Last week, I told you the 4 steps for raising chickens for meat. Today, I want to show you exactly how to butcher chickens for meat. It is advisable to butcher meat birds between 6 and 8 weeks of age. *Please note, there will be pictures of dead chickens below. So if you are squeamish or anti-killing farm animals, then this post is NOT for you. Be warned!*
How to Butcher Chickens for Meat
Step 1: Remove Food and Confine
24 hours prior to butchering, remove the chicken food from the meat chickens. This step is not crucial, but it does help in the butchering process. It keeps things tidier because the chickens will not have food in their crop- the sac where the food goes first in the digesting process.
The morning of the butcher, try to get all the meat birds into the coop (if they free range). This way you will not be chasing chickens through the yard or pen.
Step 2: Kill
I know, I know. It can be so hard to kill an animal. But remember, these are NOT pets. They are FOOD.
We took an old jug, cut the bottom out and made the top a bit larger, then nailed it to a tree upside down. One at a time, we took a meat chicken from the coop, put it upside down through the jug, and cut their throats so they’d bleed out. Be warned: it can be messy if the chickens kick. Some of them flopped of the jug and down on the ground. They die very quickly this way, which is obviously the most humane way.
Step 3: Scald
Have a large pot of water boiling over a fire (or over a propane base for a turkey deep-fryer like we did). Once the chickens have bled out, hold them by their feet and carefully dip them into the boiling water for 20-30 seconds. This loosens their feathers for plucking.
Step 4: Pluck Feathers
After scalding for 20-30 seconds, the feather should easily come out. You can pick them off by hand or you can use an electric chicken plucker like we did. An electric chicken plucker looks like a mini washing machine with rubber fingers in the tub. You place the chicken head first into the tub and turn the plucker on. You must spray the chicken with water to help the feathers come out of the bottom of the plucker.
Step 5: Gut and Butcher
Once the feathers are off, you need to remove the head, feet, and guts (by cutting into the anus- not too deep though- and slicing upwards). Discard everything you will not eat.
Step 6: Refrigerate
You need to let the birds cool after killing, plucking, and gutting. We refrigerated ours for 24 hours before packaging in butcher paper and freezing. Some people recommend brining the birds in a salt water brine during this time. We did not do this step. (We have already eaten one of our birds and it was delicious without brining).
Step 7: Package and Freeze
Yep, time to wrap them in butcher paper and freeze them (or cook one for dinner). And that’s it!
Honestly, this process did not take that long: about 2 hours to process 8 meat chickens, and it was not as gruesome as you may think.
We already bought 12 more meat chickens and will be processing them at the end of August.
How do you feel about raising and butchering chickens for meat? Tell me in the comments below!
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Happy Homesteading! (:
P.S. have any thoughts or questions? Tell me all the things in the comments! Also, you can contact us if you’d love to collab!