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Meat chicken flops over dead. Now what.. Can I eat 'em?

 
Carma Nykanen
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This is a big guy of 5 weeks old.  He's the biggest of the bunch.

We feed lacto fermented feed and apple cider vinegar in the water.

They were out in the garden till a big wind/rain storm came through a few days ago so they relocated to the barn for a bit.

I'm 99% sure it was heart failure.

After laughing good and hard at how he obviously led a lovely life and died with his left foot on the food trough of life... I got to looking how plump and meaty he looks and how it was a shame that he had to go and die right before I was going to do it for him....

So.  Everyone who has raised chickens, especially meat chickens has had the same dilemma....

Did you eat 'em?
Use at least the feet for stock?
How long is too long if you find him dead to reasonably process the poor guy?
How about using him as bait for the maggot bucket....?
At least he'll be good for dog/cat food... right?
What else?
I guess I could always compost him.....

If you are reading this, you likely have been there.....

What did you do?
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Wes Hunter
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Reason number one why I don't raise Cornish X.  What I would do is pick a slow-growing breed going forward...

More to your question, I'd be hesitant to eat him, though I can't say exactly why.  I've plucked and eaten a small handful of chickens that had fallen prey to owls or hawks.  The owl-killed birds were headless, so I figured they had bled well.  In all cases my criterion had been whether or not the bird was still warm.  Feel under the armpits (wingpits?). 
 
R Ranson
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There could be so many other things that killed him, some of which can harm humans.  Because of this, I wouldn't eat him, except in a starvation situation.  There are lots of other uses for the meat which provide more bennifit. 

However, that's me.  If you want to eat him, these are my thoughts.  It would be best to get him before he's finished rigor.  That way you know he's fresh.  Rigor depends on temperature and other things, most of them correspond to modern food safety ideas, so I usually use that as my guide.  I would bring him away from the flies and keep him somewhere cool until he is no longer stiff.  They are duce tricky to work with when stiff.  Pluck if you want to, but it's a lot of work for a bird that you still may not eat, so skinning is a more likely step.  Cut him open and check the liver.  The liver will tell you a lot about how healthy he is.  If you don't know what to check for, it's best to stop there and use the meat for something else.  If the liver is healthy, then stop, double-check that there isn't any sign of breathing or other trouble with the live chickens.  Then proceed to cook well - probably soup.  (please note, this is not in compliance with health and safety guidelines for food processing - follow at your own risk.  As I said, I would only do this in a starvation situation.)
 
Carma Nykanen
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He was still warm a couple of hours ago. ..

I've butchered perhaps a hundred or so chickens to date and have a general feel as to how the innards should look like. ..

I'll give it a go with the butchering /disection.

Would soaking him in salt water pull any toxins out of him?

If he's not edible to me what else can I do with him?

I really appreciate the conversation.
 
Carma Nykanen
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Wingpits.. I'm still smiling about that.

So,  I never got to butcher him.

How to use his carcass for the best use?
 
R Ranson
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I like the idea you had of growing maggots for the rest of the flock.  I haven't done it myself, but it sounds great.  I don't know if any pathogens can pass from chicken to maggot to chicken.  I don't think so... but...

A carcass makes good raccoon bait. 

I don't see anything wrong with dog/cat food.  Except... hm, would it teach them to eat chicken?  Maybe cook it first?
 
Lindsey Jane
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I would use him for maggot production, for sure.

Our rule on the homestead is never eat an animal that died on it's own.

The way I figure it - for one little meal you could, however small the probability is, have a big problem on your hands. And in your GI tract.

No bueno.



 
John Polk
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Our rule on the homestead is never eat an animal that died on it's own.

I agree with that sentiment.

Years ago, I fished commercially with several Scandanavians, whose families had been commercial fishermen for generations.  They had one hard-fast rule: Never eat a fish that died in the water.
 
Carma Nykanen
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I thank you for your inputs.

I'd love to do the maggot thing but first a question.  Has anyone heard of bad happenings after feeding maggots to the flock?

It seems that I have heard /read about this.

But if all are getting the best organic nongmo grains lactofermented and with acv water plus full rein of this year's garden then their guts should be able to kick any baddies. .right?

Side question.  Feeding time happens three times a day. I'm watching them go from 'starving chicken' with little in the crop to duck egg sized crop full of wet mash in ten minutes and watch them start shivering and heading for the heat lamps, I am starting to SEE. ..

THEY Are they using up energy warming up the food. Does anyone have a system for having the food warmer for feeding?

It's 45 here in the Pacific Northwest in the nights and my fermentation is happening in the cold,  taking longer.
Perhaps I should b  putting the food under the heat lamp instead of the birds going there later after eating!

I'd also have to take the carcass to a warm place to attract flies.

I wonder if I could sneak him in the house for a few days without my more opinionated family members catching -wind- of it?
 
R Ranson
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Side question.  Feeding time happens three times a day. I'm watching them go from 'starving chicken' with little in the crop to duck egg sized crop full of wet mash in ten minutes and watch them start shivering and heading for the heat lamps, I am starting to SEE. .. 


