Slaughtering Chickens - Skinning vs. Plucking - Freezing : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I am getting 20 Cornish Cross day old chicks next week. I have layers but this is my first try with meat birds. I don't really care about saving the skin. It seems like I could save time and equipment by skinning them feathers and all instead of plucking the feathers off. Any one have any experience doing it this way? I'm also wondering if I opt for the skinning route will I have a problem with freezer burn. I am considering purchasing a vacuum sealer to REALLY get all the air out but I don't know much about sealers. Any recommendations? Thanks ya'll!!!

-- Mel Carroll (, April 27, 2000


We've always skinned our birds like you would a rabbit. It takes me about 7 minutes per bird from start to finish. BUT - it helps to have a man around cause the more you clean, the harder it is to pull the hide off the drums. I also vacuum seal the meat and did have a problem the first year with SOME freezer burn. My friend suggested putting paper towels on both sides of the birds before I zapped them and that took care of the problem. Using zip lock freezer bags on a skinless bird will be disastrous for freezer burn unless you plan on using them right away. Have you considered canning some of your chickens? That way your meat will last alot longer. Check it out!!

-- Pat (, April 27, 2000.

Mel, For 20 birds it's not going to make a lot of difference unless you want to do them all on the same day. It takes me about 20 minutes to butcher/pluck/bag a bird, and it would be faster if we did more (i.e were more practiced). We never do more than 2 at a time. Many people around here skin to save time on large batches - it works fine. We don't do Cornish crosses for philosophical reasons - we're not trying to compete with agribusiness, and free-range our birds. The birds end up tougher and with more red meat, but slow-cooking in a wood stove more than makes up the difference. We like our carcasses whole with skins for roasting in a dutch oven.

-- David C (, April 27, 2000.

Like to skin the birds,,, much easier, and alot less time than plucking feathers by hand. :O)

-- Bergere (, April 27, 2000.

Slaughter when they are young, don't keep waiting around for them to get bigger, the mistake made with rabbits also. We skin the birds, I take a big knife and cut out both sides of the back bone, and fold the bird up and slide it into a wide mouth quart jar, 1 tsp salt, and pressure cook them. Same goes for rabbits. Friends who have the sealers with the vacume attachment swear by them. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh (, April 27, 2000.

We did chickens for the first time last year. I bought 25 straight run and 10 additional cockerel Australorps and ended up with 22 roosters to butcher. We plucked all of ours, canned the drumsticks and thighs in quart jars, the boned and skinned breast meat in pints and then cooked the wings, skins, backs, saddles and necks with chopped onions, carrots, salt, cracked peppercorns and a few herbs. I skimmed off the fat and canned the deboned meat with the strained broth. I had extra broth that I canned in quarts for soup base. By plucking and cooking the skin with the meat, I think the broth was richer tasting. It wasn't that much extra work and we did 3-4 at a time. After she couldn't decide what to give us for Christmas, a friend came over and "gave" me an afternoon to kill and butcher the last few birds. I also used the recipe in Gail Damerow's book for chicken soup and it's delicious.

I also have a vacuum sealer and it's excellent for meats. I was wondering if, as an alternative to the expense, you could freeze the chicken on a tray, dip it quickly in cold water to make a thin skin of ice on it, then store it in the freezer in a ziplock bag. The ice would protect it from freezer burn for a while at least. I have friends who do this with whole fish.


-- marilyn (, April 27, 2000.

We're having a butchering tomorrow(Sat). That's like a barn raising without the barn. Several people come over, and those that want to, pluck or cut up the chickens-25 this year. We have lunch and do a lot of talking. Last year we celebrated a dear friends 85th birthday. (She can work rings around some of the younger people.) The whole process goes a lot faster. Last week my husband and I butchered 11 chickens. It was our first solo flight. We did well. I bone the breast for stir-fry and boil the bones and other parts for broth.

-- Cindy (, April 28, 2000.

I like to skin them so much faster. I slaughter when they are 6 to 8 weeks old. They skin quite easy when tey are young. Someone says that it takes them 7 mintues a bird you should be able to do it in about half that time with practice.

-- Mark (, April 28, 2000.

I like to skin them so much faster. I slaughter when they are 6 to 8 weeks old. They skin quite easy when they are young. Someone says that it takes them 7 mintues a bird you should be able to do it in about half that time with practice.

-- Mark (, April 28, 2000.

I am new at this, could you please describe the process of skinning and butchering for me? I have been putting this off for awhile and hopefully tomorrow will be the day. Thank you.

-- Kathy (, April 28, 2000.

I like to skin them so much faster. I slaughter when they are 6 to 8 weeks old. They skin quite easy when they are young. Someone says that it takes them 7 mintues a bird you should be able to do it in about half that time with practice.

-- Mark (, April 28, 2000.

I'm with the majority. We had always plucked till my friend from a third world country came to help out and couldn't believe we didn't skin. She said it was always her job growing up to do about 5 chickens a week and taught us how and in half the time we were finished. We did the ducks the same way. When we get chicks as soon as we can tell what sex they are we separate them and start feeding the males and a few females for butchering. At just about 3 1/2 months we put them all up. Does anyone can chickens? I wanted to try that this year. My grandmother always did and I keep thinking how nice to just open a jar already cooked for soup or casserole.

-- Susie*Ks (, April 29, 2000.

I have the same question as Kathy. Can anyone answer? How to you skin or butcher a big rooster? Where do you start and what next etc? Eagle

-- eagle (, April 29, 2000.

Thanks so much to everyone who took time to reply. I am going to give the skinning a try. I want my first attempt at meat birds to be a good experience. I certainly appreciate hearing of all your experiences!!!

