Butchering Homegrown Chickens

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By Amy Conley, Conley Farm

We decided this past year we would raise meat chickens. We raised meat chickens before but this time we tried to do it the right way, if there is such a thing. We have read a lot of Joel Salatin’s books and he has some great ideas on raising meat chickens on pasture. It was our goal to raise them mostly on grass, moving them every morning so they can get a fresh salad bar daily. We raised some meat chickens a few years ago but they got way too big on just feed and the butchering process was … how can I put it? Horrible. My first time butchering was not a pleasant experience. The chicken plucker that we borrowed stopped working after the first chicken. Have you ever plucked a dozen chickens by hand? It’s the worst. You have to remember that I was a first timer.

It took me a few years to decide I wanted to try it again. My husband and I were determined to get it right. He built a moveable coop from scrap wood that we had around the farm. With the help of some grain and fresh grass daily, the chickens got to be a good size in about 12 weeks.

When it was time for butchering, we had a plan. We set up a tent and table by our fire pit. We used the fire pit to boil water in a large canning pot in order to scald the birds. We made killing cones out of traffic cones that we attached to a saw horse. The woman at TSC got a little chuckle when I was looking for traffic cones and told her what I wanted to use them for. The first time I killed a chicken we used a stump and hatchet. The hatchet bounced my first strike and then I felt so bad I didn’t kill the chicken with the first hit. The cones are much better. The chickens are upside down which kind of puts them at ease and me too. We then can easily slice their necks quickly after thanking them for being a part of our farm. We do it as humanely as possible.

We also borrowed a chicken plucker from our neighbor. It worked great. We are so grateful to have neighbors that are farmers too and help us out. Our whole process was like a well oiled machine. We took three chickens at a time and put them in the cones. The first one, my husband handed me the knife. He said, how can I blog about it if I don’t do it. So I took care of the first one and he did the rest. We went through the process of plucking, gutting and cleaning them outside. We put them in a cooler until they went inside where I cut them up and packaged them for freezing. We even got the boys involved. They caught many of the chickens and brought them to us. The two older boys each gutted a chicken which totally grossed them out. My husband explained to them each of the parts they were pulling out so they can learn about anatomy so it didn’t seem so gross to them.

Our weekend of butchering was a success. We put 27 chickens in the freezer. There is nothing better than homegrown food that I can offer to my family daily. You definitely appreciate it more when you know where your food comes from. Our dinner almost every night has meat that we raised, vegetables that we have grown and milk that I have hand milked. My kids are not picky eaters because they grow up like this.

Published on Jan 11, 2016