the rib cage.
This is slicing down right next to the keel bone.
The meat actually is easy to get away from the bone and sometimes I will slice across the rib cage at the bottom of where I am cutting in this photo to free it up a bit more.
And you can see how easily it will pull free once those tendons in front are cut. I grab the front of the meat and pull upwards and towards the back.
If doing it this way then it will take a few times to get the skill down. No rush and no fuss if some meat is left. Coming away without any cuts to yourself is important.
Ducks are done largely the same way. The leg quarters are not as big as on our roosters but the breast meat, especially from our Muscovy, is tremendous! It makes up for the leg quarters. These breasts are from young Runner ducks but still not too shabby.
We choose to do our meat this way because we have a small freezer and the carcass from each and every bird would soon fill it to capacity. Also, we do not care to eat other parts of the bird but may start taking out some livers. I have taken out the gizzards and cooked them down for broth since we do not get the skin for using for broth.
On this day we processed 5 roosters and 3 Runner drakes. It took us a bit over an hour but we were also taking photos.
We took the meat in the house, rinsed and got all the feathers off before putting it in brine water.
I let the meat sit in the brine water in the fridge for 24 hours but have let it go as long as 48. I rinse and put in freezer bags.
This made a lot of meals for us.
Some chicken breasts from the young roosters.