To Kathy and Eagle: I won't have any experience actually slaughtering and processing chickens for another eight or nine weeks but I can recommend some books that explain the process. I think all of them are still in print and many can be found at your local library.

A Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow (my favorite), Chickens in Your Backyard by Rick & Gail Luttmann, Chicken Tractor by Andy Lee and Pat Foreman, Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game by John J. Mettler, Jr., D.V.M., and Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin. I hope these will be helpful. Good luck!!!

-- Mel Carroll (, May 01, 2000.

We raise our chickens using Joel Salatin's "approach". Before we began to raise them this way, we skinned them and thought it was just hunky dory, but since we stopped raising them "cooped", we have used aaa homemade automatic chicken plucker. You wouldn't believe the difference!!!! We pulled an old skinless chicken out of the freezer one night, and no one had seconds, which is very rare!! I would suggest you pluck them, but that's only my opinion....

-- Abigail F. (, May 02, 2000.

I'm with Abigail (again!). Plucking isn't that awful if you do it right. Biggest problem most people make is the water temp! Don't go with "That seems about right, Harvey!" I can take a chicken from squawking to ready for the refrigerator (an aside - chill the dressed chicken for 24 hours in a refrigerator before cooking or freezing. May seem like a silly suggestion, but it makes a big difference in the tenderness!) in about 20 minutes by myself. With help, it should be substantially quicker. Anyway, for a mature bird, my experience dictates water of 145 to 150 degrees for 60 to 70 seconds. The bird will store better than one that is skinned, although skinning is definitely quicker. Some shortcuts aren't! Whatever you decide, GL!

-- Brad (, May 02, 2000.

Well, Abigail and Brad, I'm beginning to waiver some. Probably the best thing to do is pluck half and skin half. Then I'll be able to know firsthand which I prefer. I, too, have Joel Salatin's book and do plan to "pasture" my birds. I can't help but wonder, Abigail, if it was the plucking or the pasturing or a combination of both that made the difference in your birds. Thanks to you both for your response!

-- Mel Carroll (, May 02, 2000.

It was definitely a mixture of both, because we skinned a pastured chicken and it didn't taste as good as a plucked pastured chicken, but better than a coop-raised bird!

-- Abigail F. (, May 03, 2000.

Hi folks,

All this reading about Salatin and Andy Lee's methods made me just have to say something. I tried a chicken tractor on Cornish Cross birds last summer, my first experience with meat birds. Though the tractor was just three by six feet, I kept the bird population below Salatin's recommendations for density. I moved the tractor on our lovely, green, unsprayed lawn once a day, and twice when the chickens were bigger.

Those birds didn't taste bad, but they were dirty and had trouble walking. They just wanted to sit around and eat, except when I was moving the tractor. Their legs were weak, and their breasts were always poopy. I guess that's just fine for feed conversion ratios, but I want my animals to be reasonably clean, happy and healthy during their short time on Earth. Also, I wanted to keep one to see if it would lay well, for an experiment, but none of them could jump the 16 inches into the goat stall to get out of the rain. It was pathetic.

My next batch of birds I slipped under a broody hen at night. I set up a large dog kennel with hay and straw for a nest and let them range around the yard during the day, locking them in for safety at night. After about three weeks, I went back to the feed store and looked at their chickens. They had some Cornish Cross from the same batch I got mine from, but I couldn't believe they were the same age. Mine were at least a week ahead of the feed store birds in development, although the feed store birds were not crowded.

When I butchered those healthy, lively, clean birds, they were bigger and tastier than the previous batch. While I didn't work with a sample large enough for statistical significance, my experience leads me to believe that there's a lot to be said for fresh air, exercise, bugs and grass, and mother's love.

-- Laura Jensen (, May 03, 2000.

Mel, I have been doing chickens for many many years now, and I really like a plucked chicken. It does not take that long and it stores better and tastes better. I loved all the canned chicken recipes, that really is a time saver, you have unexpected company, just open a jar or two of your canned chicken, throw in some noodles or veggies and feed the masses. You do any size or age chicken the same way, it is the temperature of the water and the time immersed that makes the difference. Oh those auto-chicken pluckers are great! Wish I had one of them.

-- Karen Mauk (, May 04, 2000.

I just realized no one has addressed the vacuum sealer question. I bought one some years ago, and after using it for one season, it has been taking up space in the cellar. Bags are pricier than regular bags, and I never did get that sucker to really evacuate all the air. But now I have a very good vacuum sealer that uses regular, (not zip-lock) bags. It's called (drum roll) a STRAW! Actually, its a 1' piece of 1/4" plastic tubing. Insert into bag, twist the opening, suck the air out of the bag, remove straw, seal. HOWEVER, it is considered extremely poor form to place the bag end of the straw anywhere there might be "chicken juice"! Be careful about the last, and all will be well. For chicken you plan to keep frozen for a long time, double-bagging is a good idea. GL!

-- Brad (, May 04, 2000.

Brad, I had to chuckle as I read your post -- that's the way I've "vacuum-sealed" bags all my life, except for most things I don't need the straw (I would recommend one for raw meat). Just stick one finger in the bag, grasp the bag firmly around your finger with the other hand, carefully pull the finger out of the bag, suck the air out via the small opening your finger left, and twist the bag up tight. I would second the recommendation to double bag if the food is going to be in the freezer for more than a few days.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, May 04, 2000.

ur gay

-- bobet jones (, April 23, 2001.

All of you out there that have vacuum sealers, can you tell me what model seems to work best? We raise roughly 50 chickens a year for meat and need a better way to freeze them. We have been looking at vacuum sealers but don't know which brand would perform best and at the prices offered, I can't afford to buy a "lemon". Can you guys help? What are your experiences with them and for the cost, did you get your moneys worth?

Thanks a bunch!

-- Cindy (, April 23, 2001.

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