21
Jun
2013

To Kill A Chicken.

stored in: Farming, Life and tagged:

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s time to play catch-up on the blog. I hate getting behind, but it’s life. One moment I find myself in the midst of a string of quiet afternoons, and then next I just can’t find a minute to sit down at the computer and put two thoughts together. {Emphasis on “and put two thoughts together”. Sometimes I find time to sit down and mindlessly read a blog or two.}

What has kept me away? Well a week or two slipped by, which is normal. Then I found myself knocked out by the Rainy Season Specialty – malaria. A few days of lying around, and I was finally back on my feet just in time for our big Butchering Day! It was a full day. From about 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, followed by kitchen clean-up for me. A day or two later, we left for a weekend at the beach. Jonathan actually had to put in a day of work for someone near where we stayed, but we got to enjoy some relaxation all the same. After returning Monday evening, we repacked and left for Accra on Tuesday, where we attended sessions taught by Luke Kuepfer at Crusades for Christ. {Thanks to all who made it possible! It was wonderful to be there.} We reached home on Saturday afternoon, and I did my best to be productive and get ready for Sunday. {Sunday’s are often long days for us.} As it turned out, we spent all of Sunday having sort of a “missionary gathering” with some friends in Cape Coast. For us, THAT is a lot of galavanting. It isn’t unusual for us to go a month without seeing any of our fellow missionaries.

Anyway…Butchering Day. Ready for all the gory details?

First of all, you need to know that these were no docile broilers with legs too weak to support their bulk. No indeed. We had not a single instance of broken legs. Instead, they routinely found ways to escape their movable structure and go wandering into the bush in search of bugs. At times, they even scaled the mesh walls of their house and roosted on the top of it. What? That is not how I thought broilers were supposed to behave. I suppose since they were allowed so much exercise it made them strong. With that in mind, the total number of birds that made it to butchering day was 80-something. We thought we had got them all, but over the next few days, we saw some darting in and out of the bush. {Not sure if I ever clarified that when I say “bush”, I’m not referring to a shrub of some sort that is planted by our house. I mean the taller-than-your-head-impossible-to-tame grasses that grow all around us.}

The killing, scalding and plucking took place behind our house. A metal basin heated over a charcoal fire served as our scalding tub.

butchering-day1

After de-feathering, the birds came to the front of the house for this:

butchering-day2

Oh, how I’ve longed to stick half my forearm inside a freshly killed chicken – ha! Seriously, though, this did not last long. I was far too slow to remain a part of this operation. Instead, I washed and bagged the parts to be put in the freezer.

Ah, the freezer…there’s a story there too. It became apparent that we would need our own chest freezer {We had hoped to rent some freezer space.}, so we headed to a place about an hour away, where used appliances are sold. Unfortunately, while on the hunt for the freezer, our van suffered mechanical difficulties {i.e. It took in water. It’s rainy season, after all.} and till all was said and done, we could not get the freezer back to our place until the evening before butchering day. No problem, right? Wrong. There’s a little thing called electricity, and we don’t have it. We rely on solar power which is stored in batteries, and by evening, we’re usually running pretty low on power. The next day dawned nice and cloudy, so no help there.

What to do? Well, because of upcoming schedules and a desire to not feed these birds longer than necessary, we went ahead as scheduled. The sun came out a bit, and we watched the freezer switch on, then off. On, then off. At last we made the decision to borrow a generator from our neighbor, and we fired it up.

Back to the details…

The guys couldn’t figure out why we’d want to do this to the breasts. Boneless, skinless is practically unheard of here. We hoped to be able to market them to upscale restaurants and hotels.

boneless-skinless

Frankly, I couldn’t figure out why you’d want to do this:

chicken-goodies

Truly, our friends here waste very little when it comes to food. Nearly any part of an animal is considered edible. My neighbor children regularly receive our leftover chicken bones to gnaw with great pleasure. These delightful goodies were shared among all those who helped with the butchering process. In case you’re unsure, those are hearts, legs and necks.

It felt like a long day, and I was grateful for the take-away that was purchased for lunch. No, I did not provide a big home-cooked feast for the menfolk. ;) I’m really not sure how I would have managed it, after being in bed for the previous 3 days. I was personally impressed by how quickly some of our workers could remove the insides from a chicken and chop it up into legs, thighs, wings, breasts, etc. Still, at the end of the day, we could see some room for improvement next time around. It seemed like the time from live chicken to chicken-in-the-freezer should have been shorter on many occasions. Definitely some assembly-line streamlining to be done. This, as well as our freezer issues made us reluctant to take the chicken to restaurants and hotels. Some of the chicken on the top layer of the freezer was not frozen by the next day and seemed a bit questionable. We are hoping to sell to local chop bars and take-away stands as well as neighbors. I’ll be honest and say this was disappointing to me after nine weeks of “chicken sitting” and a long day of processing, but, this WAS a test run, and we definitely learned some things. Of course, some of the problems {broken-down car, leading to a “late” freezer, followed by a cloudy day with almost no electricity} could not have been foreseen. Even after the amount of time we’ve lived here, it’s just impossible to predict what could go wrong. So, here’s to a project completed, lessons learned and some stories to tell!

Written by: Juanita

2 Responses to “To Kill A Chicken.”

  1. sheree says:

    wow. wow. wow. To save on money here in Germany – I’ve been buying whole chickens. Cutting up into parts. And cooking the bones and random pieces for broth. So when I see you doing 80 warm chickens (hold in gag) – I am SO impressed!!! I’m going to go take a rest right now:).

    • Juanita says:

      Ha, ha…Sheree, I always love your comments. Yes, warm chickens indeed. Even though we all know the chicken we buy from the store was once living and breathing, it’s kinda nice to not have to think about it. :)