how to butcher a bird

The time has come to butcher and process another set of chickens on our farm. This is always a complicated matter, one that we do not necessarily enjoy doing, but one that we know is necessary for our beliefs and lifestyle choices. We have been raising our own meat and processing it ourselves for three years now, and we have been actively only been purchasing locally raised meats for over six years now. It is something that we realized was better for our bodies and the sustainability of our planet and community. Locally raised meat that has been raised on pasture has an incredibly higher quality and superior flavor over factory farmed meats, aside from being an absolutely better quality life for the animal.

Our minds changed about meat back in 2014 and 2015 after watching several documentaries and researching about industrial and conventional farming and slaughtering processes. While we fully understand that this is not always a feasible option for everyone, and small farming mostly likely won’t take over and change the way the world eats, we know that this is a small way that we can actively make a change. We also hope that this helps to open the eyes of others. While viewing and learning about the butchering process can be triggering for some, I do honestly believe that if you eat meat or have ever eaten meat, this is something that you need to see and understand! All meat that humans eat once had a face, a heartbeat, and a personality. It did not just appear at the grocery store. Personally, I would rather know about the life of that animal and its slaughter than not know anything about it, and that justifies this lifestyle enough for me.

As we enter our third year of animal butchering, I feel the most at peace with the process than I have felt in the past. There are several sides to this story. One being the loss of the mindset that this is dangerous for our health. While I understand that much of the USDA and FDA push about the safety and quality of our food is to prevent illness, food poisoning, and food contamination by sanitary practices… I also believe that they use that as a scare tactic to prevent the education of those who wish to raise and butcher their own meat. As someone who grew up in a city setting, if I was looking at my own blog right now with no prior knowledge of an off-grid lifestyle I would think that this woman was crazy. Isn’t that unsanitary? Aren’t you going to get salmonella?

The short answer is: most likely, no. Understanding basic food sanitary practices is enough to understand how to butcher and process a chicken. This is something that you can easily learn online, in books, or take a food and kitchen safety class online or in-person. All restaurant and food establishment (including me) have to take this class, and it’s nice things to know!

The other is that we have proved those that say we are not capable wrong. It’s discouraging and disheartening to hear from those online that we are incapable of do-it-yourself homesteaders; this is even more so when it comes from neighbors, friends, and family. We have lost many people that we once close to us over our choices to live life that’s a little bit harder and much slower paced. Even as I write this out, it sounds so silly. But I am learning that food is a touchy and personal subject, and for whatever reason, it puts judgment into people’s minds that is truly saddening to see. We are learning to embrace that we are the “crazy people across the street who think they can raise and butcher a hog.” Because we did, and we did it well.

You can do this, too. It just takes a lot of research and a little bit of courage.

2. Dispatching the Chicken

After everything is set up, plunk a chicken into the cone, with a bucket underneath to collect the blood. The bird’s belly was facing the wall (inside the cone) at that point. Grasp the head and quickly cut the side of the bird’s jaw (jugular) with a (sharp!) knife.

Holding your head still will let all of the blood drain into the bucket. Wait until the bird stops moving.

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6. Gut the Chicken (Evisceration)

Using your knife, cut a slit in the skin at the base of the neck, just above the breastbone.

Using your thumb, tear down to reveal the esophagus, windpipe, and crop. If you neglected to keep the birds from eating, you’ll discover a bumper crop. Be careful not to rupture it. (If this happens by accident, simply rinse the partially digested feed off before proceeding.) ) Remove the windpipe and esophagus from the neck cavity, and sever the connective tissue surrounding the crop. But don’t remove this assembly entirely; instead, leave it in place.

how to butcher a bird

Turn the bird over 180 degrees while it’s still on its back to work on the back end. Make a cut directly above the vent, then use both hands to rip open the carcass. After reaching inside the carcass to remove the gizzard’s fat, hook your finger around the esophagus. Take this out; you ought to now have a few connected internal organs. To remove all of the guts in one pull, chop down the vent’s sides and underneath. Return now to remove the windpipe and lungs, as well as anything else that did not come out completely the first time.

Slit the extra skin that protrudes from the back cavity, then tuck the legs through the opening to create a charming little package.


How long should a chicken rest after butchering?

In poultry, rigor mortis typically occurs within a few hours of slaughter & lasts 24-48 hours following. Unless you really like chewing or have the jaw of a hippo, you may want to leave your freshly processed meat in the refrigerator or freezer to rest for a few days.

How long do you have to withhold food before butchering chickens?

The optimal feed withdrawal period of 8 to 12 hours should be strived for as much as possible to minimize fecal and digesta contamination of carcasses and pathogen contamination while at the same time maximizing potential yield.