On subcontracting

On Monday morning, my calendar flashed my appointments for the week.  “What in the WORLD could I possibly have scheduled for 7:00am on Wednesday morning?” was my bleary-eyed question to myself.

Here’s what the calendar said:  “7:00 a.m. Chicks 12 weeks”

Ah.  It’s much more clear now.  The meat birds are ready to be butchered.


And boy howdy are they!  Unlike the last two batches of meat birds that I have raised, these feathered friends are actually CROWING in the morning.  It’s past time, it would seem like, for them to be freezer fare.  What a big task ahead for me:  I received 52 chicks in the mail the first week of June.  Eleven of these creatures were exempt from butchering, as they’re the new crop of laying hens (plus rooster).  Chicken Patty gets a husband and at least two sister-wives, so there go another 3 chickens.  And then there’s the turkey baby, and then there’s the 5 goslings, who are now full-sized geese.  Thirty-eight chickens, one turkey, and five geese.


I happened to be on a post-movie panel discussion last month with the woman who runs our Eat Local listserve.  She came out to the farm and graciously took three of my new laying hen chicks, plus extra rooster, off my hands, as she had decided Speckled Sussex was what she wanted to concentrate on for her own dual-purpose birds, but (sadly) a raccoon ate all but two of hers.  So we were doing the Chicken Talk thing, and I asked her how often she made it out to my neck of the woods (she lives closer to Kalamazoo, about 45 minutes east of me) and she said “every time I need to butcher the chickens.”

Apparently, the guy in town with the sign on his lawn that advertises deer processing is an all-around butcher, and he charges $2.50 a chicken, and $7.00 for geese.

Part of the reason I am doing this whole poultry-ranching thing is to have a complete connection with the entirety of what goes into our meals.  Butchering the birds is a part of that, albeit a not terribly pleasant part; I do it alone, as my husband wants no part of it but the eating, and all my friends are not exactly…the types of folks who get into this kind of thing.  To do all those birds would take every weekend day from now until October.  But:  $2.50 a bird!

I checked out the guy’s facilities, chatted with him for a while, and have made another calendar date regarding the chickens.  But this time the date won’t surprise me.

P1000608Turkey girls love playing King of the Hill.  Earl of course just likes to show off his stuff “to the ladies.”

13 responses to “On subcontracting

  1. Wait, wait, not the turkey baby.

  2. E – are you having any trouble with the cost per bird? i too butcher my birds myself and have often dreamed of passing the job on to another but i have not been able to justify the cost. then again i don’t see how a person could ask for it to be cheaper. tough sell.

    my real dream is a neighbor walking over and gifting me with a whizzbangchickenplucker. that would really be something.

    • Shelly, I think this time around it’s more the sheer number of birds that need to be done right away that has really got me thinking. Tom says he’s more than willing to build me a plucker, and (yes I will believe it when I see it) sure, that’d be the way to go. But it is the plucking that’s my downfall. My max is 6 birds and my hands (anyone’s hands) just don’t work any more! Being wet for all that time, pulling out the littlest feathers…it’s more than a chore once you’ve passed Bird #4.

      But yeah, if I think about what my time is actually worth (and no, I don’t bill “home time” the way I do at the office: it’d be a no-brainer because I bill out at $125/hr at work) then $2.50 is more than a bargain. It’s also that there is so much more to do at this time of year…

  3. Oh, that’s a great idea. If only I could find someone who had a spare deer around here.

  4. i hear ya. never enough time in the summer days…

  5. Yep, if we were every to try and sneak a few meat birds into our semi-urban yard (LOL) I think this would be the way to go!

    Incidentally, that cost per bird really factors in when you are buying locally. In WI, if you sell poultry at a market etc, you are required to use a USDA processor–adding 2 bucks or so per bird to small producers. That, and feeding my own layers, made me understand the price they are asking for them, and how that would really reduce profit margins! (I believe if you’re selling direct off-farm you can butcher your own).

    Oh, and as a small rant, does anybody else cringe when media stories on gardening factor in labor costs when debating whether it is worth it? I mean, I understand my time is valuable, but do these people sit around and calculate their time while they watch their kids play soccer, or watch a sitcom?

  6. Yep, I completely understand. Sometimes you just have to call the fence man. We could have finished the fence ourselves, but…it would have taken us every weekend for like 3 or 4 weekends, and the man did it for us in one day and all he wanted was money. This is AFTER we spent 3 months putting up one side of the board fence.

    I hear the WhizBangChickenPlucker is a wonderful device. You should look into it. Google is your friend. Henrick Kimball’s blog is here: http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/

    • Thanks, Jules. That’s the one Tom is (supposedly) building. (Can you tell I would believe it when I see it. Maybe I should complain louder. But then again, now I have a local guy who’s still cheaper than a chicken plucker.)

  7. Two years ago, my husband would butcher 2-4 meat birds a day, *for weeks* after work (think birds gradually getting bigger and bigger!). He’s got a physical labor job that keeps him outside all day. To finish up and then process chickens at our friend’s farm… poor guy. (We can’t butcher inside city limits!)
    Last summer, when meat/ butcher time came again, we scooped up our 25 chickens and took them to be processed. I remember it costing around $50… I realize this puts the cost of each bird up a bit, but was so nice to have my husband home at a decent hour and also nice to just pick up birds already processed and individually bagged. I would definitely do the same again!

    This year, we didn’t even do meat birds for many varied reasons. Our meat is coming from eggs this year. 😉

  8. Pamela: Not the turkey baby for a while yet! She’s pretty funny though.

    Shelly, I know. It’s kind of worth it for me to do under 10 birds, but, well, not this huge amount. Next year should be different because next year they’ll just be our own home-raised birds, mostly roosters (here’s hoping anyway). But yeah: first batch goes into the freezer tomorrow!

    Stef, come to the Midwest, we’ve got plenty of deer. But now that you mention it, the best jerky I ever ate was venison jerky…

    Sara, I cringe mightily when I read those stories. It is just so phony, but it sounds like just enough truth to discourage the few folks that are on the fence. And yeah, I know what you mean about adding just $2 to the cost of a bird: it’s hard to persuade people to pay $9 for a raw local chicken when they can get a roasted one for $5 at the grocery store. Sigh.

    Jules, I do hope you love your new fence! We had one put in by a company in Minneapolis too, the guy did it in less than a day, and it was gorgeous.

    Amanda, well, I hope you have lots of eggs! They certainly have a beautiful coop to lay them in. I know what you mean though about the convenience. I didn’t think I would feel this…unguilty about the whole thing! Like my mom said this weekend, “I can go along with everything you are doing but I thought (chicken butchering) was a little extreme.” Extreme, but tasty.

  9. I once butchered chickens when I was six years old. My siblings and I watched grandpa chop their heads off and we had the job of rounding up the still running bodies to clean and pluck. We ate some of them that afternoon. I remember it to this day. It did not turn me off to meat (I only became lacto-ovo vegetarian in my adulthood), but I don’t envy your task at hand.

    I think the benefit of doing it yourself is that you know they really are your chickens and not a mix-up, and you know exactly how they were processed and what they touched and what touched them.

    However, a small local operation for $2.50 each is not a bad deal…

  10. Sinclair, I am with you. If it were up to me I would still be veg, but…it’s not. (However my first pork chop in 17 or so years was quite a revelation.) But yes, the reasons you cited were big fears for me too. There was no chance of a mixup: ours were the only ones done that morning, and the place was really clean. She called us right after they were done (because I like them to rest before sending them to the freezer) so, yeah, like, 2 hours later our birds were in our cooler.

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