Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Emergency Chicken Harvest

Harvested a chicken today for the first time since I was 10. My mother's dog killed it right in front of her. So then we were left with the decision - should we try to make it useful, or throw it away? I'm sure all you PF bloggers out there understand why I didn't want to waste it. This is a 100% real grass-fed, free-range chicken - I'm not throwing that in the trash if I can help it. (The dog had not chewed on it in any way). But we had to act fast to keep it from spoiling.

We don't usually harvest our own animals at the farm. As I have said before, the art of red meat harvesting is a lifetime mastery. We've got someone local who does it spectacularly well, and we use him for our usual beef and goat needs, simply because he will do it so much better.

Luckily for me, though, we have one customer who insists on harvesting himself at the farm. So I've assisted on a couple of goat harvests in the last year. Extra-luckily for me, he just gave me a book on how to harvest a variety of animals, including chickens. I also had Joel Salatin's Pastured Poultry Profits to use as a reference, although he advises you how to harvest 400 chickens at a time, not one.

So, basically, it was me, a dead chicken, a knife and two books. An hour and a half later, I have the ugliest-cleaned chicken in the world sitting in the fridge, and I'm having chicken gumbo tomorrow.

I had several bad moments. First, my knife wasn't sharp enough to take the head off, and I had to look for a cleaver. Second, I tore the skin while trying to pluck it. Then, I had trouble eviscerating the chicken, as the guts did not scoop out neatly as both books intimated. Fourth, only one of the books gave any advice about getting rid of the craw (a pouch full of gravel and recently-eaten food, the first stage in the chicken digestive process). Finally, I couldn't find the gizzard (a necessary ingredient for a good gumbo). After looking through the guts again, I realized that I had save the gizzard, mistaking it for the heart. The heart is much smaller - doh!

I'm sure that anyone who knows anything about processing chickens would have laughed their heads off at my noobie efforts. Still I am very proud of myself for getting this done, and turning what would have been a total loss into dinner.


  1. Okay, ewwwwww!!! LOL. Actually, I have harvested chickens. And yes, they do run circle with their head chopped off.

    We had the same issue that our clever was not sharp enough to chop the head. Messy. And plucking sucks!

    So, I take it you're gonna have some yummy gumbo tomorrow. ;)

  2. Well I'm impressed. My gram lived on a rural farm and we used to watch or hear the cook kill the chickens for lunch but we weren't allowed to participate. Something about us refusing to eat chicken ever again, I think, which is silly because I know what basically happens, and I think of it like cleaning a fish. Sort of.

    Have fun with that gumbo!