This year brought quite a few challenges to our homestead- many of which have a profound effect on our food production. Heat was the first obstacle partnered with some shipping mishaps which left us with half the birds we normally process in a year's time. This was followed by severe flooding that left us standing in water searching for higher ground.
Challenges are good for us- even in urban farm/homesteading. Times like this force us to think outside the box, evaluate every option we hadn't thought of, and press on. The flock didn't suffer to terribly once we found a dry place for them, and the year's butchering day went off without incident. In all, we processed about 50 birds in 3 hours despite the fact there are only 3 of us here to do the work (in the past there were 5-7 people on hand).
My family tends to give me plenty of space on days like these: I am task oriented, focused and rather intense about set up, process and the generally running of it. Over the years, our family members learned each aspect of the process, but eventually found their place in the line up.
Fans set out, freezer's cleaned and prepped- I tend to 'fast' my flock the night before: the have water but no feed. This cuts mess and the birds seem calmer. My butcher set up has three stations: catch and kill, cut and cook, burn and bury. That's it. Note: we do not leave skin on our birds, so there is no plucking station.
My station is cut and cool where tables are set up and covered with paper. Trash bins are double lined and tucked under those tables. I have aprons specifically for butchering. Knives are specific to me as I have very small hands; I like them sharp and light weight. On one side of the table is a tub of water for 'quick rinse' needs (hands, knives, etc.). The other side of my table has a tub of icy salt water for rinsing the meat before packing. This cools the temp and helps draw the blood from the meat.
Bags of ice go into chests near the table. The rinsed and packaged meat will be chilled here before it goes into the freezer. This prevents the freezer temp from plummeting and the meat not cooling quickly.
Once meat is well chilled, the bags are layered in the freezer: layer of ice, layer of meat, layer of ice, etc. My family will tell you I am a bit nuts about cleaning and cooling quickly- but they have not gotten sick from any of our meat (just saying).
Today I sit with a sigh of satisfaction knowing the freezer is stocked and the heifer will be joining in very soon. Though it is not the usual harvest, it is a good one. We can always raise another set in the fall. We are all just glad to have a whole hunk of chore time cut out!