As you may remember from earlier posts, I'm involved in a pastured poultry project at Codman Farm. We are raising some White Rock chickens out on pasture. They spend their days outside in the cow pasture and at night they go into the mobile coop to sleep and be safe from owls and other flying predators. Ground predators are stopped by the portable electric fence that surrounds them. Every few days the mobile coop is moved to a new area so they can have fresh pasture.
Last Monday was butchering day. The first step started the day before. Instead of giving the chickens their usual afternoon feed and water, they are only given water. Essentially they are on a clear liquid diet for the 12 hours before butchering. This insures that there is little or no food in their digestive tract. That will make an easier and cleaner job the next day. The next morning they are brought to the area where we will kill and butcher them. Because they sleep in the mobile coop, this job is very easy and does not involve chasing or catching or stressing the chickens. Heidi drove the tractor to the field, hooked up the mobile coop, and towed them back. It's a really simple way to "round up" 124 chickens.
From the other side of the coop you see can the chickens all at the anxious to get out. It is a simple matter to open the door and take one out at a time to butcher. One feature of the mobile coop that you can not see from the picture is that the floor boards are spaced so that much of the manure falls out. This means that the coop doesn't need constant cleaning. The manure that falls fertilizes the cow pasture.
NOTE: I'm wondering if this chicken butchering series is going to bother anyone. I plan to indicate in the title what will be covered and have some text before the pictures so people have a chance to leave if they don't want to look at the pictures. What does everyone think? I really don't want to upset upset someone who is unprepared. For those of you who are really interested in the process, another blogger has created a really great video clip of the process which you can see here.