Does it ever get easier to butcher? (Poultry - General) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I've got 6 roosters left out of 13, so I'm halfway. I look for any excuse not to go out and do what I should do. I started with an axe,(4), one with a knife, (what a mess, never again...) I've got a brand new sharp cleaver and done one with that. It's just me, book taught. It really is a big deal to kill them for me. I just want to know it will get easier or more tolorable?? How do you psyche yourself up?? I won't do auctions as I am responsible for my own critters. I got these white leghorns from the school hatch. 13 roosters and 8 hens. And yes, if the school offers the chicks this May, I will take them,too. Thanks for your help. Karen

-- Karen from CT (, January 17, 2002


Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Good question. I am able to butcher chickens that I don't know (once, anyway), but I have never been able to do more than put down a layer that I know. If I HAVE to kill it, I throw the chicken away and my stomach hurts for a day or two from the tension of having to kill a bird that I know. It isn't NEARLY so bad to do up a strange bird!

-- Terri (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

How about having the school put on a way to butcher chickens after you have raised them. You will raise them and they will do a butchering workshop and you get a portion of the butchered chickens for raising them.

-- BC (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Think Terri has something. Find another local homesteader that isn't familiar with your animals and trade butchering jobs. Maybe you can barter butchering.

-- paul (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Yeah, it gets easier when you learn to look at your animals planned for meat as just that, and never forget it. Try not to look at them as an individual, just as a meat animal. Don't try especially to tame them, but with larger animals you do need them tame enough to be safe. We teach our beef steers to lead, for example. Also, it makes it easier when you find the easiest, most efficient method, for you, of killing the animal, so it never knows what hit it and doesn't suffer. And as my husband used to tell me when I was having trouble with butchering animals, "Just think what a great, happy life this animal has had as opposed to the life it would have had on a factory farm." I guess if I dwelled on it it might still bother me sometimes, but I don't. There's no benefit to torturing yourself. Try to think instead about the clean food you are providing for your family.

-- Paula (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

How old are these roosters? If they are 12 weeks or so, I use a broom handle to dispatch them. Lay the bird, belly down, on the ground and place the broom handle across its neck. Quickly step on the broom handle, one foot on each side of the bird, and pull up sharply. Pop, off comes the head. Watch out for splatters, as the bird's nevrous system takes over.

It won't be as easy on old, tough birds. But on young ones, its the swiftest method I've ever used.

-- Rickstir (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Karen, I feel for ya; I cant kill em either! Well, actually I can if I have no choice, but I usually managed to find someone else to actually do the dirty deed, then took it from there.

I would guess that like anything else, one would eventually become desensitized enough to just get it done. It is not a pleasant job for anyone, even professionals.

By the way, have you eaten those leghorn roosters yet? Doesnt seem to me they would be worth all the stress; there's not much meat on em!

-- Earthmama (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Simple answer: go veggie! :)

-- Shannon at Grateful Acres Animal Sanctuary (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

take a large plastic jug a little sturdier than a milk jug cut off the bottom make the hole in the top large enough to fit a chickens head through nail it to the end of a wooden fence post bottom up (some where out of the way) put the chicken in head down pull the head down use a sharp cleaver and chop the head off leave the chicken in the carton until it stops struggling this also helps the blood to drain and controls some of the mess put a large bucket under to catch the head, not a pleasant task but needs to be done. It takes me about six weeks to be able to eat chickens after this. Also I skin my chickens rather than pluck much easier. good luck

-- ronda (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

No, for us it just got worse and worse, now we can't eat meat hardly at all( I have been avoiding mammalian meat for years), even that we don't raise ourselves!!! DH can't even go deer hunting now without feeling gulity, and hasn't gotten a deer for over 6 years years despite being over run with deer, I believe it's a Fruedian slip thing, not really wanting to get a deer!

My Grandfather used to whistle when he went deer hunting for the same reason.

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Once the head is off it doesn't bother me very much. The actual killing is upsetting; what really gets to me is to see the dying body flailing around, so I don't watch that. The first time I killed a duck, it was very hard, I kept wishing I could find someone to rescue me from the task, but at the same time I felt that I shouldn't have someone else do the dirty work- if I couldn't do it, I shouldn't eat it. And since we were overrun with drakes, they had to go somewhere. There might as well be a good reason for killing them, and the maximum benefit and use made from what the animal had to offer.

