How to slaughter meat chickens? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I have some chickens whose time needs to come to an end. How do I kill them and what is the process after that? I will be skinning them. Also is there anything like letting the meat cool for so long or hang somewhere or something that I need to be aware of?

-- Tammy Robinson (, February 01, 2001


Processing Poultry Step by step with pictures Tammy. copy and paste in your address browser. JR

-- JR (, February 01, 2001.

We butcher cornish chickens by laying a stick-broom handle across their necks on the ground, standing on the stick and pulling by their legs. It's quick, we hold them close to the ground so the blood will drain. Sometimes we let them roll around the yard. We don't skin them. After they're cut up we pack them in ice for about 24 hours to get the heat out.

-- Cindy (SE In) (, February 01, 2001.

Get an old washtub. Lay a board on the ground. Next get the chicken and sling it under the washtub so that the neck is outside of the tub and on the board but the body is under the tub. Take an ax or hatchet and cut off the head(the board is there to give you something to chop against). The body will flop around under the washtub so that you aren't chasing a flopping headless chicken across the yard :o). Cut off the feet and the ends of the wings and then skin the bird. Cleaning is pretty self explanatory at this point...cut a slit down the middle and clean out everything. Cut up as normal.

-- Amanda in Mo (, February 01, 2001.

We have made a small wooden box with a 1x6 attached to one side with a v notched in the top to place the head and then use a knife to cut of heads. Then heads are in the box and you have control over the bird. Then we have a plastic barrel we put the chicken in until they are done flopping around. We do a large number of birds at a time with some neighbors and this seem to work well. We scald and pluck the feathers and then clean the bird and wash it out, then place it in a tank full of ice water. We then put in plastic bags and freeze, make sure to have enough space to freeze,unfrozen birds stacked ontop each other will take a very long time to freeze.

-- Steve (, February 02, 2001.

Tammy, After many years of killing chickens, I use the pipe or broomstick as descibed in a previous letter. It is quick, doesn't seem to freak out the chicken, and is easier on a short armed older lady like me. It is always better to chill the finished product for 24 hours before putting the chickens in the freezer. I dip my headless chickens in very very hot water and remove the feathers, this also helps loosen the skin if you are skinning. Then, I cut around the tail and around in front of the tail being very careful not to cut the intestines esp. where it is connected to the anus and make sure all the connecting ligaments are cut, then pull the entire innards out, cutting off the liver and gizzard, and heart. The green bile sac next to the liver is carefully cut lose. and the gizzard is sliced open in tiny slices until the sack aound the food inside is exposed then I pull the outer part away from the sack which if you are lucky then comes out in one piece and is also discarded. I hope this is the information you wanted. It gets easier with practice.

-- karen (, February 02, 2001.

We always put them on a big chopping block and chopped their heads off with a hatchet ~ one of us kids held the feet and wings while Daddy held the head and chopped. Now that it's just Hubby and me and one ranch-hand I think we'll use some of the chicken-head-removal suggestions posted here, though! They sound lots easier.

We did our chicken-slaughtering in the side yard where we had St. Augustine grass ~ we wouldn't mow for a week or two before so the grass was nice and tall and soft. We let the headless chicken flop around on that 'til it quit ~ less bruising of the meat that way.

I understand that you're going to skin them, but have to tell you that I've done it both ways and scalding then plucking is MUCH easier if done right. Also, the meat didn't get freezer burn as much and wouldn't get dirty while butchering, even if we dropped one! (Washing leaves and grass off of chicken skin is lots easier than washing it off of chicken meat.) But then again, if you're only doing a few birds, it might be easier to skin them (we'd always do atleast 100 at a time). Here's how we plucked: We'd have one of Grandma's cast iron cauldrons full of almost-boiling water over a fire standing by to scald the chickens in so they were easy to pluck (I'd think a big soup pot on the stove would serve the same purpose admirably if you're only doing a few birds, but take the pot outside to dunk them). We'd hold them in the water for a count of 10, then let them cool a bit and start plucking. The easiest/fastest way I've found to do that is to pull out a handfull of feathers (a BIG handfull) and rub the rest off with those. If all the feathers don't come out, scald them again for a few seconds. There may be small hairs left if you didn't dunk them long enough or have the water hot enough. If you don't like them, you can use a hand-held torch to singe them off real quick, then wash the carcass.

Once plucked, we'd wash the entire bird, especially the feet (we'd leave those on 'til last as they make great hand-holds). Then cut open their abdomen (slit it straight down from the bottom of the breastbone almost to the vent ~ aka "anus") and gut them being very careful not to break the intestines, bladder or any other organ that would spill disgusting stuff on our meat (don't squeeze too hard or the disgusting stuff will come out the vent and get on the chicken anyway). Find the heart, liver and gizzard at this point and put them to the side to be cleaned later (To clean gizzards, cut along the thin edge, the edge that looks like where it would open if it were an oyster. Remove the contents, wash, peel off the tough, yellow covering on the inside and wash again.). Once all the entrails are out, carefully cut around the vent to remove it with the entrails (we waited 'til last to do this so if anything did come out of the vent, it wouldn't be inside the bird).

