Butchering Chickens...(DISCLAIMER & CONTENT WARNING: If you are not a person that cares to view graphic images of processing of animals please skip past this post.)
HOW WE BUTCHER CHICKENS AT AISLING FARMS
It all starts with THE pot...
Now don't get me wrong I love most of my chickens, but some of the breeds are meant for meat more than egg laying, the dual purpose breeds. Also, when you have too many roosters you need to cull some of them and selling a rooster is one tough task to do! Alot of people don't want a rooster or they are within city limits and can't have one. I also look at how the flock interacts and once in awhile you get that rooster that just doesn't fit in attitude wise with the other members of the flock. I have to protect my girls! With that being said, I have yet to process a hen. They have a good purpose and that is to provide me eggs, which I sell, so hard to think about culling them from my flock much less processing them at this point.
Here are some of the "girls"
I had five roosters that I needed to remove from the flock and I had some friends that wanted to come check out how I process. My friend's husband got full into it and his wife took some photos of the process.
So here is how we do it here on our farm...
For starters, you need to "prep" the birds you want to process. This mean you needs to make it where they do not eat 24 hours prior to processing. This helps clear out their crop and makes it less messy and stinky on processing day and helps them get any last "big" waste out of their system.
Typically, you want to process a min of 3 or just isn't worth the time and you want to have the whole day to do it just in case. It still takes me awhile to get through the process. I am sure I will get faster the more I do but I have only processed about 10 in a year.
Here is a little chicken anatomy for you to look over. As you process you want to know what you are looking at cause this is also a great way to make sure your flock is healthy since you will be seeing the inside of the chickens you are processing.
Also, another helpful tip is obtain the "Butchering" book. This book is really nice with great directions and images for butchering of not only poultry but other farm animals.
Now you have learned some of what you will be seeing during the processing of your chickens, lets move onto processing day...
It does kind of start with "The Pot" and that pot in the picture above is one that I recommend and I also recommend you do this outside either in a barn, out in the open or wherever just NOT in your house. It could get smelly and messy.
First, before you get started heat your pot up to 120-140 degrees as this can take a good while to heat up. You don't want it too hot or it will "cook" the bird. Get everything you want to use for the process out, set up and ready. I dont use any fancy plucker system, I just hand pluck.
Pot, Sharp knife (fillet knife works wells), something on the ground so you can lay your bird down if you are doing more than one (I just cut open trash bags, makes for an easy clean up), hang a couple of trash bags out for the head and the feathers. I tend to throw alot of the feathers on the ground ha! 5 gallon bucket for the bird to bleed out into cause with other critters around you really dont want that stuff on the ground.
As I go through a little bit of my process, some of this you will have to actually experience.
First this I do when I am all set up and pot is heated up is I get a bird and cut the carotid. It is a little hard to do, so make sure you have a really sharp knife to do this whole process. Once you do this let the bird bleed out. You do want to make sure you have the bird held tightly or attached to where it wont go anywhere because it will flap around. You can also put the birds head inside of a traffic cone to help you if you are doing this alone.
Once bled out I usually will put them aside and do the rest of them. Then comes "The Pot"...You are getting it just hot enough where you can dunk the bird a couple of times (count to 3) so the feathers are easily pluckable. (It is hot so dont dunk your hand cause that hurts! I know from experience!) You can test it out after the first dunk. If the feathers come right out you are good to go and if not dunk again and you should be good.
...then you start the plucking...and more plucking...and more plucking.
(This is the most time consuming part!)
Once I am done plucking, the birds all come in the house to get gutted and a good wash. I do this in my laundry room sink.
Once you are done plucking, if the head isn't already removed this would be the time to do it before bringing it into the gutting area.
We didn't get any picture shots of the gutting...so sorry! I can take some next time and update this post.
So I will repeat myself in case you missed it but the best book on this is this one as it is a step by step guide with pictures of the process. This is what I use and will use when I process rabbits as well.
Butchering your chickens isn't hard after you do a few especially if the chicken was mean. To me it was best to start with a mean one which that was our first ever butchering! Meany roo had to go NOW and he did! After trying chicken we are not huge dark meat people so once I dived into rabbits more and tasted what rabbits tasted like, we decided that rabbits for meat was the way to go for us. We will still butcher chickens but more for when we need to do a culling from the flock. I also had a Cornish Cross (meat bird) and it was great so we might attempt that route someday.
Let me know if you have any questions!