Monday, 16 July 2012

Butchering Meat Chickens - A Trial Run

Before you read any further I will let you know there are no gruesome photos of headless chickens in this post.  If anyone wants to see step by step butchering pictures there are plenty on the net and since I am a novice I have no words of wisdom to impart just our experiences on the day.

Our Meat Chickens have now reached 7 weeks of age and this is the age that they would be butchered if they were in a commercial poultry farm.
We plan to keep ours slightly longer, probably an extra 2-3 weeks but will will see how things go.
Today was all about a trial run of the butchering process.  It was actually really good to have the trial run with just one chicken, so now we have a much better understanding of how long it takes, what we need to  have organised and any potential pitfalls.
The trial run was some what forced upon us as one of the chickens had an issue with one of it's legs that we could see was going to get worse.  We were aware that this was a potential issue with the commercial birds but unlike a large commercial operation we are not going to just leave that one bird to suffer because the rest are not ready.

This is the first time hubby has had any part in butchering chickens and for someone who grew up in the middle of Brisbane he has taken to it very well.  I grew up in the country and as a child took part in butchering our own chickens. This was back in the 80's and I was pretty young so other than seeing them run around without their heads (which of course we thought was hilarious) and plucking them there is not a lot I remember.

We set ourselves up outside on an out door table with:
The BBQ set up with a pot of scaling water and a thermometer,
A few layers of news paper taped to the table,
Instructions taped to the table,
A Stainless steel bowl, sharp knife, paper towels, latex gloves and a chopping board.
Set up ready to go
This preparation made the job a lot easier
I found these instructions on the net and used them as my guide.
My instructions taped to the table for easy reference
We looked at a few options for the actual killing.  We were going to use a killing cone but after attempting to modify a plastic road cone we discovered that the cone was too narrow to fit the chicken.  We ended up using an old pillow case with the corner cut out which allowed us to keep the wings contained and the axe on the chopping block method.

It was a good time of year to be doing this as there were no flies to worry about, the weather was cool and we had no interruptions.  These are all things that I believe are important here in Queensland and Hubby and I discussed the fact that it would not be a god idea to raise birds that would need to be butchered in the summer dues to these factors.
The instructions mentioned the need to be careful not to break the bile duct if you wanted to eat the liver as it would make it taste bitter.  Not being familiar with the anatomy of a chicken I did not even know which bit  the bile duct was, till I broke it.  Thankfully it broke after I had removed all of the intestines outside of the bird, not that we were going to eat the liver anyway.
The bright green bile
It all went well and for this time we skinned the chicken.  We will not skin all of the chickens in the future but we decided this one we would.  It weighed 1.3kg after we had cleaned it all up. Now it needs to chill in the fridge for 48 hours before we eat it so that the muscles have time to relax, or so I am told.
The finished product
I am interested in hearing about any one elses experiences so please feel free to leave a link in the comments section if you have written about it or know of any good sources of information on the topic.


  1. I truly enjoyed your post! I am over twice your age, but it's so nice to know there are still some young women who want to do things for themselves. I grew up watching my mother set hens and then seeing the baby chicks, and later, following her as she dressed (our word for butchering)the fryer, and carrying it to the house. My husband and I have been contract poultry growers here in Arkansas, USA, for 40 years, presently raising birds for Tyson Foods. I used to dress chickens for our own use, but now that our children are gone from home, we buy what we use.

    By the way, your finished product looks great!

    1. Thanks for your great comment Lil Red Hen. This is all quite new for us but we do feel that it is important to know how to do things for ourselves.

  2. Well done both of you, it is good to get that trial run up your sleeves before doing a larger lot. It's something I am sure we will be doing up at the farm, so your experiences will help us I am sure. Let us know how it tastes...

    1. Thanks Debra. We are glad we did it and would suggest if you are going to do it you check out the instructions we used as they were very helpful. I will let you know how it tastes.

  3. Fiona, good work! I'm impressed with how good your chicken looks. Can't wait to here how it tasted.

    Debbie (your apron swap buddy)

    1. Thanks Debbie. I was pretty happy too now we will have to give it the taste test.

  4. I have to admit ,the 1st time we "processed" a chicken i felt a bit ill,the smell was a bit tough... for me plucking is the hardest part(smell wise) but once you get fast at it,its really not that bad..and yeah I agree with doing them in the cooler weather ,much better without the flies

    1. I know what you man about the smell but there was a nice breeze blowing so it was not so bad

  5. Really interesting post, Fiona. A good point about the flies, too. Thanks for sharing your experience. :)

  6. Great post Fiona and please do keep them coming as there are lots of us following just behind and its great to learn from you.
    Thanks, Sandy

  7. It looks like you two did a good job Fiona! I find it does get easier as you get more practice. We killed a couple of roosters on Sunday, it took about half an hour to set up (sharpen the ax, heat the water etc), half an hour to catch, kill and pluck the chickens and then half an hour for me to dress them. This time I tried to remove all the insides very carefully as I did want to keep the liver, and I think I did ok (they are in the freezer until I get enough to try making pate). I find it quite interesting to look at all the bits that come out and try to figure out what they are! The main thing that we have to remember is to leave the dogs inside as they tend to come and "help" by cleaning up the heads. Also to get out an old feed sack to put all the feathers in as we are plucking, otherwise they leave a huge mess, I empty them in the compost after we're finished. I find that 2-3 brids is all I feel like doing at a time, otherwise its just too tiring. If we had to do more, we would set up a better system. Will be writing a post eventually.... looking forward to reading what you think of the taste and your plans for future meat chicken!

  8. You planted the seed to grow our own meat chickens. Spring is coming and we think it would be a good time of year to get some chicks. Could you please let me know where you purchased your cornish chicks from???? I am having no luck googling it, always end up overseas.


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