'Harvesting' chickens

flgargoyle(9/FL)November 15, 2006

Forgive the dumb questions of a city boy, but what is the easiest or most humane way to slaughter chickens? I've been around plenty of chickens, but always the pet variety. I've heard of chopping their heads off, or wringing their necks, but I don't know if I could handle such a chore. I suppose bringing them to a butcher would be prohibitively expensive. Is there a kinder, gentler way of dispatching chickens?

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Roberta_z5(Z4/5 IL)

Well, even though we have raised meat chickens, I sure don't want to do the dirty deed myself. We just this week took two nasty roosters to a 'not USDA' processor and it cost just under $2.00 per roo. We raised them and can't bring ourselves to eat them, so I stewed them for cat and dog food.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2006 at 4:48PM
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Local processors aren't that expensive expecially for just one or two. This area charges about $1.25 a chicken.
We did ours ourselves. My husband had to do the killing. I did the rest. Do admit I had to keep my back turned. Once it was a headless carcass I was ok.

If you really want the mechanics.......
The beginner farmers group here has a mobile processing unit that members can rent. All the stuff needed is contained in a horse trailer. The doors of the trailer had different sized restraint cones on the door. Keeps the bird from struggling so the kill is clean and quick. A narrow sharp knife is run into the brain through the lower jaw with just a little twist. Renders them immediately brain dead. Then off comes the head to bleed them out. The rest follows.
Less struggle, less adrenaline. More tender the meat.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 5:37AM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

According to a cook book I have from 1957, they also say to insert a thin bladed knife into the chicken's beak and pierce the brain. However, they suggest to do this while holding the chickens head and I always seem to envision the knife going into my hand during this process so I haven't tried it.

I'll usually take the chicken and tie a bandana around it so it won't flap it's wings all over the place. Other than making a fuss and mess, it bruises the meat. Then take another bit of soft rope or another bandana (I have a lot of bandanas around here since they get used for all sorts of things) and use it tie the chickens feet together and hang it upside down from a tree limb. Upside down chickens get real "loopy" really quick. I guess it doesn't take much to numb their brain. I'll usually cut the veins in their neck by their beak and let them bleed out. Usually I'll hold the head until they stop flapping around, too, so it doesn't get all messy.

At one time I had a killing cone with a sharp spring loaded blade which would cut off the chicken's head when the cord was pulled. Set the blade, put the chicken in the cone, wait until it got all loopy from being head down and then pull the cord. No mess and the chicken hardly seemed to notice. It was a standard killing cone with a blade of a handheld sickle-knife-hoe weeder tool that was pushed down by a strong spring. Got all the stuff at the local hardware store and basically built it into a chicken guillotine. Might be worthwhile to make another one, come to think of it. It is much easier to decide on chicken soup if there is a chicken guillotine around.

My grannie's neighbor would just grab a chicken by it's head and swing it around once or twice til the head came off. After it ran around headless and thrashed and caused all kinds of ruckus he'd go pick it up and take it home. He may have been doing it that way to impress his neighbor's grandkids, though.

As soon as the chicken stops thrashing about, start pulling the big wing feathers and tail feathers out several at a time. A quick snappy pull works pretty well. After you've got all the big feathers out, start working on the smaller feathers. If you are quick enough, you can entirely "dry pluck" it. I'll usually have a bag handy to put the feathers in so they don't get all over the place. If the chicken cools off before you get it entirely plucked, then the hot water dip will loosen the remaining feathers. Wet feathers don't smell good which is why I prefer dry plucking as much as possible.

Another option is to skin it. When I have a barred rock roo or some chicken that would make good fishing lures, I'll skin it instead of plucking it. The skin will come off with the feathers intact although you usually have to cut the wing tips and the tail part off but you can get it off in one whole piece. I'll then salt it and pin it out flat on a board with the skin side up until it dries. Or you can just pin it out flat skin side up and put it out somewhere hot and sunny to dry. Chicken skins can make interesting wall art in your shed until you make them into fishing lures.

Usually, I'll then cut the feet off and the neck off so then it looks a lot like the grocery store chickens. Slice from the tip of the breastbone up to but not into the vent. Circle around that. There is the skin and then a membrane layer below that. Slice through those, but not into the entrails. Once you've loosened all that, the innards will pretty much pull out in a big lump. Save the liver and cut the gall bladder off of it. Don't let any of the liquid in the gall bladder get out or onto the liver. Cut a bit of liver off rather than puncuture the gall bladder. Cut the heart free and trim it. When you find the gizzard it will look like a wrinkly sort of hard lump. You have to cut it and turn it inside out to get the grit sack out from the inside. Scrape any remaining spongy stuff out from between the ribs and rinse everything off. That's basically it.

At this point you have a chicken ready to roast or cut up for frying. It would probably be more tender to age it in the refrigerator for a day or two. That might just be for the older birds, though, I'm not sure about if aging is required. Aging improves beef a lot but I don't know if it is necessary for everything else. Usually by the time I'm done slaughtering a chicken I'm not real enthusiastic about immediately cooking it so most times they get stored in the fridge for awhile.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2006 at 2:38AM
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Would it be possible for you to give more info or even post a diagram of your chicken guillotine? I'd really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 5:32PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

As far as aging goes, I have read, but don't know for sure, that rigor happens in ALL animals - if you let it pass off, the meat will be a lot more tender. I read that for chickens, you either cook and eat them VERY shortly after you kill them or you let them "age" at least 24 hours, so the rigor has either not set in well or has worn off. I may be wrong, but it sounds logical to me.....

