08 June 2014

Spring meat chicken update

I bought half a dozen Cornish-Rock cross meat chickens this spring from Tractor Supply ... I think it was the first or second week of March.  I had the employee catch the six liveliest chicks with bright eyes and clean butts.  Even with getting the best six in the bin, on the third morning I had one dead.  Bummer.  The remaining five ate and grew, and in general were the disgusting dirty little meat birds they ought to be.

I started slaughtering the first two the middle of last month.  The first went absolutely perfectly, from a quick clean kill to easy plucking and that one ended up deboned, stuffed, and smoked.  We even invited the neighbors over to share.  The second one, though ... she struggled and not only dislocated her wing, but put the bone through her skin.  While I initially tried to pluck her, I quickly gave up as her skin tore way too easily, so she was skinned, quartered, and grilled.  She still tasted good for being skinless.

This weekend I slaughtered the only cockerel of the bunch on Friday morning.  Other than not cutting the jugular enough at first, he went alright with plucking although I have no intention of trying to debone him as his ligaments and tendons are good and strong.  Late Friday afternoon when I went out to feed the remaining two pullets, I found one dead.  I am not sure if it was just the heat or a heart attack, or even a combination of those, but it likely was a matter of I let her go too long.  Hubby and I both feel it's a waste, as she had a goodly amount of meat on her bones.  So, I stopped feeding the remaining pullet, and slaughtered her this morning, then had to skin her after she dislocated the exact same wing joint as the previous one, and her skin tore when I tried to pluck her.

Overall, this year's meat chickens are a disappointment.  Of the six I bought, only four have made it into my kitchen, and two had to be skinned due to weak skin integrity and ligaments.  Perhaps TSC received a bad batch this spring.  I am glad my luck was not so poor last year, or I might give up!  Instead, I have a new plan.  Instead of buying Cornish-Rock cross birds, I will order heavy breed cockerels from a hatchery.  Several of the hatcheries offer these at a discount, and give it a cute name like "frying pan special" or "BBQ special."  If I feel froggy, I might even order a half dozen Cornish-Rock pullets, which are cheaper than the cockerels because they don't convert feed to meat as well, and ought to be slaughtered at a younger age (Cornish Rock "game" "hens," anyone?).

On the upside, I managed to get all the livers away from the bile duct this year.  What beautiful chicken livers they are, too ... I don't medicate unless I absolutely need to, and this batch was also med-free this year.  These lovely, rich, dark red, large livers make the absolute BEST giblet gravy, or chopped up are the perfect accent in chicken-n-dumplins.

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