Urban Hen House

A day in the life of chickens

Table Birds

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

thelastchickenI just learned how to butcher a chicken! I went to a class in a local Seattle neighborhood. A lady opened up her yard, and shared her knowledge and skill.

I have to admit, I was a little cautious to join a group of complete strangers wielding sharp knives. I half expected to see some PETA protestors at the curb –but alas there were none. Everyone who did attend, seemed to share equally in interest, enthusiasm and courage to learn and try. Fellow attendees were extremely supportive in offering assistance to each other!

Now I can say that I can confidently butcher a chicken on my own –in my own yard! I’ll share some basics, though it’s not as efficient or extravagant as some popular farmers. This is a scalable activity for the average urban home. The big difference is processing time. I would spend 20 minutes setting up my supplies and spend another 25 minutes vigorously processing 1 bird entirely by hand. The poultry farmer manages to process 400 birds in around 2 hours.

  • 1 - 8 week old Meat Bird/Table Bird like a Cornish Cross or dual purpose chicken between 5-8#’s
  • A piece of PVC Pipe approximately 3 feet long
  • A Sharp Knife
  • Bucket (empty)
  • Sheet of Plastic
  • BBQ with boiling pot of water
  • Cutting Board
  • Soapy Water on Hand
  • Bucket of Iced Water
  • Drain 2 arteries on neck into empty bucket
  • Suspend bird upside down for 10 minutes to drain
  • Plunge bird into exactly 145 degree water for exactly 55 seconds –works like magic
  • Pluck ALL feathers and Rinse
  • Plunge into Iced Water
  • Bring bird to cutting board and use knife to remove head/neck, feet, oil gland
  • Begin Eviscerating –aka GUT the carcass saving gizzard, heart, and liver
  • Rinse bird cavity
  • Immediately store in refrigerated conditions

Here are a few photos from the chicken butchering class:


I was so vigorous in my first attempt, that I pulled the head right the neck of the bird I worked on! That’s not desirable, the theory is that a draining artery, with the neck/head in tack, yields a better blood let.

What I haven’t shown, is the foot and head removal, or the gutting. The trick with gutting, is not to perforate the intestines, or the bile sacks. I was successful in my knife work! And the organs were so much prettier and richer looking than any bird I’ve ever seen from the grocery store.

I took the meat right home and roasted it up for my family dinner! The bird was easily 12#’s at 12 weeks of age –and guess what? The Breast meat was way to tough and flavorless to eat. I hope the next one is younger, tender and tasty!

Filed Under: Hens

Comments (3) -

KatieBelleUnited StatesKatieBelle said:

Hey!  (We met while 'grading papers' at the fair)

This is great information!  I was a wee bit sad, though, that those poor lil' chickens did not get their last swan song..... ; )  ha ha!

AndyUnited StatesAndy said:

Good job!  A suggestion though, don't cook the birds the same day that you process them.  Refrigerate them two or three days first and they will be much more tender.  The bake-in bags are a wonderful way to cook chicken but increase that cooking time a little for fresh birds.  The flesh will be more firm and the taste will be richer.  Be warned, it will spoil you for eating mushy KFC or Supermarket fried chicken.

megancpUnited Statesmegancp said:

Oh Andy, I wish I had known this tip --I'll definately wait and let the meat age in the fridge for a day or two!

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