Butchering Chickens

Carrying our chickens to the processing area.

Carrying our chickens to the processing area.

Warning:  If you don’t want to see pictures of butchered chickens, don’t scroll down!  Consider yourself warned.

I knew this day would come.  The day we would need to cull an animal.  These birds were Cornish hen crosses and grew exponentially faster than our other birds.  They are known to get so large they die of heart attacks.  We chose to butcher ours at the age of 6.5 weeks.

First, we collected the chickens from their coop.  We had stopped feeding them the night before and gave them access to water.  Hanging the birds upside down is supposed to calm them.  We created our own kill cones out of milk cartons.  We nailed the cartons to a tree before inserting the chickens upside down.  I’m sure my heart was racing as we placed the first chicken into the cone.  I didn’t feel like I could kill it.  Hubby was confident and ready to go.  If I was the one with the knife…I’m just not sure I could do it.

Hubby feeling for the jugular vein.

Hubby feeling for the jugular vein.

I had to look away when he actually made the cut.  Mom told us how her grandma used to wring their neck, causing the head to pop off.  Then they would watch as the chickens ran around the yard without a head.  The upside down cone method seems less traumatic for all involved.

After the blood drained out, we took the chicken and repeatedly dunked him in 150 degree water until the feathers were easily plucked.  We used a turkey fryer to get the water hot.

The heat helps loosen the feathers for easier plucking.

The heat helps loosen the feathers for easier plucking.

Then we set to plucking.  This took the most time.  By the time we got to the plucking stage, the chicken already began resembling what you would buy at the grocery store.  At that point, I lost my apprehension and felt ok about the process.

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Trying to get every single feather out of the bird.

Trying to get every single feather out of the bird.

After plucking, we singed the tiny hairs with a heat gun.  Then we removed the organs and intestines.  I had never done that before with any animal.  By the time we finished, the bird looks like something you’d pick up at the grocery store.  Except you know what?  This one we raised.  This one we butchered.  This one we processed ourselves.  By the end, I felt very proud of ourselves.

We are going to fry these chickens in order to celebrate my brother Isaiah’s birthday next week.  It is a tradition for our mom to cook fried chicken dinner for our birthdays.  This will be the first time we knew the chickens.  Some may think that is weird or gross, but I don’t.   I’m happy to contribute some homegrown chicken to celebrate my brother.  He has always been special to me and he deserves some farm fresh chicken!

If you are bothered by the thought of butchering your own meat, that is ok with me.  Maybe you should be a vegetarian.  That is ok too.  I considered giving up eating chicken when those chickens were hanging upside down.  No joke. But if you think the grocery store meat is treated in a more humane way either during the raising or the butchering, you are wrong.  Just sayin’.

I’ll have to update you on the taste of the chicken in the near future.  If it’s anything like our homegrown pork, Isaiah will have a great birthday!