last year's naked chicken
Before we get to the numbers...
We had to delay our chicken processing until Sunday, as Hubby's "on call" Saturday turned into one 12-hour workday.
To set the stage: We have never managed to process all our birds on a single day. Sometimes we split it between weekend days, other times we do all the big ones, then a week later do the rest. And I think the most we've raised to slaughter was 35.
Oh. My. Gosh. Let's just say I am so sore, the kids are sunburned, and the place hasn't even really been cleaned up yet. I was done in long before all the chickens were.
Oh, and two more killed themselves on Saturday! I told you they're suicidal. After such a great record though, I tried not to get too upset. One more keeled over by Sunday morning. But, I was even glad, by the end, that I didn't have to eviscerate the beasts. Even lifting my fork, to eat dinner at 8:30, was enough to send some of my back muscles into spasms. Ouch!
We had a hard time with their wings breaking; usually the left one and usually when they started flapping as their nervous system discharged. In fact, we even had two whose wings had broken earlier in life. This was so heartbreaking to me. One even had a spot where the bone was actually sticking out through the skin. Both had a terrible knot of tissue and bruising in the area, and they were both among the very smallest birds. I don't know how they didn't get infection and die (I did cut the problem wing off each carcass; the rest of each looked fine, if small). I wasted one of Hubby's precious gizzards when I busted a gallbladder over it, and then another when I did the same inside the chicken. I know this is BAD. But I hosed the bird off well and quickly, and it looked fine, so we bagged it up... I'll let you know this year if we find out it wasn't ok. :)
When it was all said and done, we had 42 chickens in the freezer. Seven more than last year. And about 45 total lbs more, at 226.5 lbs***.
Average weight per bird: 5.4 lbs
Range: 3.5 - 6.5 lbs
Mode: 5.75 lbs
Median: 5.75 lbs
Cost (unlike last year, taxes are included in these figures):
50 vaccinated chicks: 31.80
6 lbs unmedicated starter 6.34
50 lbs organic chick starter: 29.43
500 lbs game bird conditioner* 110.13
150 lbs organic grower: 88.29
wood shavings: 10.ish**
light bulbs: 6.ish**
Total investment: $281.99
Price per lb of semi-organic chicken: 1.24/lb [1.17 before sales tax]
I'm worried I lost a receipt, because apparently we used more feed last year. These did seem to eat more grass and bugs, and we kept feed from them on occasional half days to facilitate scavenging, so perhaps that is the difference? We also added apple cider vinegar to their water, but not routinely, and not at all after we made the self-waterer.
This price is just under last year's cost of $1.25/lb before sales tax. We got a lot more this year, so input costs were higher, but mostly due to splurging on four bags of organic feed (by the way, we fed them the starter as soon as we got it from Azure, then saved the grower for their last days.).
Things I might do differently in the future:
NOT process all of them on one day. I know others do it better and faster (Joel Salatin for one!), but as fast as I feel I am, i's still a long day. Especially when there are kids to feed, baby to nurse, etc. Maybe we could do 30, and then 30 more, in separate ages/batches. This might cause a housing problem, however, if they overlap. Barring that, taking two days or two weekends might be a better plan. This year's schedule didn't allow for either of those options, but I don't want to allow that again. :)
Inspect the flock more often and more closely. It's a shame they're so weak that they can break wings in daily life, but there is no sense allowing them to suffer.
Use vinegar more routinely. I hear it helps mineral absorption, as well as staving off certain health problems. Not sure that's what helped this year, as I didn't remember to start using it until 3 weeks in or so.
If I can get at least 2 meals per bird, that's 84 meals taken care of for the year (well, except for the cooking, of course). I can usually manage that easily, plus making stock, though the little ones might not go as far.
So yes, I'm still glad we did it. :)
*I chose game bird conditioner as it was high in protein like a chick grower, not medicated, and easier to distinguish from our hen feed.
**I didn't really keep these records, but realized I considered these costs last year, so I'm adding them here again. I am not counting the price of the chicken waterer (someday I'll get those pics on here), because that will be used and reused for the hens, turkeys, or other future feathered livestock.
***These numbers seem confusing, because 45 lbs of chicken among seven chickens is over six pounds each. We did have some that size, but no more in proportion to last year's harvest. I think perhaps my eviscerating is becoming less wasteful; keeping neck skin, belly fat, etc. intact instead of taking the time to trim it. Hubby also did more eviscerating last year, and he takes longer and cuts differently, I think tossing more out than I.