Processing chickens : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Hey everybody! I just have to tell you of my experience of butchering chickens today. I haven't done any serious chicken killen since I was a young boy (25-30yrs ago). Well a few weeks ago I aquired some free chicks which turned out to be broiler chicks. If you remember about five weeks ago I had a post about this. Well some of them have gotten big enough to process as cornish hens so I decided to process 6 of them. I used the 2 liter pop bottle process of killing them. I made a stand about five feet high and mounted six- 2 liter pop bottles with the bottom and top cut out and inserted a chicken in each one of these with there head hanging out of the bottom. This is going to work real good cause the chickens will not be able to flop around and get blood everywhere. I had read about this method in countryside magazine and it stated to make a trench below the chickens for the blood to drain in, which I did. When it came time to bleed them out I thought I would use the method mentioned in the book "Butchering, Processing and Preservation of Meat" by Frank G. Ashbrook. This method calls for inserting the knife through the mouth to the back of the throat and cutting the major blood vaines and then sticking the knife up through the brain. Well I thought that I would just cut the neck and then thrust the knife up through the throat toward the brain. I grabed my first chicken and made a quick slice through the neck and ended up cutting the whole head off! I thought to myself "Not so hard next time". So I grabbed the next chicken and tried it a little easier and ended up with the head just barely attached by some skin. I thought "Well I flubbed that one up too"! By this time I realized that the little ditch I dug is not catching very much blood cause the blood is spewing in all directions in about a five foot radius and it is getting all over me! So I just started crabbing heads and cutting them all the way off and get out of there as fast as I can.

So next I got some hot water started and got the temperature regulated between 150 deg. to 160 deg. like the book said for young chickens. I grabbed the first chicken and submerged it for about 45 seconds and begin plucking. I plucked, and plucked, and plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked,plucked, plucked, plucked, plucked, and finally had my first chicken plucked. And then I realized, "God I still got five more chickens to pluck". "GEE'S". I spent what seemed forever plucking chickens. I thought to myself "why don't I skin these birds out", "cause I won't to keep the skin on to keep moisture in the birds when I roast them". Finally I got all of them plucked, but still have a lot of fuzz on them that I can't seem to get off.

After getting them all cleaned and put in the fridge to chill for the night something hit me up side the head, "A THOUGHT". "I wrap skinless dove and quail breast with bacon strips before roasting and have some of the moistest and tastiest meat". "Why not do the same thing with cornish hens that way I can just skin the birds out instead of all that plucking"? "GEE'S"

So the moral of this story! "Just skin the darn things out and forget the ditch work"!

-- r.h. in okla (, September 06, 2001


I have to figure all this stuff out in another 4 to 6 weeks when my chicks are ready. Me and my friend are going to try and figure it out together while we have two 5 year olds and two 2 year old kids running around and watching. I'm guessing it should be quite a sight since neither of us have ever done it before or even seen anyone do it.

How did the whole taking the inards out thing go? I'm trying to think of what to do with them afterwards. Can't really put them in the trash, since that all has to go in my van as we don't have trash collection. Could dig a whole but then our ground is nothing but clay and rocks. Hubby suggested walking everything out into the woods and dumping it. Any suggestions, what do you all do?


-- anita holton (, September 06, 2001.

Cornish sized birds??? I'm not sure it would be worth all that plucking time to me. I have a short temper some days and I'd probably have used the shotgun method of humane extermination. You know all that fuzz stuff you were talking about after the plucking was done? Well, the books I've read on buthering also say to use a propane torch or an open gas or wood flame. You hold the bird over the heat just long enough to singe all that fuzz off. And of course, the downside is, if you had that much trouble with bleeding the poor little suckers, you might incinerate them or hurt yourself.

-- Claudia Glass (, September 06, 2001.

Anita- Removal of the inards went real good except for one thing. I was seperating the liver and placing them in a small bowl. I thought I would either eat them or may go do some catfishing (I like fish better than liver). But after reading your reply I just realized that I forgot to bring that little bowl in and place in the freezer. So if it is still out in the back yard it probably isn't any good.

I would remove the neck and the crop first and this seem to make removing the entrails easier.

Claudia- I tried the butane bottle method on the first chicken and it done real good. But I ran out of propane while doing the second one. "My luck"!

-- r.h. in okla. (, September 06, 2001.

Seems to me you didn't leave the birds in the hot water long enough. I grab them by the feet, and submerge them. Keep swishing them around. At 30 seconds, pull them out, grad a handfull of feathers and try to "rub" them off. If they won't come off, put the bird back in the water. Keep dipping, swishing and rubbing until the feathers just start coming off in your hand. Went really easy. Wing feathers are hard. You can get the pin feathers off by searing with a propane torch. Be careful not to burn the skin, keep the torch moving. But really, if the feathers are done right, you get the pin feathers off too.

