Butchering Chickens

If it makes you queasy, or outraged, go away. This is for people who want to produce their own food. I have not taken pains to be genteel about this. It is a messy business. Life is that way sometimes.

Separate the chickens out the night before. It is easiest to catch them after dark, when they are on the roosts. Don't let them eat or drink in the morning, it is less messy if their crops are empty.

Two options for dispatching - chop off the head, or wring the neck. We chop the heads with a large cleaver. A killing cone makes that easier. There's also something called a "Rabbit Wringer" that lets you easily wring the neck. They make one for chickens too, and a combo one. Nice little thing that makes neat work of it and is less splattery than chopping heads. You still have to bleed them but you can do that after they quit twitching.

This video shows another way to dispatch, as well as the rest of the process: Butcher a Chicken

Next you get to either skin the birds, or pluck them.

Scald them in a big pot of boiling hot water - dunk the chicken feathers and all, if you are going to pluck them. That loosens the feathers. Scald them just enough to get that hot water down to the roots of their feathers (3-4 dunks).

Pull the feathers out AGAINST the grain. Have a pair of pliers handy, you may need it for stubborn flight or pinfeathers. Having a chicken plucker is even nicer - I want one of those someday!

When you are done, take a blow torch or a long handled lighter, or use a barbeque grill or something to singe off the hairy feathers that are left.

If you skin it, you'll end up cutting off the two end sections of the wings - they just don't skin. You'll cut off the feet at the knees before you skin it too. Just go slowly and cut BETWEEN the skin and the meat.

We usually skin them. It is easier. I love good crackly chicken skin, but I can make do with a good fried coating instead, because burnt feather smell and wet feather smell nauseates me. If we can get a chicken plucker, I'll change my mind about skinning them, and the ducks, and the pigeons...

You cut into the chicken above the vent in the front - the soft area. The guts are on the other side, and they are slippery enough that if you are careful, you won't lance them while you are cutting the skin. The entrails come out from the bottom, the crop comes out from the top, and somewhere in the middle it all joins up, and if you cut the right things at the top, the windpipe and esophagus will slip down through and drop out the bottom with the rest of the guts - you can kind of feel the things holding it in place. There are some ligaments that attach everything up inside that you'll have to pull loose or severe.

You then have to cut the vent away from the skin, and then fish around in the gut bucket to salvage the liver, heart, and any other gibblets that you want (Lucky me, Kevin always leaves that to me...). When doing the liver, be careful to NOT cut the nasty bright green pill looking thing. That is the gallbladder, and if you cut that, your liver is spoiled (and the chicken's liver won't be any good to eat either!). :)

The hard part for me has been removing the lungs. At least with ducks, which I've done more than chickens. The lungs are kind of spongy, and they look exactly like strawberry gelatin that has been dumped dry into cool whip and mixed up. That kind of pink, grainy, frothy looking appearance.

They are up the back, stuck to the ribs. You are supposed to be able to reach up in there and loosen them and pull them out. We can't ever do it! Just can't get between them and the ribs! Everyone else makes it sound so easy, I've always wondered what I'm overlooking (must be something!).

They also say you are supposed to cut the oil gland out of ducks and geese, but they NEVER show where that is! Just a warning if you ever decide to butcher a duck. We just end up cutting off the tail, and have never run into anything messy.

Butchering is my least favorite part. My husband and one of our sons usually helps with the dispatching and gutting, one of the kids runs the birds from outside in to the kitchen sink where I clean them and cut them up. They also bring me the gut bucket, so I can salvage the gibblets, and then they take it back outside - the stuff in the gut bucket is stinky, and it gets stinkier by the hour.

If you have small birds that you don't want to do the whole butcher process with, you can skin the breast pieces and pull out just the breast meat, and use the rest of the bird for animal feed.

Chicken necks and other butchering remains make good dog and cat feed for raw feeders. If feeding guts to the dogs, cats, pigs, etc makes you go "blech!", then burn or bury those, and feed them the other parts. Just don't cook them. Cooked bird bones are dangerous for animals.

As I said, it is my least favorite thing, but it is the thing that puts it in the freezer.


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