This is how to butcher a chicken part 2 of our raising chickens for meat series. Knowing how to butcher a chicken at home is a skill not for the faint of heart, but one essential if you want to be self-sustainable and raise your own livestock from start to table.
I know many people hire out the butchering of their meat animals. We do it for our cattle, one due to the size of them, but more importantly because we don’t have the equipment, including a cooler for allowing the meat to age properly.
But knowing how to butcher a chicken is quite different from knowing how to butcher a full size cow.
We have butchered our own pigs, but this fall, we’ll be sending the pair of pigs we have now to the local butcher as well.
For those of you wanting to know how to butcher a chicken, then this is the post for you. I did my best to take tasteful pictures of butchering a chicken at home, but if the sign of blood makes you faint, either grab the smelling salts and a soft pillow, or have someone read you the post so you don’t see the pics, okay?
If you missed How to Raise Meat Chickens Part 1 you can catch it here.
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1. Rent the equipment. Having the right equipment makes all the difference. For $27 we were able to rent from our local county agriculture extension office all of the chicken butchering equipment including the cones (here’s a great video on the cones and showing the actual deed), the scalding tank, and the big most lovely thing in the world when it comes to butchering chickens, the automatic plucker!
Don’t have a way to rent the equipment? You can purchase these chicken kill cones to slaughter your chicken in as easy as manner possible for both you and the chicken. You’ll also want to make sure you have a nice butchering knife to help you cut up the chicken during processing. A sharp knife is essential to clean cuts. You don’t want to be sawing away and a good boning knife is key.
2. Take away the food. The night before butchering chickens remove their food. You don’t want to have food in the crop or vent of the chicken (the area the hold their food in before swallowing) when removing.
3. Set it all up before you begin to butcher the chickens. Light the scalding tank before you’re ready to make sure you know how and it’s working. Hook up the water hose and extension cord to the plucking machine (only requires 110 volt). Turn it on, make sure it works. Have all of your knives sharpened and laid out. You’ll need to turn on the scalding tank (it’s propane, so know how to light the pilot light) a few hours before butchering to heat the water. You want the water at 140 degrees. Too hot and you’ll tear the skin when plucking.
4. Got ice? Wash out a large bin and fill it with some ice and cold water. We placed all of the chickens in here after they’d been plucked, but before gutting and removing the feet. Have an extra bag of ice handy to put the finished chickens in before you begin wrapping them for freezing
5. Place the chickens in the cone. Their head hangs down allowing you to make a clean cut. Note: We don’t just slit the throat, we completely cut off the head of the chicken. Knowing how to slaughter or kill a chicken at home seems brutal to some, but we feel it’s much more humane to know the whole process of butchering a chicken yourself and making sure it’s done in the quickest and kindness way possible. Allow the blood to drain out, it only takes a few minutes.
6. Dunk chicken in scalding tank. About two minutes of dunking the chicken in the scalding tank is just right. Too long, and you’ll begin to cook the skin and it will tear upon plucking. Be warned, this is the stinky part. If you can do this on a cool day, you’ll be much happier.
7. Place chicken in the plucking machine. It doesn’t take long for this little beauty to pluck all the feathers off. It also rinses the chicken at the same time. Is there anything pretty than a bald chicken? (Okay, while butchering I mean otherwise I just sound really weird…)
8. Create an assembly line. Don’t try to cut up each chicken from start to finish before moving onto the next. We placed all the plucked butchered and plucked chickens in the ice water bath until they were all done.
10. Remove the neck. Cut around the opening of the neck and then pull out the vent (where the chicken held its food) and pull the neck out. If you cut too far back, you might cut some of the skin away from the top of the breast, but you’ll get the hang of it after your first few chickens.
12. Have a bucket to discard guts and intestines. If it’s hot out, you may want to fill the buck with some water to keep the flies at bay.
13. Package your chicken. Rinse chicken off again under cold running water. We chose to freeze our chickens whole to roast later. We used plastic produce bags that our wonderful local grocery store let me have for free. Others have used plastic freezer bags. We tried to get all of the air out and wrapped it in freezer paper.Or you may can your chicken.
We butchered 10 chickens and it only took about an hour. That’s because I had to document everything from behind the camera or it would have went faster. My dear husband did all the work while I “filmed.” Our kids were involved (my 5-year-old daughter begged to stay for the whole part, we let her watch everything but the initial neck chopping).
We ate one of the chickens that night for dinner. It was pretty cool to know it came from our farm.
So there you have it, how to kill or butcher a chicken at home.
Have you ever butchered your own meat? Do you have any tips?
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.