Cleaning Chickens, and Respecting Food

My friend Cedo has chickens. I wrote about them HERE when they came to her house. Remember these little chicks? The process of raising them from this to dinner has given me a whole new level of respect for where our food comes from and the work that goes into producing it.

Cedo keeping an eye on her new babies in the back of the car. Yes, there was a lot of cheeping going on!

Cedo keeping an eye on her new babies in the back of the car. Yes, there was a lot of cheeping going on!

As soon as they got home they starting eating and growing! At four weeks (August 18th) they looked like this.

They look much better with more feathers!

They look much better with more feathers!

Time went on, they continued to grow

This seems to be the life of a chicken, especially a meat chicken – eating, looking forward to more food, eating again, looking for more food, messing up the chicken house, begging for more food etc. By now Cedo is pretty much over it! Their house has to be cleaned morning and night, and they have gone through a 50 pound sack of food in 8 days and still complain they are hungry. They have to be put in their house if she goes anywhere so they don’t get caught in the rain, because if they get wet they will get sick (unlike the egg laying chickens who don’t seem to mind). This is just the maintenance. More work comes at the end.

Today was chicken cleaning day. If you don’t want to go there, this would be a good time to click on out of here. (no yucky pictures, I promise, just the story)

The chickens were out and about this morning

The chickens were out and about this morning

This morning, a neighbor was going to come and dispatch some of the chickens but he said his arm hurt and he couldn’t. Thankfully Cedo knows what to do, and after a grab to the head and a hard fast spin, two of them were hanging head down on the fence so the blood could drain. Next they were taken to the outside sink and washed, and then dipped in boiling water. Then, we took off all the feathers which was fairly easy, except a chicken has a million feathers! Next, they were held over the gas stove flame to burn off any remaining feather bits, and were put in the kitchen sink for another washing with a careful checking for any remaining feathers and a scraping off of the outer layer of skin. (I soon learned that these are young tender chickens and it is very easy to break the skin. I even managed to break it with a sponge!  There is a reason I was only allowed to clean my own).

Next, we opened the chickens which means cutting around the neck on one end, cleaning out any blood and whatever innards you can reach from there. Then, there is cutting around the vent and the rest of the innards are carefully removed, being very careful not to break the gall bladder which has liquid you don’t want in your meat. The feet are cut off, the chicken is washed and inspected again, and it is put in a plastic bag. Then the neck, heart, liver, and gizzard are carefully cleaned an put inside the chicken. Cedo also includes a small sweet pepper, a garlic clove, and a culantro leaf for a special touch. The chicken is weighed and labeled, and put in the fridge. We also cleaned the feet by slipping off the outer skin, cutting off the calloused parts where they walk, and trimming off the claws. (We had a request for the feet by someone who wants to make soup. )

So, that’s all there is to it! ha. We started around 9AM and by 2PM we had cleaned eight chickens. It’s probably a good thing the neighbor didn’t kill 16 as we had initially planned. With only us working we were able to work on two at a time and when they were finished, we went out and got two more.  Cedo’s assistant (me!) didn’t know what she was doing and needed instruction on every step but still, it was both of us working all that time. After all that work, and all the chicken food, at $2.25/lb cleaned it will be interesting to see if she makes any money. She is saying now that this is not a business she is interested in doing any more. She would be willing to raise chickens for our own use but not for sale. And also, they have eaten every bit of anything green they find so the back yard is nothing but dirt, or mud when it rains.

There are 25 more chickens and she is going to wait a while before cleaning any more. These weighed around 4 – 4.5 pounds and she would like them bigger. Next time the assistant should be a bit more efficient, but still there is no getting around the process.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this whole chicken business. I have never eaten anything I have actually met and watched grow up. I found it surprisingly easy though. We knew from the start they were going to be dinner, and it seems like there is something very basic but satisfying in some way I can’t explain, knowing where your food came from and preparing it with your own hands. I also know these chickens were raised with respect, and healthy, chemical free food which I appreciate.

This was dinner last night. It was excellent! I don’t think I have ever had better chicken.

I’m in favor of working with Cedo to lighten her work load so we can continue to raise our own chickens.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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16 Responses to Cleaning Chickens, and Respecting Food

  1. 4sarge says:

    Cleaning Chickens is a Tough Job, But somebody has to do it 🙂

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  2. Robert & Helen. says:

    It is a lot of work! Only good on a small scale for your own consumptiom as well as you know what food they had. Same applies to raising ducks, but cleaning their shit is terrible.

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  3. Alex says:

    Ohh! This brings memories. Now a pig, that is really a lesson in what it takes to get food on the table. Pigs are more intelligent to boot.

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    • There may be a pig in December, but in this case there may also be a professional who knows what to do with one. Yes, pigs are very intelligent but unfortunately for them, also very tasty.

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  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    When I was young and we used to spend the entire summer at Nickerson State Park in Brewster out on Cape Cod, (before we moved there full-time) one of the first things we’d do was pay a visit to Mayo’s Duck Farm over in Orleans and my brothers and I would each pick out a nice yellow duckling. We’d let them roam around the camp site all summer just before Labor Day my dad would dispatch them and we’d have a feast.

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  5. Sunni Morris says:

    That brings back memories of growing up on the farm. We did the same thing with chickens. And then dried the feathers to stuff into pillows or feather beds. It is nice knowing where your food came from.

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  6. Sunni Morris says:

    That’s all my grandmother did was dry them. We all had feather pillows as kids. Once in a while you could pull one through the ticking. 🙂

    Not much went to waste on the farm.

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    • I asked Cedo and that is what she said. Be sure they are clean and put them out to dry, and don’t let them get rained on. I might try making myself a feather pillow. Thanks for the idea 🙂

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  7. Martha Friedman says:

    How many weeks was it from chick to dinner?

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