raising chickens

Chicken Butcher Info & Video

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To butcher your chickens, you will need the following suggested equipment:

  • A be-heading cone setup. This consists of a traffic cone, purchased at your local home store, a 3 ft board or 2x4, two bike hooks, and a bungee. Assemble as shown here in this closeup. Fasten to a wall that you can spray off to clean. Note that the end of the cone has been cut to make the opening to about 4" in diameter.
  • 5 gallon bucket or buckets for guts and feathers.
  • A large old (but clean) cooler for ice water to cool carcasses.
  • A canner for holding hot water that is used to loosen feathers.
  • A large cutting board and boning knife (or large filet knife).
  • A table that may be sprayed off.
  • Ice for your cooler.
  • 2 gallon bags or vacuum seal shrink bags for bagging up birds for freezer.
  • And last, but not least, a garden hose.

chicken butcher equipment

In addition to gathering all the equipment shown above, you need to heat up your water in the canner that will be used to loosen the feathers. The water should be heated to about 195 degrees so it is at least 180 degrees for your first bird.

There are different methods of beheading, and I have tried a few, but the cone setup is the quickest and easiest in my opinion. I would rather do this then fish around for an artery to bleed out a bird that I have been feeding by hand for the last few months. Also beats a hatchet and a stump! You place the bird, head down, into the cone, strap in with the bungee, grab the head and pull it down, and then cut away from you with a sharp knife. Then leave the bird bleed out for 30 seconds to a minute. And a note: Chicken claws can be hard on the hands & wrists as I found out - some gloves are a good idea!

After the bird bleeds out, grab by the feet and immerse in the hot water, rotating back and forth in the pot for about 3-4 seconds for the first bird. As the water cools from 180 to about 160 degrees, lengthen the time up to about 8 seconds for your last bird. If the feathers do not come out easily, you did not immerse long enough, if the skin comes off, you immersed too long. At any rate, as soon as you pull the bird out, start taking off feathers immediately by "brushing or mopping" them off with your hand (as opposed to just pulling). Do not bother with feathers from the tail nor from the top of the neck, as you will be cutting these parts off. If you have an automatic plucker, more power to you as this job becomes much easier! If you are doing more than 4 birds, you will need to reheat the water up to about 180F - You can do this with a camping stove, a fire, a grill, or your kitchen stove.

As soon as you have the vast majority of feathers off, you will gut. To do this, I follow a procedure similar to the one shown in the video below. I start by pulling up the skin around the crop and freeing up the crop. Then I simply cut off the crop and trachea. Then, I carefully cut down through the tail bone and carefully cut around the bottom of the tail around the vent so the vent and tail all come off with the guts - this minimizes excrement on meat. Then cut the opening at the tail bigger, cutting up to the breast, so you have room to place your hand in. Then grab all the guts inside the bird and pull out. Also use your fingers to scrape out lungs along the inside of the rib cage. Also, cut away excess fat and fatty skin at this time. Once all gutted, use your hose with cold water to wash out the bird. In the event some contamination occurred, don't worry, the meat will be fine. Place the washed out bird in the cooler containing ice and water. Quick cooling & cleaning is key to good meat quality! Spray down your area quickly after each bird. And after or before you gut, cut off the legs - this is done by cutting through the "knee" at the front of the leg and then bending the leg over and cutting through.

Final Meat Prep
After the birds cool in the ice water, clean each bird some more, removing pin feathers and any remaining guts inside. A fisherman's hook remover (medical forceps) works well for the small pin feathers. Place each bird in either a 2 gal bag or a vacuum shrink bag. In a pinch, you can even use doubled up unscented white kitchen trash bags (yes, this works fine). Remove as much air as possible when bagging up. Place in freezer. Do not pile birds up in the freezer but spread them out to facilitate quicker freezing.

Cleanup of Area
Clean your area thoroughly! Spray your cone area and table after each bird. When all done, spray down and clean your area thoroughly to prevent flies and smell. Also, a dirty area will invite raccoons or other predators (like bears) that might then make a meal out of your other birds or animals. Bury your guts and feathers in a deep hole or holes. To prevent some animal causing damage in your garden when it gets a tiny whiff of what you buried, I would advise you bury someplace besides your garden - one time I ended up having to dig up what had been buried and move it as some animal was trampling my corn and digging up what had been buried!

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