WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SOME VERY GRAPHIC DETAILS AND PICTURES THAT SOME WILL FIND OFFENSIVE! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! SO NO COMPLAINING!
The time has come to say goodbye to the babies I fought so hard to hatch. I’ll be getting some new chicks shipped to us next spring, because there is something that I want to try. By the time my spring chicks are old enough to lay, it will be time to “retire” my old hens.
Back to today’s topic. There are countless ways to kill, clean and butcher a chicken. Ask 10 different chicken ranchers and you will get 10 different answers. I will only be discussing the way that I have developed. I’ve used this method for years and it works for me.
1. Catch the chicken. You want to do this in the calmest and most relaxed fashion possible. You want to keep your bird calm. It makes what comes next easier on all parties concerned. I shut the door to the chicken door to the coop and close the pen door behind me. This way there is a limited space in which the chickens run around. Once you catch the bird you want to pet it and calm it down from the chase. Speak gently to them and make sure to thank them for their sacrifice. Do not apologize. This may evoke emotions in you that need not be present at this time.
2. Hanging and killing your chicken. I have a butcher table that I built with a piece of bent rebar mounted to the end of the table. The are 2 slip knots hanging from the rebar. After calming the bird I place a leg into each slipknot and hang the bird upside down. Allow the bird to hang there for about the time it takes to smoke one cigarette. This allows the bird time to relax and gives you a moment to pluck up whatever it is you need to pluck up. Gently yet firmly grasp the chicken around the neck just above the jawline (Remember the bird is upside down at this point). Pull down slightly to stretch the neck a bit and tighten the skin of the neck. Using a very sharp knife, slice at an angle from the front of the throat towards the back of the neck. I am only cutting the esophagus and artery at this time. If you mess it up and don’t cut deep enough, get back in there and do it right. Now step back and go have another cigarette while your chicken bleeds out. Once your chicken is sufficiently dead you can remove the head. Let it finish draining. No need for another cigarette yet. This is also a good time to get a pot to put your finished bird into. The reason I hang them like this is so that the bird does not flop around, bruise the meat and get all covered in blood and dirt. Also I have found that by allowing the heart to pump out the blood you end up with a cleaner butcher.
3. Skinning your bird. I skin my chickens because plucking a chicken is a pain in the ass. I start by cutting down the front of the throat toward the chest. Then I cut off the tail and carefully cut up the stomach until I meet my cut in the chest. Make sure not to cut too deep or you will puncture the stomach cavity, and believe me that is all bad. Peel the skin back to expose the meat beneath. With your knife slice the connective tissue to separate the skin from the body. Cut around the knee joint to remove the feet. Cut the skin up each leg until you meet the center cut. Peel off the skin. Flip your bird over to remove the skin from the back. I use shears to clip off the wing tips. There is little to no meat there and skinning that part of the wing doesn’t really work. Once the wing tips are cut off you can remove all of the skin from your chicken in one piece. When I say wing tip I actually mean cut the wings off at the elbow.
4. Gutting your bird. This next part can be interesting and full of family fun. You can turn this into an anatomy class for the kiddies. Or not. Also this is a good time to get a birds eye view of the health of your flock (c wut i did thar). Anyway, this is a good time to inspect the organs and health of your bird. Slice open the stomach cavity careful not to puncture the intestines or stomach. Again, this would be all bad. You should be sufficiently immune to blood and gore by this point, if not, you better get there quickly. Running your fingers along the outside of the organs and intestines, you want to separate them from the cavity. You’ll have to get underneath and separate everything in the back too. Once everything is loose give a firm tug and pull out the intestines and stomach. The liver should be a deep reddish brown. It should be shiny and not have a lot of fat attached to it. You’ll want to look for flukes and any other types of parasites. If I find parasites then that bird ends up in the burn barrel and I stop butchering right there. Be careful when removing the liver as it will tear easily. You also want to be careful to not cut the gall bladder. You’ll know if you do. If you eat chicken livers then you will want to remove it intact. The gizzard will look like a hard sack of evil. Cut it in half and inspect what you find inside. This will tell you what your birds are getting into. If you eat chicken gizzards you will want to remove the yellow thick membrane. The heart will be up inside the chest cavity so you will have to stick you hand up inside there. A quick pull should pop it right out. Look at the heart to see how much fat is on there or if there are any parasites. The heart should be a nice reddish color and firm to the touch. Rinse out your bird, but we are not done yet. Using a “V” cut remove the neck. you may have to cut away the esophagus and crop. I don’t feed my birds the day before a butcher. The crop should be empty and therefore a cleaner butcher. You’ll have to reach inside and remove what is left of the esophagus. Good luck on removing the lungs. I just scrape them out until I’m content with how much I removed. They are mounted securely to the ribs and won’t neatly come out like everything else. The lungs should be a bright pinkish color.
4a. Cleaning of roosters. You will find 2 whitish soft blobs about the size of beans (in older roosters they can be as big as your thumb). Ever so carefully remove these blobs. These are the testicles. They are very soft and tear very easily.
4b. Cleaning of hens. You will find a string of little orangish balls. At one end they should be fairly large and get progressively smaller as the string continues. This is where your eggs come from. These are undeveloped yolks.
5. Final clean-up. Rinse your bird until the water runs clear. If there is anything that I forgot to tell you to remove and you are sure that you will not be eating that part, then remove it now. Dispose of all you extra pieces/parts in a fashion to your liking. I burn them. Clean up your workstation. Take your cleaned bird and parts that you will be eating inside and give them a good rinsing and inspection. Make sure that you have removed all of the skin and feathers. You can part the chicken out or freeze it whole. I freeze the giblets in a separate bag. If this bird is for dinner tonight, then you better get going because you have some cooking to do and people are hungry.
This is how I butcher chickens. I hope this helps.