Thanks for volunteering to help! You’ll get an email with the address and directions as well as what time(s) we can use you. Other more in-depth details are below, so you know what to expect.
What to bring
- Coolers for bringing your birds home.
- If you have them, bring SHARP knives — like boning or fillet knives, or paring knives. We will have some, and a knife sharpener on hand.
- Clean but grubby clothes that can get stained, and/or an apron if you’ve got one. Also boots or other shoes for mud and wet. Possibly a change of clothes. It’s not a gory process, but it’s a wet one.
- Something to tie back long hair (legally required)
- Snacks if you need them, and lunch if you have dietary restrictions beyond vegetarianism. We’ll have lunch but it is likely to have gluten and/or dairy.
- A water bottle
- Trimmed fingernails, if they are long. Not required, but you may find it easier.
- Kitchen tweezers (aka fish tweezers) if you’ve got them.
- Your rings in your pockets, not on fingers — unless they can be sterilized (made of metal, not having huge crevices). You won’t want big things on your fingers anyway, but this is a WSDA requirement.
- Your general awareness and common sense. This is a working farm, with machinery and tractors and tripping hazards and such, and we’re working with knives, and animals alive and dead.
- Something for lunch, and some snacks and coffee, and beer if we finish early
- Gloves (latex only at the moment — if you need non-latex, let me know) if you want them. If you have open sores or non-removable, non-sterilizable hand jewelry, you are required to wear them!
- Sharp knives and a sharpening station
- Everything we need for processing (towels, ice, etc.)
- A bathroom and handwashing stations
- A price break for helpers!
Who should come
Please DON’T COME IF YOU’RE SICK unless you don’t mind doing just record-keeping and iPod duties. Don’t come if you have open sores on your hands, unless you can and will wear gloves.
Please don’t bring dogs. Kids are OK if they are old enough not to get into stuff. It’s a farm; it’s not very kid-proof. Kids who want to help are welcome!
About the process
We kill the chickens in cones (1-3 people), then scald them and pluck in a tumbler. There is usually some detail plucking needed, so sometimes that happens by hand at this stage.
Each chicken then moves to one of two processing tables (1-2 people at each table). After gutting, each carcass goes to the quality assurance table (1-2 people) to be looked over before going into the chill tank.
We sometimes also have a weighing/packaging station (2-3 people) running simultaneously.
Also, there’s a great description at How To Butcher a Chicken by Herrick Kimball: http://butcherachicken.blogspot.com/
There will also be other jobs for folks who don’t want to be right in the thick of it, like monitoring and recording temperature of processed birds, recording weight, topping off ice, working the iPod stereo, etc.
In addition to the no-non-sterilizable-rings and long-hair-tied-back rules, there are a few other WSDA requirements that I’ll run down when you arrive.
Here is the WSDA frequently asked questions about the process, including legal requirements: http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/TempChickenSlaughter/Handbook.aspx