-- Rickstir (, September 06, 2001.

Thanks R.H. (Russell?) for writing what it is REALLY like. I laughed so hard when I read that post!! I'm going to wait until the girls get start dropping production (2 years) and use for soup. I've participated in all this as a child but can't remember some of it (cutting off the vent).

My husband and all family don't believe I'll really do this but I plan to show them! I had heard to hang the birds by their feet, tie a string from their heads to the handle of a bucket and make it taut. That way the blood ends up in the bucket (this is GREAT fertilizer--don't waste it R.H.)

As to the innards--I plan to microwave all the organs and feed to cats. Other stuff is going to the far corner of the farm for wild animals.

keep those reality posts coming!!

-- Ann Markson (, September 06, 2001.

RH - Are you by any chance related to the guy who posted the question about how to raise boneless chickens (because the wife wouldn't eat the regular kind)? Gad, that was hilarious.

-- Claudia Glass (, September 06, 2001.

"yep, Claudia that was me"! I might be the only one to eat these birds since they have a bone in them.

-- r.h. in okla. (, September 06, 2001.

I almost hate to do this, but I feel obligated to help a fellow countrysider. I am sure that others will disagree. Nonetheless, here is what works for me: 1st, I do not raise the bargain basement "heavy breed roosters", although they are dirt cheap as chicks. Even at 1/4 the price of Cornish-Rock crosses, which I raise every year, they are no bargain. I would take them if they were free and came with 25 lbs of free broiler feed, but not otherwise. Point is, the cost of the chick is a small part of the overall cost of the meat you put in the freezer. I always buy over 100 chicks, and through a local farm co-op, they are about 70 cents apiece. I only keep about 60 myself, and sell half of those (dressed and frozen). I sell 30 to 35 of the 60 for $1.35 per pound. Noticing that Purdue (Perdue?) sells them for $1.29, that will escalate next year. Anyway, we put our chickens (mostly cut up) in the freezer "free". (NEVER count labor! If you do, become a yuppie or a hooker!) But I digress! I use scalding water of 150 to 155 degrees, and "soak" the bird for 60 to 70 seconds. Do the "swishing" mentioned above. When working by myself, it takes 20 minutes from clucking to cooling. Plunge the eviscerated carcass into cold (I use ice) water, and kill another. And so on. When you have finished for the day, put the finished carcasses in the refrigerator for 24 hours, longer if you are busy. Then freeze or eat them. If you are cutting them up, this can be done after the whole bird cools in the refrigerator for a day. If you do not do the refrigeration step, the chickens will be so tough you won't be able to stick a fork into the gravy. Good luck, and write back if you want any more free (albeit not worthless) advice!

-- Brad (, September 06, 2001.

R.H. I would recommend wearing dishwashing gloves when plucking. I tried it this year and it worked great. A former coworker of mine told of his goose butchering experience. He decided to use a hedge trimming shears to lop of its head. Problem is, the shears twisted sideways pinching the neck between the two blades. Then the goose got away and they were all chasing a goose with a shears stuck on its neck.

-- Dave in WI (Kabby@ITOL.Com), September 07, 2001.

My mother had me chopping chicken's heads off probably at the age of 10 or so...we had a big stump out back with two large nails driven in it, just far enough apart to lay the chicken's neck in between. We laid the chicken on the stump (while holding onto it's legs) with the neck between the two nails, chopped with a cleaver (anybody still have one of those??), and let the chicken run till it was still. For plucking, my mother always dipped the chicken in hot water (sorry, don't remember how long), and then wrapped the chicken in newspapers till she got the rest done. Perhaps the newspapers kept the heat on the chicken and helped the feathers to come out. Also, that way we kept the feathers on the newspapers, and just burned everything together. We used kitchen matches or a candle to "singe" all the hairs off.

About 30 years ago, after marriage & children, I was going to do this again - bought a few chickens, but this time I used the "hanging by the feet and cutting off the head with a knife" method. Don't know why, but this time, the whole process got to me so bad that by the time I was finished cutting off the heads, I was shaking all over....made me feel horrible, emotionally....haven't done it again, but perhaps I could if I really needed to, don't know.

On a similar subject, do any of you remember the story (either in an old Countryside or MEN magazine, I think) of the guy who raised a pig for the first time, and got attached to it, of course. When time came to butcher, he just couldn't do it, yet knew he HAD to, for his family's sake. After agonizing for awhile, he went down to the tavern and bought a couple of gallons of beer and gave it to the pig. When the pig looked sufficiently happy and went to sleep, he was able to shoot it - justification: At least the pig died happy!

-- Bonnie (, September 08, 2001.

Bonnie, I bet that was a very tasty pig! I've marinated meat before but not that way!

-- r.h. in okla. (, September 08, 2001.

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