I'm curious what the answer is to this. 
I've never given my chickens 'meals' like this.  Mine have constant access to feed but most prefer to forage.  I suspect that different feeding schedules have their advantages and disadvantages - but this shivering... if they were human, it's almost like it could be a blood sugar thing.  But they aren't humans, so I'm baffled.  Hopefully someone else can chime in with an answer. 
 
Carma Nykanen
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I'd love somebody else chiming in as well. .

They have access to forage during the day but some I literally push along to outside with a wide leaf rake.  They'd prefer to stay inside. 

I'm interested in hearing more about others feed times.  Perhaps I'm underfeeding them?

7am 2pm and 8pm. They get a huge gutter full of food.  If they are still working at it and it emptys then I refill it until all are sated.

If they're are going to end up as my sustenance, I would rather have them eat lots of greens, worms, bugs, mycelium threads,  and such as much as possible.

If there is just mash there always,  then they are not so interested in moving around.

This is sure interesting to get different viewpoints.

Tonight we are needing to butcher a half grown guy. I think our yard rooster clawed him and ripped his skin open under the wing. ..

Oh the various ways to be injured!
 
Burra Maluca
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The first time I tried to raise cornish-cross style meat chickens, I had similar problems with them keeling over when they reached the weight they were bred to be slaughtered at.  Any that lived longer than that would tend to have legs that collapsed under their weight. 

The only way I found to keep them alive to breeding age (though to be honest, not very long into breeding age - they would still get too heavy to stand eventually) was to simply not feed them except to bribe them into their house at night.  It would take a few days after they first arrived to learn that humans-give-food, and train to them to run (start young if you want them to learn to run) towards you when you call.  When they know that, and know how to come home at night, I would just let them out in the morning and allow them to forage.  They are voracious forages and will race around chasing grasshoppers, jump up and down picking choice leaves off plants, eat endless ants, and hurtle around the place in constant search of food.  I have severe blood-sugar issues, and they remind me of myself very, very much.  And in much the same way, they thrive best without access to a steady supply of food, and on as little grain as possible.  Greens and wild critters, paleo style, seems best for both of us.   But even so, these chickens are super highly bred to grow at a tremendous rate and no matter I've done, I've never managed to keep any alive for a whole year.  I have managed to cross them with a Light Sussex and produce some wonderful meaty chickens that grow well, and large, and are excellent foragers, and don't drop dead every time my backs turned.  But even with those I wouldn't give them access to huge amounts of grain, sprouted or not.
 
Carma Nykanen
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Location: PNW zone 7
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Burra, I'm going to watch that.. I may choose to spread out my harvesting over some weeks instead of just one day.

I have one egg layer in the mix that survived out of ten  (lesson learned.  The bigger squish the smaller).
But I have even 10 out of 100 of the xs that are real simular in size to her?
I'm thinking to save them for a much later harvest or see what kind of layers /breeders we can add to the mix.

Occasionally I need to chase the adult roos out of the garden where the meaties roam.  If they are hungry I'll gave the whole army at my heels as I run the roos out!  It's a real moral booster to have so many followers . They have made trees out of my brassicas, eating the lower leaves.

It was sunny today so I put up my mighty maggot maker.  I hope some flies found it.

 
Abigail Vera
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I had an injured bird that died of heat stroke (in pretty sure) I dissected her to make sure there wasn't anything super funky and fed her to our hog. I don't know if this was a good decision. But the hog is perfectly fine and really enjoyed himself eating it, feathers and all.
 
Carma Nykanen
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I also feel totally ok with feeding the other animals once the guts check out and I'm as sure as I can be about it dying from a non-ick cause.

I had another new experience yesterday. I had a chicken that had either compacted crop or sour crop.  I didn't know what it was right away so I had her in a bucket in the laundry room as I did research and she ended up dying in the short time but she was in the house. Since she wasn't so big yet I'm deciding to add her to the fly maggot bucket.

I am feeding the chickens lacto-fermented whole grains and the peas I am using are not fermenting in the same time as the grains so they are a little bit harder when I feed them to the birds. There was a bunch left of the bottom of the feeder and I think she must have got hungry during the night and ate a few of those that were too big or too hard yet for her to make use of.

Too bad.  Now I have the peas pre-soaking before the grains are added.
 
Carma Nykanen
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A lady vet I visited with today said she has a couple meat birds that are 10 pounds  (hens) and easily 15 pounds  (rooster )
!!!

How big has yours gotten?
 
Bob Blackmer
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Flat on the back. Absolutely heart attack. If I see it happen or rigor hasn't set in it's absolutely dog/cat/pig food. I've never eaten one but mostly because chicken isn't hard to come by with the numbers I've raised. I've harvested injured birds and eaten the breast and given the rest to pigs, those that don't bleed well in that case, the meat can be soaked to work out the blood. And I swear offal from processing and losses in the field is what makes our compost so good
 
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