It’s 21 days into November and we have had a couple of frosty nights with more forecast for later this coming week. The earlier hatched Australorp,Welsh Blacks and Improved Indian game are now at sexual maturity and beginning to be a nuisance. They are big birds and bursting with vigour and more than ready for the job they were bred for.
It is not a job I look forwards to, but hanging onto them any longer is foolish, as they will get bigger, but getting another pound or two on them isn’t worth the delay.
I have a couple of 8ft x8ft indoor pens where I can put 4 in at a time for a week to give them the final finish.
Once a bird has made it’s frame and fleshed it, the food it takes is used for maintenance and building up muscle and once it has done that the rest or most of the food gets converted to fat to give it a fall back supply of energy if times get hard during the winter months the same as every animal and bird does.
If you have birds that are sexually mature it’s time to have a closer look at then. Most people will pick a bird up and feel the amount of flesh on it’s breast and most of the time, if the birds are anything other than a commercial broiler type your going to be disappointed with the result, as the bone is not totally covered and I’m afraid it never will be. The area to look if the bird is ready is above and around the tail, as that’s where it lays the fat down. The bird will only put meat on the breast if it has been bred to do so and keeping it until it fill up is a waste of time and feed. You have to breed a table bird and all traditional heavy breeds have lost out to fancy feathers and backyard breeders who have not selected for the reasons these breeds were ‘designed’ for.
While I’m rambling on about table birds I feel I need to cover feeding/finishing.
Most of you feed a pelleted feed, fine if you like filling your birds up with whatever the feed mills put into it, but at least at the finishing stage you can change to grain. Forget about protein of 17% it’s gone past that stage by now. All you will do is put more fat on them to be ripped out and chucked away at dressing time.
A week or 10 days on a grain diet will give them a proper flavor. Whats the point of keeping and growing your own table birds if your feeding them the same crap commercial poultry producers do.
Wheat, rolled barley or rolled oats and cut maize, grit is a must, as the birds need to be able to digest the grain ground in the gizzard. This feed is very palatable and easily digested. The barley and oats are better for being rolled as they are digested faster and easier than whole grain.
Fresh greens or cut apple will give them something to do and after a period on this diet give them a last feed that evening allowing at least 12 hours for the birds digestive system to completely empty. This is to stop any feed in the gut from fermenting and turning the intestines green.
On the appointed day, without fuss I catch up the first bird and dispatch by hand dislocation and start to remove the feathers immediately.
The act of killing the bird make it tense up and every fiber in it’s body tightens including the follicles that hold the wing feathers, so I do those first while the bird is warm. I don’t scald, as it not only makes the carcass look blotchy, but drives any bacteria into the flesh. After the wings I tail it and then the back and breast.
After plucking I hang them for 24 hours to allow all the tension in the meat to relax.
more on this to follow.