Chicken Butchering, Part One

The past couple of years, we have teamed up with Stachofsky Family Farms to butcher our broilers.  They claim they’re our enablers, since when we started doing this together, they had land and we didn’t!  Maybe next year we’ll be doing some of this at our new homestead.

The farm holds a ‘small processor’s license’, so many of the birds in these photos were raised and sold to the farm’s customers.  Most of the birds for sale are in the 3-4 lb. range.  We like to grow ours out to the 5-6 lb. size, because there’s more meat on the bones that way.


This post contains graphic pictures, with blood and guts!  If gory stuff wasn’t on your agenda today, click away.  There were animals killed in the creation of these photos.  They were killed quickly, and they were delicious.

First, the broilers are brought from the tractors and pens to the processing site.  We have our little crew of “chicken wranglers” that enjoys this job immensely.

People ask me sometimes if my kids find it traumatic to see the birds die, and know that they are going to eat them.  As it turns out, my kids are generally the ones looking over the fence, going “Ooo, that one looks like it will make a good roaster, Mama!” and “Don’t do that one this time, it needs to grow some more.”

Keep in mind that these kids lived in the city suburbs up until six months ago.  Anyway.

The chickens are put head-down into the killing cones.  One the chicken’s head is below it’s feet, they generally lose interest in their surroundings.  They relax, and that’s good for the meat quality.

A quick cut to the jugular on either side of the neck, just behind the ears, will kill the bird quickly and allow it to bleed out.  We try not to cut the windpipe, because they’ll thrash a lot more if the windpipe is severed.  They way we do it, the birds will kick some, but many just relax all the way and die peacefully.

Blood does get all over whoever’s doing the killing, though.  Our designated kill guy, Mr. Z, gets liberally splattered every processing day.

Once the birds are completely dead, then they are scalded.  Many sources say to scald in 145 – 155° water; we use 165° because it seems to give us a cleaner pluck.  Grab by the feet and swish in the hot water for a minute…

… and then check to see if the wingtip feathers are loose.  If they come out easily, the bird is ready to pluck.

The tub-style plucker is, in my opinion, the only way to go.  If we didn’t have this, then there’s no way we’d be doing broilers!  The rubber fingers take off over 95% of the feathers; the last few we remove with pliers.

… to be continued in Chicken Butchering, Part Two

This post was shared on Homestead Barn Hop.


About dep31

I am a farm-raised homeschooling mom. I take great joy in making nutritious food that inspires people to take seconds. Thirds, anyone? We are a God-fearing, Christ worshiping family that enjoys good friends and good eats. If the kitchen is clean and the living room carpet is visible, then that's a nice bonus.
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6 Responses to Chicken Butchering, Part One

  1. Pingback: Chicken Butchering, Part Two | Domestic Endeavors

  2. Pingback: Chicken Butchering, Part Three | Domestic Endeavors

  3. Mrs H says:

    I think Mr H will be building another plucker this spring, since deployment was delayed (he was supposed to leave for ten months, today! They announced the delay yesterday. Surprise!).

    I am not a fan of hand plucking, that’s for sure.

    Where did you buy your cones? I haven’t looked around yet, but if it’s an online source I’d love to check it out!

  4. Tracie Black says:

    I saw an episode of Farm Kings and they also used traffic cones. I guess anything cone shaped that can be kept extremely clean would work.

    • dep31 says:

      Yes; we’ve used sheet metal cones as well. They need to be easy to clean… although the challenge to keep things as clean as possible really starts once their feathers are coming off and we’re eviscerating. It’s not exactly the cleanest job in the world, and the area under the cones gets pretty grody pretty quick with blood. We stop and hose/scrub/bleach everything down in the evisceration and plucking areas about every 30 minutes or so when we’re butchering a bunch. And sharpen knives… that’s a fulltime job right there! The kill area is separated from the rest of our stations by a few yards, so that mess stays pretty well contained till we’re ready to deal with it after all the birds have passed on through, so to speak. 🙂

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