We are a christian homeschooling family of 4, living the farm life in north central Alabama. rWe are trying to live as simply and purposely as possible. Follow along as we pilgrim along this wonderful life!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Butchering Chickens

This year we raised a meat breed chicken for the first time. We have had chickens for years, but only egg layers. We have butchered a few here and there, but this time we had several to do at one time.

We don't have any fancy equipment or stainless steel tables as you will see from our pictures. Unless you are doing this all the time, I don't see why you would need an elaborate set up. Of course this needs to be an outside job. It did get messy. This is what we did.

We wanted our finished chicken to have the skin left on, so to remove all those feathers and to make plucking it easier, you have to dip it in water heated to make the feathers break loose.

We used our outdoor marshmallow roasting fire pit to heat our water. I don't have a turkey fryer so I had to come up with something to suit our needs. I stacked rocks up, then used our gas grill grate to sit my pan on. It worked really well. The pan I used is a large water bath canner I rarely use. After this, I probably won't use it again inside. The fire charred it pretty good, so I will set it aside to only use for this purpose later.

We set up in our yard, at the edge of the woods. I used old saw horses and put a board on them for a make shift table. You can see the killing cone hanging on the tree in the back of the picture. It's a little too big for the chickens we were butchering this day, but it worked.
We started the actual kill when the water reached the correct temperature of around 150 degrees. We researched that the temp should be between 130 and 180. Actually 130 is not hot enough, as we found out. The feathers didn't come out well. 150 seemed to work perfectly though.

I did not get any pictures of the actual killing of the chicken. (sorry..... I know you were wanting to see that!) You simply place the chicken in the cone upside down, cut on each side of the neck and let it bleed out. After it was thoroughly bled out, I went ahead and cut the head off. I collected the blood in a bucket under the cone to be used for my apple trees. In this picture is the "dipping" of the chicken. We just hold by the legs and dip and swirl it around in the water. After about 30 seconds to one minute, the feathers will start coming out easy, then you know it's ready for plucking.

We worked fast, starting with the tail feathers then the wings. Those are the toughest feathers and we wanted to make sure we got those done first, before the bird cooled off. We did this part over newspaper so it will be easy clean up. We used new paper with each one.

After all those feathers were disposed of, we got out the cutting board and started the evisceration. Here Hailey is cutting off the oil gland. That goes first, because you don't want that to contaminate your meat.
Next is the crop. These birds didn't get there morning feed, but did free range, so there wasn't much in there.

Then we cut a small slice in the skin at the bottom, then tore the skin apart. At this point, we reached inside with our hand and grabbed the, uh, all that stuff and put it in the evisceration bucket. We made sure we got everything out, especially the lungs. They can be hard to get out sometimes. It really wasn't messy or bloody at all.
The last thing is the feet. We just cut those off at the joint. With a sharp knife, you can slice right through.

The finished bird! I can't tell you how much it weighed because I don't have any scales, but I assume it weighs 2 1/2 -3 pounds. Somewhat small, but big enough. I cooked this bird that night. We had plenty with 2 pieces left over and it was very good! It wasn't a large bird with grotesque breasts and pumped full of steroids. This bird got to be a chicken. It free- ranged everyday, ate grass and was happy!
We kept the liver, heart and neck to be added to wonderful, homemade chicken stock. I also kept the feet because they make a wonderful broth also. I will detail that out in a different post.
We put 10 birds in the freezer for our future use with still more to butcher out. It makes me feel good  that we raised these chickens up from day old chicks, kept them healthy and happy, and was able to do it all ourselves.


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