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.
I am task oriented, focused and rather intense about set up, process and the generally running of it.
The week of processing I get freezers cleaned and prepped making sure there is plenty of space and plenty of ice on hand. The night before, stations are set up in order to streamline the process.
One of our young adults did return home to assist this year; it was such a blessing to have an extra set of hands! Since we are an empty nest homestead, changes to our layout were required.
In general , we used three stations: Killing is station one: knives, cones, and lined buckets are ready, waiting, and stay at this station until clean up; Break Down is station two: cutting boards, knives, bowls of salted ice water, large lined trash cans are on hand for the main processing station; 'Cool Down' is station three: positioned near the sink are sealing bags, markers, and towels to rinse, dry, bag and label. With fewer hands on deck, we opted to combine station two and three which left my husband to man the catch and kill station and myself to process, cool down, and then package the birds. Our extra hands helped with my station until she had to leave.
To our great surprise the whole thing went off without a hitch- or even an injury! In all, we processed about 48 birds in 4 hours despite the fact there are only 2 (three for a time) of us here to do the work (in the past there were 5-7 people on hand).
If you have never had the privilege of processing your own poultry or if you are considering it, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a go. Start small, maybe a few birds, and work to a goal that meets your family's needs or consider partnering with an experienced poultry family until you get a feel for it.
Sitting at the table tonight, we shared in good food and the satisfaction of hard work and the provision it brings, the security of a well stocked freezer, and the joy of knowing that he and I can manage this task- just the two of us.