I want to give you some tips that we use that will make processing your poultry easier. But first I want to give you a great quote that Boots gave me last night when I was wondering about all of the hurdles, obstacles, and opposition that we have encountered over the years since we made the decision to leave the city and move to the farm. I wondered out loud when it would end. And he said,
"If you go against the flow it won't end until you conform or die."
Then he gave me a long and remarkable allegory using our recent canoe trips as an example. I hope to record it all one day and share it with you. But for now I want to encourage you to keep on. Stay the course. You are not alone.
We use a mechanical tub-style plucker and it makes all the difference in the world. We started without one and plucked by hand but when you are doing several birds it saves a lot of time and effort. You can put a couple of chickens in at a time or a single turkey and they come out clean as a whistle. Make sure that your water temperature is right and that you have added some detergent to the scalding water. O.k. here we go:
Place the bird upside-down with its head put through a traffic cone (for chickens) or a five gallon bucket with a hole cut in the bottom (for turkeys) and slit the neck, cutting the side arteries. Make sure to have a bucket underneath to catch the blood. Let the bird "bleed" for several minutes.
Meanwhile, you will have heated your water for scalding to 145 degrees. If cooler than that it will not loosen the feathers. Hotter than that and you will cook the bird. Add a little non-toxic detergent to the water. We use Basic-H. (The original.) This really does make a difference in loosening those feathers. Hold the bird upside down by the feet and dip in the hot water. Hold there for a minute or two and check to see if the feathers are loose. If not, dip in the water again. When it's ready put into your plucker or pluck by hand. Then proceed with removing the head and cleaning the inside. If you need help with that part let us know. We would be glad to help.
Sticking your thermometer through a styrofoam cup or cork and letting it float in the scalding water is a big help in keeping the temperature right. Curved end needle-nosed pliers are great for removing stubborn pin feathers. A pair of hog ring pliers and the rings are very handy for sealing the bags. Make sure to cool the birds and innards (separately) in ice water until all of the heat is out of them and refrigerate for 24 hours before freezing so that the meat will be tender.
As with anything, you will find your own way of doing things, but we hope these tips will help you with your own home-grown, healthy, delicious, raised-by-you poultry.