Wednesday, July 29, 2009

She Crowed

Disturbed from my slumber, I looked about confused. The bedroom was dark and I rolled over to look at the alarm clock, 4:45. What had awoken me? I lay still listening to the night's sounds through the open window waiting for a clue. Cockadoodle doo... 'Oh, great! Don't tell me that's coming from our backyard.', I thought as a mild panic raced through me. Cockadoodle doo... 'That is coming from our backyard. We've put a rooster in town. Our neighbors are going to love us. (sarcasm) It has got to be that white hen.'

Amazingly, the two dogs in the houses next to us weren't barking, like they do at all hours of the night. Their howling doesn't seem to bother our neighbors but I don't think they'll be as tolerant of a rooster crowing waking them at dawn. I slipped on a pair of shoes and quietly stole out the back door for an exploratory round of the backyard. The sun was just a blush on the horizon but there stood the white hen in the bean patch, her head thrown back crowing. 'I guess that clears one matter up.", I thought. It's not a hen as I had figured.'

The strange looking chicken had a thick neck, big round eyes - larger than any chicken I'd seen before- a pea sized comb, and a hen's hackle. I didn't know what it was, but through the process of elimination, I figured it must be a white Wyadotte hen. I'd ordered two Silverlaced Wyodotte hens from the hatchery and I had only received one but there was this white chick without an identity and so I deduced that they must have substituted a white Wyadotte for a Silverlaced. Wrong!

Staring at my hen crowing I figured, 'I guess this settles when I'm butchering chickens.' Then began to formulate a plan for my day that included the three roosters at the corrals. They were a little small but, since I was making the mess, I might as well do them too.

Once again, I wasn't about to pluck chicken feathers by myself for in that task misery definitely needs company. My family baled on me years ago when the stench of hot wet feathers and warm guts was too much for them and turned their faces green. Shortly after that, my husband made a bargain. He'd skin and gut the wild game if I'd do the chickens. The process of dipping chickens in hot water to remove their feathers, that I'd learned as a child, went out the window and I decided to try skinning them like you do pheasants. After all, we don't eat the skin anyway. Chickens were easier than pheasants and I haven't plucked one since.

I'll give you a walk through the process. I've tried to sensor the pictures but I am butchering a chicken so if this is a bit too REAL WORLD for you then stop at the picture of Jackie's rooster that came over to visit our corrals and don't continue on.


Once I've killed the chickens, I haul them home to the kitchen sink where I...

make a slice through the skin in the leg joint while the chicken is laying on their back.

Hold one hand below the joint and the other above and snap the joint open. You can then use a knife to slice through the joint removing the lower leg.

Then I make a small slice above the tail and grasping the skin on each side of the slice I rip, pulling apart the slit to expose the breast. Pull as far as it will open.

Then work your fingers around the leg while holding the upper section steady with the other hand and pull the skin off the leg. Repeat on the other leg and pull the skin away from around the breast of the chicken toward the spine, running your thumb along the backbone to release the skin. This is the only spot where the skin is attached to the meat and resists being separated. Then repeat the leg process with the wings. We do not like the tips of the chicken wings so we cut those off and save the limb nearest the body. The chicken will be left with the tail and feathers. That I slice off also. It's just fat.

This can be done before or after you make a small slice above the tail on the breast side.

Pull as you did with the skin to reveal the insides.

During the fifteen years we home schooled butchering chickens became Chicken Biology 101 with our children crowded around the kitchen sink watching. (Without the smell of hot wet feathers the process isn't half as odoriferous.) We have witnessed an egg from when it is just a yellow dot of yolk to when it is fully formed and coming down the oviduct. (That particular chicken we thought had stopped laying and it had but it started up again on that fateful day.)

The insides can be removed with your fingers and then all that remains is a good washing with cold water to clean the bird and cool the meat for freezing.

If you desire you can cut up the bird into legs, thighs, breast etc. I'll cover that process when I have a full sized bird to process.

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