Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Chicken Day

Our dog’s love chicken day...

Nothing goes to waste on 'Chicken day'

Matt and I however have mixed feelings about it. This time being more sombre than usual, but we do enjoy the rewards at the end. As 'Chicken-day' is generally as weekend day event, and depending on the numbers can be a few hours. It is something we often (as this time) do on a Sunday, so Sunday dinner tends to be chicken... fresh, free range chicken.

Indian Game dressed out- Sunday Dinner

As part of rearing chickens, we end up with a number of roosters. So when we began incubating we decided we would keep a few hens for our own stock, sell what we could and the remaining (likely to be roosters) would be for meat consumption. At the end of the day we eat meat, chicken being a regular food source for us , as many households. So it was a process, part of this lifestyle.
Now we have raised a number of birds for food now, and this was no exception. We had the remaining 2 Indian Game roosters and 2 ‘returned’ Rhode Island Red crosses. These we have had since before Christmas and have joked they were ‘Red Roosters’. Which if you have ever been to Australia  would know is a fast food restaurant, specialising in roast chicken. These guys were the product of the eggs we hatched for our friends. Many of the roosters either didn’t sell or out of the giveaways, some were returned. And these 2 made it back to us.
Now neither of us take pleasure in the process, and I have been asked many times “how can you do it?” But the reality is, if we don’t eat our birds, we’re eating someone else’s, and at least we know how these lived. Besides once you’ve killed the bird, you can’t take it back. So you just get on with it, and do it justice. Or it was all for nothing.

This time however our “downsizing” involved the culling of a few hens that are no longer laying; our ‘spent hens’.  Now don’t get me wrong, we have a few pet hens already and they will stay and live out their days; as we have always been more emotionally involved with our original suburban flock. We did however make this decision prior to purchasing our next batch of layers. As a perpetual cycle of replenishing layers and keeping our older birds would be expensive (which isn’t everything), but would also limit our numbers, due to being able to offer the birds space. And in the long run, would affect their quality of life.    

Indian Game

Rhode Island Red cross

RIRx leg meat

So first we processed the Indian Game’s were at least 6 weeks younger than the RIRx’s and substantially smaller in stature, yet the Indian games had far more meat on them and we were surprised by how white the meat was, as we were expecting it to be more of a ‘game bird’. But we were especially surprised by how lean it was- not that was such an issue for us, given we skin our birds anyway, but anyone else out there considering a ‘meat bird’ I would highly recommend these.

Leg & breast v feathers

The RIRx’s on the other hand we all feathers. We actually removed the legs and breast meat, then stripped the remaining skin so that we could utilise the carcasses as bait for crabbing. Felt like the most efficient use of the bird. As I would not recommend rearing Rhodies for meat, which is hard when breeding produces so many roosters.

We used this process for the ‘spent hens’ too. As whilst many will tell you older birds are stingy or tough, I couldn’t in good conscience just kill them because they had surpassed their use.  So I boned out the legs and last night I made a very large, very tasty chicken and vegetable pie. I will admit, I think to cook older bird meat you do need to cook the meat slower. So crock-pot meals, pies or curries would be ideal.  

Left over 'Spent- hen pie' for lunch

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