-- Rebekah (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

It's hard. For me, a couple of dozen bird deaths into this thing, it has remained hard. It has also caused me to look closely into my beliefs regarding death. I guess the only thing that helps at all is to think what life and death would be like for these creatures in the wild - short and possibly hard life, extremely cruel and gruesome death. I try to remember that I'm a predator, of sorts, and these are prey animals - born to die, as it were. I try to make the short lives they do have as good as they can be, and I try hard to keep them relatively calm before they die. I try to make the animal unconscious as instantly as possible (unfortunately, nothing seems to die as quickly as humans do in the movies). It's best to deliver the fatal stroke or blow and then not look at the animal until it has finished dying. Then remove the head, if you haven't already. Once the head is gone, it gets to be a lot more like a butchering exercise.

I've tried lots of different methods, and this one seems best to me: When I kill chickens, I catch them (not hard as they are pretty tame) and pet them while I walk to the execution site. I quickly put them in an upside down jug, as explained above, suspended over a pail, then take a VERY sharp knive I have at hand and pulling a bit on the head, cut the head off in one quick stroke, starting from where the neck joins the back of the skull. The head drops into the bucket, and I walk away while the body does its death throes thing and the chicken bleeds out, held securely by the jug. My part in this, from when the chicken starts being put in the jug, takes around 10 seconds, tops. It still tears me up, but I'm slowly getting a little better at dealing with it.

-- Laura Jensen (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Here's a paradox for you. I have absolutely no compunction about killing a predator who is taking my chickens, pigeons or fish, but absolutely cannot bring myself to slaughter either chickens, pigeons or fish even when doing so would be merciful euthanasia. Go figure.

-- John James (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

I think the hard part is because we know that these animals we've raised have come to TRUST us....and we are betraying that trust. That may not be the homesteader mindset, but I think it's back there, in the subconscious, of those of us who have a difficult time killing our meat.

-- Sue (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?


Sounds to me like your operation is long on willingness, and short on education; and yes it does get easier with education.

First off let me say that you have the wrong brand of chicken for eating. The leghorn is a fine layer, and has the appeal of an old boot on it's best day for eating. No they do not get better with age, just more difficult to eat. Free is still overpriced for that particular bird. My suggestion would be one of the following. Find someone else, who does not know better yet, and give them the remaining roosters. Just kill them, and put them out of your misery. They could be composted, or otherwise disposed of properly.

Get a good book about butchering and read it, and perhaps offer to help someone who is doing some butchering so you can learn from them. Then find out what kind of chicken is the best to eat. I like the Buff Orphington, but I am sure there are others that are good too. They taste good, and are tender. Find out at what age to do your butchering, and do it on time. The on time part is key to tenderness. Good luck.

-- Ed Copp (OH) (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Certainly the leghorn is the wrong bird for eating. They won't repay the food they've cost you. Stew or casserole is all they're good for, and not much of it.

Traditionally, there was a division of labour in killing poultry, so no-one had to deal with the whole job. Dad did the killing, children plucked the birds, then mother dealt with a fairly anonymous carcase (generally helped by dad if more than one bird). This made it easier than dealing with a known animal all the way, although you can do that if you've made sure you and your family have adopted the right attitude about them all the time.

-- Don Armstrong (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

The Cornish Rocks I have were bought as chicks to eat. I have only ever viewed them as food to feed the family. Even though I don't like to kill them I tell myself that they had a much better life than factory raised birds, that I am providing my family with homegrown food - I know how it was raised and what it was fed, that I actually appreciate my chicken dinner more now that I have to kill and prepare the bird myself, my kids appreciate the food more, we make a chicken go further and we probably eat less chicken now than when we used to eat store bought chicken. We average a chicken once every 10 days or so and one of the big cornish rocks will usually do the 4 of us 4 to 5 meals.

I try not to think about the killing part too much. I hang the bird upside down and slit its neck with a sharp knife and let it bleed out. I read that cutting its jugular instead of severing its head completely off helps the bird bleed out and thus you have better tasting meat.

-- Anita in NC (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

I'm getting ready to butcher a couple of extra big cornish chickens myself here in another week or so. And I have been thinking about this same thing myself. The last time I done this was to some of their litter mates back last september and I had this big lump in my throat just before killing them. Once they were dead the lump went away. But it came back again when I was getting ready to kill the next batch. I have three left that I have been letting run with my free range layers and I need to butcher them. So this next time I'm going to use a twenty-two rifle and use shorts to pop them in the head and then skin them out. I'm hoping this will be a lot easier since I do this to squirrels and rabbits. I'll say it's a squirrel in disguise!

