Getting started. Why raise chickens? 3
Requirements (parts list) for raising chickens 4
Basic breed types and their characteristics 2
Purebred flock vs. assortment 2
Incubators and hatching chicks 3
When things go wrong and predators too! 5
Processing birds 4
How to Process Chickens
How to Process Chickens
Steps to Processing a Chicken
- Catch the chicken. If you know you can do this quickly and easily, you might start with step #2.
- Start a large pot of water on to boil.
- Kill the chicken.
- Dip the chicken to scald it and make plucking easier.
- Pluck the chicken.
- Cut off its feet
- Remove the craw.
- Cut open the abdominal cavity.
- Free the anus and colon. ***
- Pull out the innards.
- Rinse carcass.
- Quarter and/or cook or store.
By the Numbers
- Catch the chicken. If you know you can do this quickly and easily, you might start with step #2. Obviously it is harder to catch free ranging chickens than those confined in a pen. I try not to handle my chickens until I have to. This way, when I feed them, they come and are not expecting to be caught. For my free range birds, the best time to catch them is when they’re eating. It also helps if one feeds them in a pen and can close them in before trying to catch them.There is a huge difference between breeds, in how easy or difficult they are to catch. Most of the large breeds are fairly easy. Many of the small breeds are difficult. A landing net, such as is used for fishing, on a long pole is sometimes quite useful for catching small, fast chickens.
- Start a large pot of water on to boil. There needs to be enough to submerge the chicken carcass. For just a few birds, I generally heat about 1 ½ gallon of water and carry it out of the house in a five gallon bucket. The ideal temperature for scalding water is 150 F. If the water is too cool, then feathers, especially wing and tail feathers will probably be very difficult to pluck. If the water is too hot, the skin may start peeling when the feathers are plucked.
- Kill the chicken. There are several ways to kill a chicken. Wringing a chicken’s neck involves twisting and pulling, so as to separate the spinal cord. Some people place the chicken’s neck under a broomstick, hold the broomstick down with their feed, and then pull on the chicken’s feet, separating its spinal cord. Any method of wringing the neck leaves the blood in the carcass. It doesn’t bleed out. I don’t know if this is a problem or not. But many people evidently don’t. This is how they do it!The other principle manner of killing a chicken is to cut the jugular vein. Some people hang the live chicken, tied by at least one foot, on something like a clothesline. Then, with a thin, sharp knife, they cut the bird’s jugular vein, letting it flap and bleed out, before taking it down from the line. Some construct a “killing cone. http://www.backwoodshome.com/build-a-poultry-killing-cone/This is a great method for killing chickens! But the method I have always used is simply a chopping block and a machete, for cutting off the chicken’s head. If one goes this route, it would be wise to get some practice catching, holding and controlling chickens, manually, before trying to handle a chicken and a machete at the same time. I’m sure, over the years, that many people have lost fingers or cut themselves badly, while trying to decapitate a chicken with a machete or hatchet. If you choose to use this method, I would say that I prefer the machete over the hatchet. The larger cutting area makes for fewer misses. Also, it is good to use a pithy stump for a chopping block. “Pithy” simply means that it is partly rotted and therefore soft. Being soft, the wood lets the blade pass completely through the entire neck of the chicken before stopping.To decapitate a chicken hold it by its feet and let its body rest on the stump. You can turn it, using the feet, to get it to extend its neck for an appropriate angle to cleaning cut the head off. Be aware, that if you chop a chicken’s neck and do not cut it clean off, it will be next to impossible to hold it still while re-doing that cut. It may be necessary to wring its neck and put it out of ifs suffering.
All in all, if I were just starting out. I think I’d seriously consider the killing cone. For most people that strikes me as the safest and most humane way to kill and bleed a chicken.
- Dip the chicken to scald it and make plucking easier. To pluck a chicken I prefer to scald the carcass first. This involves dipping the entire carcass in very hot water. The ideal temperature is 150 F. For some reason, it almost always works best to dip and hold (demonstrated in the video in the next lesson) at least three times (down and up, down and up, down and up). Apparently this helps the hot water to better reach the skin. To test whether the carcass is ready to be plucked, pull on the longest wing and tail feathers. If they pull out easily, then the rest of the feathers will also pluck without a problem.
When you dip the chicken, hold it by its feet using one hand. It is helpful, with the other hand, to use a stick to push the carcass all the way under the hot water.
- Pluck the chicken.
Once the wing and tail feathers will pull out easily, all the rest should also pluck with no problem. It doesn’t really matter where one starts or how they proceed in plucking, as long as they get all the feathers. I prefer to start with the wings, which are the most challenging and then proceed plucking on the breast, as it’s the fastest, easiest part. I work by zones, cleanly plucking each zone before moving to the next.The hardest thing is when a chicken has lots of pin feathers. This is generally the case when they are moulting. If you have a chicken which is noticeably growing new feathers, it might be good to wait a couple weeks before butchering. It will save you a lot of extra work. Sometimes one has to butcher when there is an abundance of pin feathers. Sometimes, when one plucks a bird, they find downy fluff under the feathers. Sometimes this fluff is easy to remove, just rubbing it off with one’s fingers. Sometimes it is not so easy to remove. Whenever there is some kind of feather residual, difficult to remove, it may be helpful to use a torch or gas burner to singe the carcass. This can really clean it up, and anything left after singeing should be much easier to remove.
- Cut off its feet. By “feet” I mean the entire part which has no feathers on it. This includes what is called the shank. Removing the feet is not so difficult as one might think. Hold the carcass by the feet and then start trying to cut into the joint. Turn the carcass (by its feet) and keep cutting into the joint with a sharp knife. Once the first ligament is cut the joint will loosen up and it will be easier to cut the other ligaments. (Ligaments are white string like cords which hold the joint together.) Note: What do you do with those feet?
a) A gourmet cook would probably save the feet, scorching them in an open flame and peeling off the outer skin. The nails would be clipped off and the remaining foot would be used as an important ingredient in chicken soup. Yes! The feet make the best stock!
b) A dog owner might give the feet, as is, to their dog. Our livestock guardian dogs love to “help” with butchering. They sit quietly by me while I butcher, expectantly waiting for their treat. They generally get the neck, and innards. Sometimes, when I’m feeling generous, I’ll let them had the feet
- Remove the crop (also known as “craw”). The crop is a thin membranous sack, just under the skin, in the breast of the chicken. It’s where the chicken’s food goes when it is first swallowed. You’ll notice when your chickens eat a lot, that their chests seem to bulge. That’s because they do! The crop serves to hold food which won’t fit in the the rest of its digestive system. It holds the food until it can fit. The way one removes the crop is as follows:
a) Using a very sharp knife, make a superficial cut across the skin covering the crop. The purpose of this cut is to expose the crop without damaging it. If you accidentally cut into the crop, you can still remove it. It’ll just be messier.
b) Starting at the incision, pull the skin away from the crop. If it contains much feed it will bulge outward as the skin is peeled back.
c) Pull the esophagus down from the neck of the bird and, gently tugging on the crop, cut the exit tube, where it enters the body cavity. You’ll pull that out from the other end.
d) The crop should pull out, now, with no difficulty.
- Cut open the abdominal cavity.
The next lesson is the video to process chickens.