Well the day finally came to say good bye to half of my feathered flock. I got up early and had a cup of coffee to start things off on the right foot. Yesterday I strategically placed the crates near the fence and loaded the ice chests into the truck and backed it up to the fence so that I would have time this morning to catch the roos. I wanted this to be as stress free a process as possible but I didn't want to do it in the dark last night and have them endure the confines of the transport crates all night. So I decided to do it in the morning about an hour and half before I had to be on the road to the processor.
Catching the roosters was fairly easy as they are pretty used to me going inside the hoop house a lot. However getting them to go in the crate with one hand without letting others escape was another story. It was especially difficult because of my sore thumb (table saw accident 11 days ago). I tried to move very slow and not get them all frantic which worked out really well, in fact once I got one in the crate others would come to investigate so I just grabbed one at a time and tried to get them to relax a little before putting them in. The hardest part was lugging the full crate out the spring loaded door of the hoop house. I was surprised how much 7-8 chickens weighed. I originally thought my flock was about 2/3 hens and 1/3 roosters. Wrong, I have exactly 50-50. The only roo that got a repreive was Mr. Waddles because of his smaller size, so I did end up taking the largest hen instead.
Mary from The Hen Connection brought over a mating pair of Royal Palm Turkeys that she has been hatching eggs from for the last few months. I guess they were escaping all the time and she couldn't afford to lose them nor sell them for what she paid for them so they got to come along for the ride to the processor. The drive over to Fruitland is about 40 minutes and none of the birds had any problems. Finding 20lb. bags of ice was a problem though, only one store in town carries them. So I saved about 4 bucks buying the larger 20lb. bags at $3 each compared to 8lbs. for $1.60.
The processor is a small family business and they were really nice and accommodating there at Countryside Poultry Processing. I got to watch everything and talk with the gals about it all. And I got to compare notes with other folks there getting their birds done. Most of the others were Cornish-X and were pretty good looking at 5.5 lbs or so, but she had 3 carcasses thrown out because of congestive heart failure and had lost 15 chicks in the brooder! I only lost 3 chicks in the brooder and 1 rooster at 7 weeks. My roos came in right about 4lbs., some 3.5, others 4.5, which was exactly what I was hoping for. And the cryo bags are vacuum sealed. All in all I was very happy with the processer and would definitely recommend them, especially since their price is almost a $1 less per bird than their competitors. So $65 for 23 chickens (I must have miscounted when I caught the first batch cause I was intending on 22, oh well.)
Here is a couple of the finished chickens. Note the yellow skin and longer breast keel and legs than your standard industrial grocery store Cornish-X. I hear these taste better too. We will find out soon enough.
My freezer is pretty full now, but about half of this batch are already spoken for. If the rest don't sell before I process the hens I will have to drop my price a little. Noticed I was able to save much of the ice for next time. The Hens are scheduled on the 20th so they will be exactly 12 weeks plus one day old. Now that they have some room in the hoop house and no aggressive roos to keep them out of the feeder, I am hoping that they will plump up nicely in the next 12 days.