Poultry Processing FAQs
How We Process
Q: How do you keep my birds separate from someone else’s?
A: Your chickens are placed in crates and either labeled by you, or placed in a particular location and stack on my instructions and I record which crates / stacks are yours. Similarly turkeys are put into separate pens which are recorded with your name. Each person’s birds are processed separately and when finished are placed in separate ice chests.
Q: How do you slaughter the birds?
A: Each bird is gently turned upside down in a poultry cone with its neck sticking out of the bottom. Each bird’s neck is then quickly cut once with a sharp knife, allowing the bird to bleed out and pass out from blood loss before dying.
Q: What do you do with the feathers, blood, feet and heads and internal organs?
A: These are all generally composted in our on-farm compost pile. For turkeys, we generally save the heart, liver and gizzard and place them, along with the neck, in a bag inside the turkey body cavity. With chickens these parts are only returned to you if you request them. We charge a small extra fee for saving and packaging chicken hearts, livers, feet and gizzards (gizzards are not cleaned).
Q: Are appointments necessary?
A: Yes. You must schedule an appointment day for processing. We usually process at least one day a week. When demand is high from shows, we may process between 3 and 5 days in a week. There are only so many birds we can process in a day.
Q: How far in advance should I schedule?
A: During very busy times immediately following poultry shows, it is usually best to schedule 3-4 weeks in advance to reserve the date closest to the show finish. At most other times, one week in advance is usually sufficient, and often we may be able to schedule you with less than a week’s notice.
Transportation of Birds
Q: How should we transport chickens to you?
A: Folks bring chickens in a variety of types of cages and boxes, or even in the back of a pickup with some sort of top covering. Larger numbers are sometimes brought in livestock trailers. Be VERY CAREFUL transporting chickens in heat and humidity. Broilers can easily overheat - allow plenty of space around them – don’t pack them tight. Allow for air flow and shade them from the sun in transport.
Q: How should we transport turkeys?
A: Smaller numbers of full size turkeys are often brought in larger dog kennels or large boxes. Be sure you don’t overcrowd them, keep them out of direct sun, and provide for good fresh air circulation. With larger numbers of turkeys you may need to bring them in a livestock trailer or at least a pickup bed with wire over the top. If you bring them in a trailer, you may want to just park the trailer and leave it near the processing door, rather than transfer all the turkeys to my pens. If your turkeys are in cages from which they are not hard to retrieve, you may choose to just leave them in your cages near the processing door and label them as yours.
Delivery of Birds
Q: When should birds be delivered for processing?
A: Most customers prefer to drop off their poultry at the processing center the evening before the day of processing. You may also choose to bring them early the morning of processing (by 9 am) and leave them.
Q: Where do I go with my birds?
A: At the end of our driveway is a big red barn. The processing center is on the east side of the barn. Drive up to the SE corner of the barn to the double white doors. There are a bunch of yellow (and a few white) chicken crates beside the doors. Also near the door are several pens that are used for turkeys.
Q: What do I do with my birds when I arrive?
A: When you arrive, you will need to transfer your chickens into the provided chicken crates (do not pack them tight) and then stack your crates inside the processing center (east side of the big red barn through the double white doors) with a paper with your name and phone number identified on the top crate. With turkeys, you need to transfer them into one of the unoccupied cages or pens just outside the processing doors. (If you brought your turkeys in a livestock trailer, you can just leave them in the trailer and park it with the trailer door close to the processing center door).
Q: What if I need certain birds kept separate (i.e. for a buyer)?
A: If you want specific chickens kept separate for your show buyer, or some other reason, put them in a separate chicken crate and leave instructions with that crate. We will keep them separate throughout the process and identify them to you when you pick up.
Q: Should we bring ice chests when delivering the birds?
A: No need to bring them until when you come to pick them up. If you need to leave them when dropping off birds, just stack them outside the processing center with your name on them.
Q: Do we pay at the time of delivery?
A: No, you pay when you pick them up after processing.
Q: What if I want to wait during processing? Can I watch?
A: If you have a small number of birds and it is more convenient for you to wait, you can request a specific time to bring them for processing on the processing day. Yes, you can also watch, if you wish – just remember there is a limited amount of room for extra people in the processing center while working.
Pickup of Finished Birds
Q: When should birds be picked up?
A: On the day of processing – usually in the early evening. If you need to pick them up earlier, let us know and we may be able to get your birds finished earlier. You often may come later in the evening – even 10 PM – but we DO NOT hold birds over to the following day.
Q: Will birds be cold and how will they be packaged?
A: Chickens and turkeys are well chilled before pickup and bagged in food grade plastic bags sealed with zip ties.
Q: Should we bring ice chests and ice when picking up?
A: Yes and estimate on the high side. Most folks underestimate the amount of ice chest room required. Birds will already be cold so only a small amount of ice is needed for transport. Ice chests are always best, but not absolutely required if you will be keeping them out of the sun and getting them home to a refrigerator or freezer within 30 minutes.
Q: When we get home should the birds be immediately put in a freezer?
A: Do NOT pack them tight in a freezer! To freeze quickly and well, your birds need to be exposed to the cold air of the freezer – not packed tight between other birds. So spread out your birds in a freezer until they are frozen solid. You can keep birds for several days in either a cold refrigerator or in ice chests surrounded with ice (let the water from melted ice drain out). The key point is keeping them below 40 degrees at all times.