Now, after being very sure that the carcass was clean (if we had to wash with water, we'd dry it before wrapping to help prevent freezer burn), we'd lay it on some butcher paper and remove the feet. A sharp paring knife comes in handy here. Cut just above the scales being careful not to cut too deep into the tendons or meat. Pull the scales down past the leg joint and separate the joint by bending the joint backwards, then cutting through the tendons holding it together. It takes a while to figure this out, but after you get the hang of it, it goes quick and doesn't leave any bone fragments like a saw will. Wrap the carcass and label with contents and date.

You may can hang beef for a while to "age" it, but I wouldn't recommend this practice with poultry. We'd put ours directly into the cold freezer as soon as possible ~ we didn't want to take a chance on any bacteria growing. We had an upright one emptied and waiting for this purpose ~ the shelves hold them apart enough that they freeze quicker than packed on top of each other in a chest- type. If all you have is a chest type, try to separate the birds as much as you can 'til they freeze. We once piled 100+ birds into an empty chest-type freezer and the next day there were three in the middle that were just cool and no where near frozen!

Two more hints ~ if you choose to scald and pluck them after all, wear old clothes that you wouldn't mind throwing away if needed (lots nicer on the nose than washing them! LOL!) and do this when you have a couple days that you don't have to go near people. It's hard to get the wet-chicken-feather smell off you. Even if you skin them, the smell will still stay with you for a while.

Besides the moral issues, home-grown chicken is SO much better for you than store-bought due to less bacteria and less feed additives. And talk about real chicken flavor! Good luck!

-- Wingnut (, February 02, 2001.

It seems that most people are stretching necks, or chopping off heads to kill their birds, but I wanted to suggest slitting their throats. I always hang the bird by it's feet. I use an old swing set( those cheap swingsets for kids) The hooks are just great for hanging a chicken with it's legs tied. I hold the head firmly with one hand, and set my knife to one side of the head. I pull back with the knife on one side, and then slice forward on the other. I have read that you should only slit one vein, but I usually do both sides. This keeps the head intact, and doesn't allow the bird to suck blood into it's lungs. I have found that the "throws of death" seem to be lessened a little by this method, as opposed to completely beheading them. One thing about this method that I like, is the fact that I have my hand over the bird's eyes, and I don't have to look into them as I kill her. Another thing is that the bird is suspended and it will not bruise itself while it dies.

I always pluck my birds also, and I usually try to keep my water at about 130 to 135 degrees. I just swish the bird around in the pot long enough to get the feathers good and soaked. I check if they are loose by pulling on wing feathers. If they come out easy, it is time to pluck.

I keep a couple of clean garbage cans setting near with a garden hose running real slow. I keep the hose in one can, and place the finished birds in the water bath for a while The water helps cool the carcass faster. I do like to let my birds work through rigger mortis before I freeze them. I have a large walk in cooler to do that with. If you are fast enough to get them frozen before they stiffen then freeze them right away. Or let them thaw in the fridge for a few days before using them.

Somewhere in the archives is a post with a link to some pdf files that give good instructions for skinning.

-- Wayne (, February 02, 2001.

I use Killing Cones. A Killing Cone is like a large funnel, you can buy them at most poultry Supply dealers, beter yet buy 1 and use it as a pattern to make others. I recall an article in Countryside of someone using old plastic 1 galon Milk Jugs in the same manner. Have not tried the Milk Jugs myself but would probably work good on smaller birds.

I place the chicken head first into the cone, hold the head and place point of knife balde to the throat area below (well above since the chickens upside down) the head, push blade downward into head, turn the blade a quater turn and pull out.

Sometimes I pluck sometimes skin. The younger birds are real easy to skin and you can go quite fast once you get the hang of it.

I always have plenty of ice on hand on butchering day and place the birds in ice water after cleaning for 30 minutes or so, then I place in the refridgerator over night before freezing. Good Luck!

-- Mark in NC Fla (, February 02, 2001.

All the above ideas are great. I like Amand's idea of using the old washtub. Cuts down on mess I'm sure. We use the cone method over a garbage can and then scald and pluck. ONe thing that was not mentioned (unless i missed it from reading to fast) was to withhold food and water from the your chickens at least 12 hours before you butcher. That way there is no digestive gunk in their system.

-- JoAnn (, February 03, 2001.

Maybe I wasn't reading carefully enough, but it seems like no one mentioned that when you lay the stick across the neck and pull up on the legs, you are supposed to jerk hard and fast enough to pull the head right off. I haven't tried this method because I never could figure out how to get the stick over their neck and stand on both sides without choking the chicken while it's still alive and conscious. If it were me under that stick, I'd be scared spitless, and I try to avoid scaring my animals whenever possible. Maybe someone can enlighten me on how it's done properly. It sounds like a really good method.

So being unable to figure that one out, I use a "killing cone" made from a 1 gallon jug from shampoo or vinegar, you know, a sturdy jug, with the top and bottom cut off. Nail it upside down to a post, put the chicken in head first so the top of his head is facing you when it comes out the bottom. Gently stretch his neck out so I have good access to the back of his neck. Take a VERY sharp, longish knife, and quickly cut his head off, starting at the base of the skull and moving through, ending coming out the throat side. They seem to die pretty quickly that way. Good instructions on the rest of it are above. Good luck. (Won't say "Have fun." I HATE the killing part.)

-- Laura Jensen (, February 03, 2001.

I went into some detail about this in a a previous post a year or so ago. Please check out the archives. If that doesn't work - please e- mail direct and I'll help the best I can. GL!

-- Brad (, February 06, 2001.

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