Well, this weekend we graduated the first cadre of the Class of 2010. Fifteen of them, all adolescent rooster types—technically known as Cockerels—were part of the mixed run of chicks we received in early April, after the disaster we experienced with our first batch of mail-order chicks (e.g., 100% mortality on arrival).
Since our long-term objective is primarily egg production, we knew that beyond one or two select roosters, all the others would provide meat. Specifically, the cockerels would become our younger, more tender "fryer" or "roaster" chickens; the retired egg-layers are our soup/stewing chickens.
For their graduation, we took them to a near-by operation that has a little bit of everything: Pick-Your-Own fruits and berries, orchards, free-roaming poultry, a truck garden and roadside stand, and a full line of self-labeled jams, jellies, sauces and preserves. One of their services is fresh rabbit with 24-hours notice, and they are fully equipped to butcher and process small animals.
Our average butchering and processing time so far has been, setup to cleanup, about one hour per bird. I dropped off two cages of birds late on a cool and pleasant Saturday morning, and by the time we got home late Saturday evening, there was a message on the phone that the birds were frozen and ready to be picked up.
They were all small, hardly more than Cornish Game hens, averaging around three pounds dressed weight. They had probably maxed out close to a month ago, and were simply burning through feed for the last few weeks without adding any weight. But the recent spate of mercilessly hot, humid weather kept us postponing processing them ourselves—a hot, messy job under the best of circumstances.
We wrestled with the 'ethics' of paying someone else to do our dirty work, but in the end, it made sense, saved us time we didn't really have in the first place, and gave us, admittedly, a far superior finished product. Plus, we received bonus packs of duck feet, duck wings, and several packs of surplus giblets. All told, quite a fair deal and a respectful farewell to a bunch of pugnacious little yard monsters. (Who knew cockerels can draw blood from people?)
We've both dealt with butchering, and know exactly how hard it is. Odds are, we'll be doing it again in the not so distant future, but when we don't have fifteen birds to process. But in this instance, we paid someone else a very reasonable amount and got something done quickly, mercifully and efficiently that would not have gotten done otherwise.
But yeah, it's a whole lot quieter out there with fifteen fewer roosters...