The circle of poultry lifeRSS feed

Posted: Sunday 30 September, 2007

by Dan at 6:46pm in Poultry 13 comments Comments closed

It's been a big weekend for our first ever batch of chicks (two hens and one cockerel) which were hatched back in April.

We were up at the crack of dawn, despatcher in hand, to kill the cockerel, who had the dubious honour of being our first table chicken. The actual despatch went very smoothly - Rosemary holding him upside-down and me dealing with the neck end. It was very calm, with no tears - afterwards Rosemary rightly said that his fate had been sealed the day he had hatched. As a Light Sussex/Rhode Island Red cross he had little enough prospects, but we had always planned to eat any males we hatched.

Once he had bled for about 30 minutes Rosemary started the plucking, then we got good old Seymour out and tackled the cleaning. Let's just say we didn't find it quite as easy as it's portrayed in the book! The biggest problem was a lack of decent implements - our knives and scissors are blunt and the one sharp piece of kit we have, a cleaver, is too big to do anything except chop bits off. But we got there in the end without too much bother, and we'll be a lot quicker and more confident next time (which will be in a few weeks, since we hatched three more cockerels in our second batch of chicks).

Rosemary plucking

So tonight he was the guest of honour at dinner - one of those satisfying meals where everything on the table was home produced - and very tasty he was too, roasted with no embellishments. He weighed in at just under 4 pounds cleaned. The carcass is now simmering in the stock pot for soup tomorrow, there's a good-sized bowl of trimmings for the dogs and cats, and all-in-all we're very satisfied with the results.

And yesterday one of the hens started laying, and the other laid her first egg today. Just in time to close down for winter!

22 weeks on and our first successful foray into rearing livestock has finally borne fruit - a roast and a toast day.



Sunday 30 September, 2007 at 10:52pm

Congratulations. Sound like a tasty meal. I will be following suit soon with my guinea fowl males. Sara from farmingfriends


Monday 1 October, 2007 at 10:29am

i am about to do the same to my first young cockerel. you have helped me feel less nervous about the proceedings. i will make sure i have sharpened all the knives and scissors. i have 9 young boys in total, so we will have a steady supply through to next spring.


Monday 1 October, 2007 at 2:20pm

You've every right to feel satisfied and you're an inspiration to those of us taking our first tentative steps into smallholding/crofting. Nothing in Seymour is as easy as it looks, I've found. A friend - an experienced smallholder - said that Seymour was all very fine if only the days could be extended to 35hours!


Monday 1 October, 2007 at 2:52pm

@Sara: Please let us know how you get on, guinea fowl sound like a good idea!

@carl: I think it's good to feel a little bit nervous, I certainly did. I've killed chickens before but they were all three-quarters dead anyway and it were mercy killings. It's different killing a perfectly healthly bird, and we just wanted it to be as painless as possible. Good luck with it, I'm sure you'll be fine and please come back and let us know how it goes.

@Malc: thank you, but we think you're pretty inspirational too! We only play at it, both working full-time an living not far from suburbia. However next weekend we are going away on a fact-finding mission to see where we might go next....


Monday 1 October, 2007 at 3:04pm

Hey there, Rosemary and Dan! That is a nice sized chicken for the table!! YUMMY!!! We love chicken at our house, fixed about anyway you can cook it!

You two are busy!! Dan; nice to see you on the website again. It sounds like all your hard work and planning is really producing now. Good work you two!!

Rosemary; thank you for sharing about your Scottish Christmas. I, too wish the people would go back to our traditional celebrations more. A lot of us stick to it, but so many young ones do not. They say that they do their own thing, but we believe their own thing is NOT healthy. It seperates family and friends. We are going to try and do as close of a scottish Christmas as we can this year. Do you guy's decorate at all?

The apples look great. Are they good for pies? I do not know if we have that variety here, but will look it up.

