Butchering chickens is a lengthy process. If you’re like us, and you have more than one chicken to harvest you may not have all day to spend on butchering chickens.
Butchering chickens can be an all-day event.
Lucky for you, we have a shortcut. Keep in mind the shortcut we offer does not use the whole bird. The survivalist in me hates to waste anything! But since my husband does most of the butchering, I try to take his time into value.
If we had a feather plucker, butchering chickens would not take quite as long, but we do not. So we pluck feathers the old-fashioned way, pulling them out one by one. As you can imagine, in the springtime when we have dozens of roosters to harvest, this takes us all day.
Nobody has time for that!
Before we get to the shortcut, you should also know my husband hunts duck. Each winter he’s harvesting the duck he and his buddies shot. So by the time spring rolls around the last thing he wants to do is butcher more birds.
Traditionally, when butchering chickens you clean out the whole bird. We will write a separate post on that in the spring. By doing this you gain the meat, the innards (some people like these, but we do not), the bones and even the feathers.
Keeping all of these parts of the birds allows for multiple uses. We eat the meat and then process the bones to make a nutritious bone broth. We either freeze or can it so we’ve got a great stock of broth when cooking or when sickness strikes. Some people even save the feathers and make pillows or quills for writing!
I say all of that to say, if you plan to do any of those tasks, this form of butchering chickens is not for you.
We start our process by capturing the kitchen. We have a brooder called The Butcher Block we put roosters in when we know it’s time to harvest. Typically the younger the bird, the more tender the meat. Depending on our time and schedule we butcher around the age of 12-16 weeks. Anything over 16 weeks the meat starts getting too tough.
There are many ways to kill the bird. Some people wring their knecks like our grandparents did. That takes a lot of strength and I simply don’t have it in me. Another way is to pin the rooster’s head to the ground with a rake, then pull up on his feet and his neck will snap.
The killing cone method is one of the more humane ways for butchering chickens.
A killing cone is an orange construction cone, like the ones you see in construction zones or in car pickup (I know you’ll never look at construction cones the same again after this post!). You may have to trim the top of the cone a bit first. Be careful not to trim too much off or the bird will fall through. You want the cone to hold the bird securely. Nail the cone upside down to a tree. Simply put the bird in head first, and pull his head through the bottom. Stretch out his neck and with a knife or an ax, make one clean cut.
The bird will flail about. That phrase, “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” is true. The cone will hold the bird while if flips and flops and the bird’s blood will naturally drain out. Allow the bird to drain for a full 5 minutes.
The method we use when butchering chickens is called breasting out.
This means instead of plucking the bird and emptying the carcass, we simply remove the breasts from the bird.
Feel the bird with your fingers and find the breastbone. Then take a pair of chicken shears and cut through the feathers and skin. Once you’ve made an incision you can rip the skin away to provide a larger opening.
To breast it out, take a sharp knife and trim around the edges of the breast, separating it from the bone. Then you’ll repeat this on the other side. Set the meat aside in a bowl until you are finished processing all your birds. If you have a lot to do, you’ll want an ice chest with cold water and ice to keep the meat in.
Once you’ve finished breasting out the bird you can dispose of the bird however you choose. We throw ours into the woods (well out of range from the coop) so wild animals will eat it.
You can see butchering chickens this way wastes a lot of the bird.
So one thing I do is cut off their feet and process those to the freezer. This way when I make bone broth from the other birds I have, I can throw in some chicken feet to make that bone broth extra yummy!
Hope this helps you butcher your birds faster. Check out the photos below. Some are graphic, so only click if you are not squeamish 😉
~Until Next Time,
Question: Do you breast out your birds or harvest the whole bird when butchering chickens?