Next was the turkeys. Luckily there were only 4 turkeys and they were quite easy to get. A dog crate was their home for the next little while, they were all far too big for the chicken crates. They were quite beautiful to see up close. Neither Tim nor I have really seen turkeys up close and they really are lovely birds. Finally it was the pastured barred rocks. Luckily it was still dark so catching thirty only took a matter of minutes. Trying to determine size and sex was a challenge thought, they are black and white birds that visually read as grey in the dawn.
Around 7:30 we left the farm for a small scale Mennonite poultry processor, one of a handful left in the area. We chose this one as it came highly recommended by other farmers. After seeing them we would have to agree.
We arrived there just after eight and we were about 6th in line. Tim talked to some other people in line. We got our green slips and waited. Most people do a white-rock-cornish cross bird for meat. These birds are bred for meat and grow can grow to 10 pounds in around 10 weeks. At least that is what we are told. Most of these birds cannot fly and do not seem to care about much of anything around them. What they do do is convert feed to meat very well. Our birds took 28 weeks to get to 6 pounds. After a while the inspector came round and said everything looked good.
Actually watching the kill line was disturbing, but having said that…there was a person at every step of the way. The kids picked up the birds and flipped them around with ease. One, two, three, four, five into the stocks. The next kid with the electric knife would then grab hold of their neck and cut it. It wasn’t graceful but it did appear immediate. The little chicken body was now stained red, it shook a bit and was done. The next step was the scalder to break down the proteins in the feathers to make it easier to pluck the birds, then into the Featherman plucker and onto the next stage inside the building. It really was, in many ways amazing to watch.
The chances of a chicken getting injured and wandering around for too long is very low. Of course, that exact scenario happened while we were there. One of the chickens, not ours, came out of the stocks and landed on the floor. It was a bit dazed, but in no time it was picked up and killed. The sight really bothered me, but people are people and can make mistakes.
Of course our birds were not docile meat birds and can fly. The Mennonite kids had to be told of this. They were very good about it and only had one, occasionally two birds in the stocks. They also kept a hold of the birds so they couldn’t go anywhere. Once again it was all over very fast.
Watching anything be killed is not a nice sight. For us the entire process was somewhat traumatic. The thought of a mobile abattoir is wonderful because the worst part of the whole thing was catching the birds. Once they were in the cages they settled right down. The drive was okay too as they were well protected by the trailer and tarp. But, if we want to sell our birds legally this is what has to be done. After watching the entire process I can see a reason for having docile birds willing to accept their death.
We left and went home to tend to the rest of our animals, have a shower, and get a bite to eat. We went back to the plant to pick up the birds in the afternoon. At the end of it all we have ten chickens in our freezer along with one duck from our friend. We have made another collective step towards knowing we can produce some more of our own food. Now we have to find out how much all of this cost!