I butchered my first bird

gardengalrn(5KS)November 19, 2008

In theory, I was all about getting meat birds this spring. After today's experience, I will definitely get meat birds. I had ordered two roosters with the thought that I would cull the beta at some point. That point kept getting pushed back due to my own hesitation about the whole process. I'm writing about this to let others in my same situation know that a novice can do it and do it humanely. Some old timers or old hands at the process might laugh but since it has been a generation since it was common practice for a lot of folk, I wanted to tell my experience.

I am an animal LOVER yet I'm not a vegetarian. I like to to eat meat and it has to come from somewhere. What pulled me through today was the fact that my rooster had a charmed life up until we butchered him. He ate all the best types of food and had his way with the hens. Despite our newness to the whole process, he didn't seem to suffer in any way and for lack of personal experience, we followed "the book." I resorted to looking for pictures online during the dressing process because the books didn't have very complete pictures. The things I learned today will help me later. The meat is now in the fridge to be aged a few days before cooking him.

I guess I just needed a little morale support. I'm a nurse so wasn't grossed out by the details but sometimes other people's reaction is enough to make you think you are a monster or something. Lori

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I really appreciate you sharing your experience. I too am an animal lover but not a vegetarian. I would like to raise my own meat also but have yet to work up the nerve. I have seen videos on what most meat animals lives are like and it's not pretty. I know that if I raised my own animals they would have a wonderful (albeit short) life and would be much healthier. So rationally I really want to do this. Emotionally it's another story. I get too attached to my chickens to think about killing them.

How did you overcome getting emotionally involved. Did you just keep it in mind from the beginning that they were going to be dinner and not interact with them too much? Also, what method did you use to kill the rooster and do you feel it was humane and quick?


    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 9:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I too appreciate reading of your experience butchering your first animal. I learn at a very early age that there is a distinct difference between killing and butchering. To kill is to waste and to butcher is to use that lost life to continue another.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 10:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for posting, gardengalrn! I, too, am trying to work up my nerve to butcher some chicken. The lives of factory farm animals are beyond sad, and I would feel much better about what I'm eating if I knew it had a happy, natural life and a quick, humane butchering.

I'm glad to hear that, as a first-timer, you didn't find the process traumatic!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 10:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm glad to hear that it went well. Your post was gentle, too. I can't do it, but I'm not opposed.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 10:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Jenica, we used the method of putting the bird's neck under a stick (we used a hoe handle) and quickly pulling him up to break the neck and pull off the head. It took a matter of seconds from taking him from the coop to walking behind the garage where we did the deed. We had put a garbage bag in a 5 gallon bucket then held him over/in that while he bled out for about 5 or so minutes. I had prepared a bucket of scalding water and used a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature. The plucking was the least of the process whereas I had been told it was the most time consuming. I struggled a bit with the dressing and used a lot of pictures to help. I think now that I've done it once it would go much easier the next time. I was really worried about breaking the gallbladder or somehow making the meat inedible in my inexperience but aside from some "not so attractive" cuts, all went as well as possible. I think it would have been ideal to have someone here who had done it before but since that wasn't possible, we used books and advice.

I wanted to order some meat birds in the spring and I couldn't see doing that if, in the end, I wouldn't have the nerve to butcher them. Now I know I can do it. It wasn't a pleasant task by any means but I kept thinking about buying the meat in the store. When it was all done and things had been cleaned up, I did have a few moments where I felt a little queezy, I have to admit. I assume that is a normal reaction for a first timer. Thanks for the morale support. Lori

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 11:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Good for you! :) Raising your own birds for table is FAR tastier and healthier than production chicken from the store. It sounds like you have your head on straight when it comes to what counts--raising the bird in a healthy environment and giving him a good life before quickly and calmly doing the deed. :)

Be prepared if you will be raising Cornish Cross birds for meat next, though--heed what others on this board have said about them being kind of nasty-messy to raise, and make sure you butcher them on time. Allowing Cornish X birds to live beyond their natural butchering age is cruel, as they eat constantly and gain so much weight so quickly that their legs cannot support them and they go down on their hocks or their legs simply break. :(

There was a show on PBS called 'The Natural History of the Chicken', which was a kind of quick and entertaining overview on all kinds of people who owned chickens. It included a guy who kept chickens both for eggs and meat, and he was so dead-on about appreciating the birds for their beauty, contribution to his ecology, eggs, companionship and meat for his table. He butchered his own birds and has a great outlook, I'd highly recommend it. There is also a great story at the end about a little Silkie hen named Liza, it's heartwarming. :)

