We processed our 600th bird with our Featherman equipment. We did 56 birds in a little under an hour with just two adults early Sunday morning. I was kill/scald/pluck/head and feet removal…as usual. My wife hung them on the shackles and eviscerated, inspected and placed in the pink chill water. Our kids woke up and joined us when there were a few birds left. I was happy to see this pace though we haven’t broken any records. In Pastured Poultry Profits, Salatin says he did 150 birds in 2.5 hours with his wife and young son helping. I think that’s doable, we just aren’t quite there yet.
We need about an hour to scrub and sterilize the work area. We need an hour to process 60 birds. We need an hour to clean up and compost. Then we need about 2.5 hours per 60 birds to package them because I had so many cut-ups. Yikes!
The packaging process is the worst. It’s a big chunk of the reason I need $3 per pound tending toward raising the price. Darby reminded me, “You may as well do nothing for nothing as something for nothing”. Something has to change on the packaging front. Something has to change. A label printer would save a few seconds and a bit of frustration. Working to get a good scald would save a bit of time cleaning up birds before packaging. Otherwise, it just takes time to cut and bag them.
I stand by the Featherman review I published earlier. The kill cones are great. The scalder does a good job but I have found the burner to be a bit fiddly. The roto-dunker needs work as my fingers are cut from sharp edges on the dunker and the motor isn’t powerful enough. The plucker does a fine job on the birds and the shackles are awesome. Porter Pond Farm offers independent verification of the issues I am having with our processing equipment.
Raising chickens is easy…even with Cornish Cross. We lose less than 2% of the birds to natural death. The percentage goes up just a little bit when you include accidental death from pre-teen feet and very rare accidents when moving the chicken tractors. Killing and eviscerating isn’t too bad. It’s manageable work. Packaging the birds in shrink bags is rough as cutting up and packaging parts eats away at the day.
I’m happy to report three 90 degree days later the compost pile is mostly containing the odor. I put in equal parts sawdust and chicken offal along with a bale of straw on top of it all. You can smell bad management. My management must not be too bad…but that means it can be better.