The quality of ready-to-cook chicken is only as good as the live bird. When choosing chickens to be processed; look for healthy, well-finished chickens. Consider the weight and age that are desirable for your particular need. It is also recommended to withhold feed for 9-12 hours before processing to limit fecal contamination from the gut.
For good flavor, it is essential that the chicken be well bled. One of the best methods of killing and bleeding is to cut the jugular vein (on each side of the neck). During the process, the chicken should be hung by the feet so that it will not bump other objects and bruise the meat or be soiled.
Immersing the chicken in hot water so that the feathers are easily removed is called scalding. Scald water should be between 130 and 160 degrees F. Scald for approximately 1 ½ minutes for adequate feather removal. A large pot with a propane burner works well for scalding.
Remove the head, feet and viscera. Wash the chicken thoroughly in clean water and chill promptly to below 40 degrees F.
Egg Laying and Handling
Eggs are considered by many to be perfect nutrition in a perfect package. Traditional egg laying breeds like Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds typically start laying at around 4-5 months of age. Some breeds may not start laying until 8-12 months. Hens produce about one egg a day on average.
A hen will lay eggs regardless of whether or not you have a rooster. Fertilized or unfertilized eggs are both excellent for table use. Sometimes, a small blood spot may appear in the yolk; this spot is due to a rupture during ovulation and makes no difference in the taste of the egg. Occasionally, a hen may lay a double yolk egg. Although most eggs available in the grocery store are white, egg color is determined by breed and diet and may be brown or many other colors. The color of the egg has no effect on its taste or nutritional value.
Clean nesting boxes should be provided to encourage hens to lay. Nesting boxes should be approximately 10 x 10 x 10 inches square and are usually located up off the floor. Wood shavings and/or straw make good nesting material. Hens that do not use the laying boxes can be trained to do so by gently placing them in a nesting box and promptly picking up any eggs that they lay elsewhere.
The egg shell is semi-permeable. Air enters the egg and moisture evaporates. Eggs should be cleaned gently with a damp cloth, and refrigerated. Since water can enter through the egg shell, do not immerse in water to clean. The risk of infection from eating eggs is low, but susceptible individuals should only eat hard cooked eggs.