The guy I'm talking about is here, the first 3 minutes of part 2, and part 5, about 1:40 in:

The entire show is great, the only part I didn't really like was the part about the guy who kept fighting cocks--sad story and the noise they put in is REALLY annoying. *L*
Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Velvet, I too have read a few horror stories about the Cornish Crosses. Chances are, things would be fine but I definitely don't want to take the chance. I know I would never be able to eat them if I found them to be disgusting, LOL. I was leaning towards Plymouth Rocks but am open to suggestion. I felt like I would be more inclined to butcher a few birds over a period of time rather than try to butcher a large number in one day. I'm getting ready for work but will look at that video in the morning. Lori

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 6:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Velvet, Thanks so much for sharing the video. I watched last night and really enjoyed it (especially Liza).

Lori, I like the method you used because it seems really fast. If I were to butcher my own chicken I wouldn't want them to suspect anything before hand. Using the stick, it seems it would be over before it realized what was happening. That's why I don't like those cones it seems like it would be really scary for the chicken to be stuck in one of those.

I also agree with you about the cornish crosses and not wanting to do all the butchering at once. I bought dual purpose birds with the idea that I could cull the roosters that would result if the hens decide to set and hatch their eggs. The Ameraucanas seem even bigger than my RIRs so I think they would make good meat birds?If my hens do set I'll have until next fall to work up the courage.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 10:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

The McMurray hatchery site has some good dual-purpose breeds listed if you don't want to go with Cornish Cross birds. I haven't raised birds myself strictly for meat, so I'm not the person to ask. When I was a kid my family inherited an existing flock when we moved to Norco, and we utilized some of those birds and their offspring--mostly RIR & white Leghorns with a few oddities thrown in (which we didn't eat). I think it depends on what you want them for--roasters or fryers. We used ours as fryers mostly. When we were new to chickens, we made the mistake of selecting a few of the old, stringy birds to butcher. Holy cow, were those birds TOUGH. We ate them anyway so that they didn't go to waste, but we learned our lesson. :)

seramas sure has a beautiful Cornish Cross in Hewetta! She's also the healthiest bird of that breed I've ever seen. He seems to be doing it right with her.

And yeah, the part about Liza in that video is heartwarming. :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 10:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mxbarbie(pnw BC 5)

I haven't killed any chickens myself yet, I have a friend who does it for $2/bird (killed/plucked/dressed)so I will have her do it for me this time. She has a licenced facility so I can also sell some.

We raised a pig for the first time this year, I was worried about butcher day, but it turned out to be not as bad as I had antisipated. I aquired this pig when she was already 100 lbs so I didn't get attached like I might have had she been a baby. I mostly thought about getting the meat into the freezer to feed my kids - apply the same principles as my canning. Although, I find making applesauce a lot more enjoyable than rendering lard, I need both to make apple pie!

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 12:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We also have two pigs. I have enjoyed having them very much but keep in mind that out of all critters, I had a nasty fear of pigs for some reason. Not piglets, but pigs. These pigs were cute and have personalities but they are destined for slaughter in Feb/Mar. I hope it's not a personality flaw but I don't think I'll be horribly upset. Again, we feed them a big variety of grains and treats and I really, really enjoy them. I am no longer petrified of pigs but fondly aware of what they can do.

A friend of ours had a cow who had twins and she wouldn't tend the little male. He gave the calf to us to bottle feed but the calf was already WAY past the point of being saved when we got him. We stayed up all night tending to him but he died. From that I learned that I could NEVER, EVER, bottle feed a calf and then send him/her to butcher. I don't know why a calf would be different than a pig but it was. He was small with soft curly hair, maybe he reminded me of my dogs, LOL. I would still be open to raising a beef critter but it would have to be past the baby stage, I guess. Lori

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 10:42AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Wearing fur...
Hi, all! I'm just wondering what everyone's different...
Staph Aureus in the compost?
Once in a while, one of my hens gets bumblefoot. The...
Ivermec & heartworms
My Lab was diagnosed with heartworms last week. She...
Another septic/well water question...
We have well water which has been tested (not all that...
looking for farm software
Hi folks, new here. Well kinda, it's been years anyway. Looking...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™