-- r.h. in okla. (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Ed- at what age do you butcher the Buff Orpingtons? I am thinking of trying some this year.


-- Tracy (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

Well, I guess butchering does get easier. I hate and delay butchering day, but, over the past few sessions, I ve learned to do as many as you can in one day. After the first two (rabbits) the rest are a breeze, I move quickly and do want to get it over with, but my skills pick up after a couple and each one from there out is easier. I butchered 9 rabbits last week in under an hour and a half. I have gone to (from the axe handle smack) using a .22 rifle to dispatch them. Umm, chickens, I let a friend do the butchering but I would kill them if I had to- he just uses a hatchet, but I think, after witnessing how cleaner a kill I got with the .22, I would shoot them in the head. Stiil, I much prefer eggs to chicken- around our place the egg definately comes before the chicken!

-- Kevin in NC (, January 17, 2002.

Response to Does it ever get easier to butcher?

My best friend used to go on and on about the farm she hoped to have someday...with an enormous garden, a henhouse for eggs, and a pig she'd name "Dinner" to keep her reminded of why he was there. It's all in the way you look at the animal, I guess!

-- Christine (, January 18, 2002.

Sue, that is it exactly: it feels like I am betraying the trust of a friend. It doesn't matter that every life must come to an end, or that my birds have a much better life (and death!) than a commercial bird. It still feels lousy to end the life of a bird that trusts me: even that lousy so-and-so rooster that kept trying to beat up my 5-yr old. I don't have the only kids in the world: he shouldn't go to another home even if he WAS out of my best hen ever! He really needed killing so I did it but it felt lousy because I raised him and he trusted me! Logic doesn't allways apply to feelings, ya know???

-- Terri (, January 18, 2002.

I didn't read each thread thoroughly, so not sure if this was suggested already. I have a co-worker who GASSES their chickens. I'll ask the specifics more, but basically he places all the chickens to be killed on an area - airtight preferred. Hooks a hose up the the truck exhaust and starts it up. Kinda like a gas chamber. This way you don't have to deal with the chickens 1 on 1. All done! If I had a large number to kill off, I would use this method. Usually it's only a couple at a time. So far, even with the ones I know, it hasn't bothered me much yet. I just give blessings for the bird and for what the bird has given me over time, and for what it will give me at the table. The ones that are old and not eaten are taken far into the woods to help feed the creatures of the forest, so I never feel as if the bird was wasted. Good luck, and try thinking of how the bird helps the 'chain' and not about how you're killing it. That may help!

-- Michelle in NM (, January 18, 2002.

Gasses them? Wow. Wouldn't the poisons get into the meat? Karen - it hasn't gotten easier really - and I think that it shows that you, and all of us really, have a great deal of compassion. You can't feel bad about killing a chicken unless you have compassion. I am lucky in that when it comes time my husband and BIL do the actual killing and plucking, I do the rest. Maybe you could find someone near you who would do the killing and plucking, while you do the rest, in exchange for a portion of the finished birds? Oh, and absolutely don't bother with Leghorns as meat.

-- Katie (, January 18, 2002.


We usually butcher out Buff Orpingtons, between 15 and 20 weeks of age. We free range, it might be possible a little sooner if they were penned up constantly. The sooner the better for tenderness, once they are large enough.

Now all that said there are two or three running around here that are six months old (nobody is perfect), and I am sure that they will be a little tougher to eat, as well as costing a bit more to produce.

-- Ed Copp (OH) (, January 18, 2002.

Quick is best. A chopping block and a sharp ax and one or two whacks and their head is off, I figure a quick death is less painful than a slow death like trying to pull their head off by stepping on their neck. Especially in the older, tougher chickens that can be be a slow death.

-- fred (, January 19, 2002.

I've never really had a problem killing animals.In fact by pretending they are a bank manager the whole experience can become rather enjoyable!!!!

-- Wayne kerr (, January 22, 2002.

I can't kill either. My husband doesn't find it his favorite job, but he takes off the heads & I do the rest. I don't know what I'll do when he isn't around any more. Run a chicken retirement home, I guess!

-- Bonnie (, January 22, 2002.

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