Monday, May 10, 2010
Thus concludes our first experiment with raising broiler chickens! I can finally say that all things considered, it was quite a success. We suffered some heavy losses in the beginning, but ultimately I'm not at all unhappy with the outcome.
These are Freedom Ranger broilers from JM Hatchery. Because we got two shipments and processed them in two batches, their age at processing time varied between 10 and 12 weeks. Their dressed weights appear to be mostly between four and a half and five pounds, and they had a nice amount of fat on them. They started out in a brooder, of course, and we moved them outside to a pasture shelter after a few weeks. They got moved onto fresh grass every one to two days and therefore had some forage to supplement their grain ration. We also supplemented them with goat's milk during their last few weeks. We ran some numbers and concluded that it cost us approximately $1.50/lb to raise these birds. When you consider that I've been paying $4.29/lb for comparable pastured chicken, that wound up being quite a good deal! It took four people of varying experience levels about ten hours to process thirty-one birds, and that's without the aid of a large drum plucker. All these facts and figures didn't mean much, however, without knowing how they'd taste...
The verdict is in - they taste AMAZING!
The fact that the expense was quite manageable and the extra work was minimal makes this an endeavor worth repeating! For a few minutes a day and one or two long days of processing, we can have delicious, healthy, humanely raised chicken right from our own backyard, for less than the price of supermarket chicken. Few things we've undertaken here have made me more proud than this.
If you're curious about the butchering process, there is an excellent tutorial here. We do it essentially the same way, with a few minor changes to suit our particular circumstances. Be sure to follow that by checking out this post.
As for the way I cooked this bird, I brined it for a couple of hours in a simple brine of water, kosher salt and sugar, and then roasted it according to this recipe (scroll down past the mushroom soup recipe). Again, I make a few small changes, but this is a wonderful and pretty much fool proof way to roast a bird.