We always like putting our garden, plants, trees and tools to bed for the winter. It is such a good feeling and by this time we are ready for winter. It is snowing here a little. We were hoping that it would not fully cut loose until mid October, but it looks like a early winter so far. It is around low 60's during the day and 27-32 degrees at night. We were happy about our improvements accomplished this summer. We added another 200' of post and pole fence. Finished the horse paddock and got the grass in. Made a 20' X 12' pond ( for the birds and squirrels). Had more than enough compost out of the pile to cover all three garden spots ( that made us happy). And, got two of the outer buildings re-painted. That is a lot for us! We are not as young as we use to be, but very determined!!

We went to the Willamette Valley ( to my Mom's) and we brought home Walnuts, apples, squash, tomatoes and we made over 30 quarts of grape juice. It is nasty and all natural!

I love all the posting!! It is so exciting to hear about ALL that you do in Scotland. So much sounds like what the people are doing here in Oregon.

If we keep adding to your surprise box, we are going to have to hire a ship to get it to you! I think we are just about finished. My husband says, "That is what I say everyday, but THEN I remember something else".

Take care you two and keep up the wonderful work. I really enjoy the pictures!!


Monday 1 October, 2007 at 3:11pm

Just a little note. My Grandparents whom I lived right across from their farm; raised a lot of chickens when I was a young girl. Maybe 1000 birds at a time. They sold eggs and fresh meat to the local stores for years. Anyway, I can still remember the first time I watched my Grandfather grab a chicken and put it to the block. It flopped for it seemed hours, but my Grandparents were right there to explain every little step to me. Especially that the chicken did not feel any harm to them. But, this is what stuck in my head all of these years! The Good Lord gave us people teeth for chewing, and he plentished us with meat from animals, therefore we take the meat and we thank him for our bounties! The Lord then makes it that the animals do not suffer; instead it is their honor. A little different twist, huh? I hope you always enjoy your bounties, it looks to me that your are very blessed!


Tuesday 2 October, 2007 at 12:03am

After plucking literally thousands of birds(!) I can maybe offer some pointers!

Start pulling feathers as soon as the bird is dead, begin on the tips of the wings, these cool down the fastest and it becomes MUCH more difficult to pull the main quills, then move to the back of the bird from neck to parsons nose, finally the breast and legs,feathers from here are the easiest to remove and can take the most cooling of the carcass!!

Nasty huh!

Best of luck with the next batch!


Friday 5 October, 2007 at 7:56pm

Congratulations - I've nominated you for one of Bean Sprout's C.B.H. awards for, "bloggers who live what they preach, who try to make the changes in their own lives that they would like to see in the world."http://bean-sprouts.blogspot.com/



Friday 5 October, 2007 at 9:55pm

Hey Gerry! We, also have plucked a LOT of chickens, but I MUST say, "THANK YOU FOR THE GREAT IMFORMATION! I learned something new! And, WE WILL give it a try because it makes great sense!

Hi Rosemary and Dan. We are getting a lot of snow today and it looks like more coming. Hope you are both warm and cozy, as is all your animals!!


Monday 8 October, 2007 at 12:35pm

Thanks Frankie, that's very kind!

Rosemary Champion

Tuesday 9 October, 2007 at 7:39pm

I did point out to Dan that, in the time it took to prepare our chook, I could have been to Tesco and back about 40 times. We need to get quicker - by the time we had finished, he was stiff as a board, with the legs stuck out behind. We couldn't get him into that nice shape that supermarket chickens are in, so we had to roast him on his side. Didn't make any difference to the flavour, though

Dan did ask me to stop referring to the bird as "he" and start referring to it as "it" - but I can't.


Tuesday 9 October, 2007 at 7:43pm

Wanda, there must be something about having seasons like you experience. Our seasons seem to be getting less extreme and we certainly don't seem to have such had winters as we used to - it's milder and wetter, generally.

I love the idea of (really) battening down the hatches - don't know if I'd love the reality so much, though.


Wednesday 10 October, 2007 at 2:43am

I second that, Frankie!! Great blog, great people and I learn a lot from them!!

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