We have just finished our third day of harvesting meat chickens. Harvesting. That’s a pleasant way to phrase it, isn’t it? We’ve got 37 out of 49 chickens in freezer camp – about 12 birds a day.

A reluctant chicken farmer, this is my second year getting up close and personnel with my food. This years’ experience was different in a number of ways.

We raised Freedom Rangers instead of Cornish X Rocks. The Freedom Rangers turned out to be beautiful birds with natural chicken instincts, unlike last year’s prehistoric-looking eating machines. The trip to freezer camp was not always as smooth one. Paul had a number of escapees. One reluctant chicken disappeared from the killing cone after being dispatched. The latent reflexes carried it off and Paul finally found it thirty feet away in the woods. This hen escaped on the way to the killing cone. She’s still at large.

Freedom Ranger at Large

Hannah and I played chicken catcher. We chased down chickens and placed them in this holding pen to await Paul’s attention. A couple of times chickens flew the coop when we opened the lid so we had to catch the same chicken more than once.

chicken holding pen

Paul built a WhizBang Chicken Plucker (seriously – that’s what it’s called), relieving me from chicken plucking duty. When I consented to raising meat chickens, part of the agreement was that they would come to me ready for roasting. Plucking was not part of the bargain.

This home-built chicken plucker is amazing – three chickens plucked clean in 30 seconds. (Imagine me doing the Dance of Joy here.)

Whizbang Chicken Plucker

chicken plucker in action

Last year we put up all of the chickens as roasters. Since I wasn’t elbow deep in chicken feathers this year I cut all 37 chickens into pieces – leg quarters, boneless skinless breasts, tenders, and wings. The backs I saved for making stock down the road.

25 chickens in my fridge

When I started this process on Saturday, it took me 15 minutes per chicken to cut it up. With the help of videos on YouTube and practice, I’m down to 7 minutes per bird.

We’ve got 90+ meals worth of chicken in the fridge and freezer. I think the final 12 chickens may remain roasters.

All this chicken activity and you ask what did we have for dinner tonight?