Last week the second batch of 150 broiler chickens went to the processor. (And I’m happy to say that batch one had already sold out at farmers market the week before!)
There’s a lot of handling with chickens. They can’t be herded like the hogs or cattle – you basically have to handle them one at a time.
First we unpack them from the hatchery boxes into the brooder. At 3-1/2 weeks we load them from brooder to trailer, and then from trailer to pasture pen. At butchering time we load them from pasture pen to trailer, and then from trailer to cages at the processing plant. The next day we load the chilled birds from the processing plant into the car, and then from the car into racks at the locker to be frozen. The next day after that we pick them up frozen from the locker and load them into the car, and once home we load them from the car into our freezers.
At butchering time here’s the system we’ve developed for wrangling the birds into the trailer. First we run a hog panel from one edge of their shed out to the perimeter fencing. Here’s Olivia holding up the panel (and looking rather nicely dressed considering the task at hand):
Then we run another hog panel from the other edge of their shed out to the opposite side of the perimiter fencing. This limits the space the birds have to get away from us. Matt’s holding up this panel while Rafe contemplates which chicken will be next in the trailer. Rafe likes to wear heavy gloves – those chickens can scratch!
The kids usually take turns between holding up fence panels and catching chickens. Madeline has a strong dislike for chickens and is usually the loudest complainer. I tried to sell her on the fact that chicken wrangling is a good workout for her arm and shoulder muscles, and she can probably thank those chickens for improving her softball pitch. But I don’t think she bought it. (In fact she’s not even in these pictures because she volunteered to do all the hog and cattle chores for Matt just so that she could get out of at least part of loading the chickens!)
The trailer is backed up right outside the fence and we place them inside, one at a time.
Once at the processor the kids and I catch them in the trailer and hand them to Matt, who puts them in the processor’s cages. He gets the raw end of the deal, because the birds tend to poop on him as they’re being put in the cages.
Definitely a team effort, and all that labor makes those birds all the more tastier!
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