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 10:25PM
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littlereo(Conklin Mi.)

We just make a cone from chicken wire, hang them, and then we cut the neck just enough to get the big vein, and just let them hange there until the blood stops. Then we cut the skin, and just take the breast, legs, and sometimes the wings. No guts!!!!! Then we take them and can them, or freeze them.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 8:23PM
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balsam(z4/5 NB)

Dibbit - I think you are right about the aging thing. I've done meat kings for the past three years with friends and after we finish preparing the chickens, they go in a fridge or cold room for 24 hours before going in the freezer. We usually wrap them first so they are easy to just pop in the freezer once the aging process is done.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 7:52AM
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undercover_owl(8 Pac.NW)

Try it sometime.

I'm a bold, daring person, but I hated killing a chicken, and I was unable to clean the carcass afterward. It took too WAY long to die. I tried to make it a quick death but it wasn't, and there were feathers and blood all over the place. What a mess! I cried afterward.

The experience has actually made me eat less chicken meat.

We keep chickens for eggs and amusement, only.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 5:20AM
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My wife and I just culled our extra roos yesterday. I had slaughtered animals on the farm as a kid, but my wife had only cleaned fish until now.

I did the killing by neck wringing, bled them, then we both picked and dressed them. Everything was moving along fine until the last one; it wasn't dead when I dropped it into the scalder...

Suffice to say, I quickly ended it's misery by cutting it's head off, then consoled my wife.

I think I may go to just cutting heads off from here on out. I'll really like to see a diagram or plans for this guillotine as well. Please feel free to email it to the address above.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 10:05AM
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...and years later, I google and find this thread! This is really what I've been hoping to find. A chicken guillotine, or how to make one! There are so many of us, like the op! I would LOVE a lead on how to make one, or where to purchase one! One that is spring loaded, with a curved blade...thanks!!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 12:33AM
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someone told me you take the chicken and put it under a bucket and let the head and neck stick out and chop the head off.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 12:56AM
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hi, I was wondering if anyone has a plan or website where I could make or buy a chicken guillotine.

Also, is it really possible to de-feather right after death or do you have to dip in hot water??

Any good place to buy kill cones or anything else that would be helpful in butchering chickens and turkeys.

thanks very much!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 11:05AM
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I've probably posted this elsewhere on this site but here's my 2 cents: I think it is different for people who "grew up" butchering chickens, they seem to have a method that works for them. It truly comes a little harder for those who are trying to learn for the first time, obviously. For example, my MIL literally grew up expected to assist in the semi-annual grand-scale butchering of her family's chickens. They had a LARGE family and everyone helped, no matter how young. She helped me butcher some chickens a few years ago and had no pre-conceived ideas nor was she squeamish about the process at all. Very matter-of-fact. LOL, that is when I learned I should never get on her bad side!! I, on the other hand, was very squeamish about both the killing and then the butchering since I had no idea. I don't mean that blood or guts bother me....I'm a nurse and almost nothing gets to me. It was my idea of not wanting to "hurt" the bird or have it suffer in any way. Then attempting to butcher...my MIL was a wizard with her wrists flying and working, made short work of a bird. Probably less than 5 minutes! LOL, plucking was the only part I had a level of confidence in.

That being said, I will back up to say that I had ordered 25 White Rocks because I had studied on it and wanted a somewhat heritage breed vs the CX hybrids. I kept them in a caged area where they had room to scratch but not run free range. My MIL came up several times to assess their progress and was a little disappointed when they didn't fill out as hoped in the time period she thought. We decided to process 4 as a sort of experiment since they were about 12 weeks. They were so tough that no amount of stewing would help. They were so tiny once you got the feathers off, not at all the size you would want even for a fryer. Sorry I'm rambling but here's what I learned, at least for my own future endeavors:

1. When everyone around you buys the hybrids, there is a reason. Possibly I'm used to the icky mush chicken that you get in the grocery but I'm sure I can't handle chicken that tough.

2. When you process chickens, get all your stuff together and ready and have help. Do them all to once because it is kinda a pain and a big process, IMO, especially if you really don't have the facilities to do it in a handy way.

3. There is no polite way to take their lives. People have several methods that work well and we hope the critter doesn't suffer. We have always chosen to pull their heads off via board or broom stick. I was very uneasy about cutting throats or piercing brains in case I didn't get it right. As my MIL demonstrated, it is as quick as an ax blow. They will thrash no matter what method and you can decide whether to let them at it or contain them.

4. It will be a while before I decide to do it again. I am not against it, I just didn't have a good experience so I have to wait for that to fade a bit before I try again. I just felt it was a lot of work, a lot of angst to build up before and during, for what we got out of it. I wish anyone going to try the best of luck. Lori

    Bookmark   December 11, 2011 at 12:39AM
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