The chicks have grown large enough to butcher, the weather is cool - o.k. cold - and I've set aside the time. Although it was sooo cold yesterday, I'm happy I got it finished, because its snowing like crazy today!
This blog post is honest. If you don't like pictures of chickens being butchered and detailed descriptions of the process then do not read on.
The absolute best tutorial - the one I review every year before butchering my chickens - is Survival Skills With Russ on Youtube.
He makes it look soooo easy! Maybe, someday, after I've butchered a whole bunch of chickens I'll be able to do it as fast as he does, but now I'm much more slow and methodical.
The only criticism I have about this video is that he doesn't talk about the connective tissue. The craw he talks about? It's connected to everything with a thin, almost transparent layer of tissue and if you're fingers aren't strong enough to pull it away (mine are not) then you must very carefully cut it away. You do not want to cut into that craw!
There's connective tissue under the skin as you cut around the bung hole. Including some tough little muscles back by the tail area. Again, be very, very careful. You don't want to cut into the intestines and get pooh everywhere. And finally, everything inside the chicken is connected with that tissue also, but its possible to break it loose with your hand as you reach in and pull out the entrails.
Russ just reaches in, grabs the lungs, and pulls them out. The lungs are spongy little things that are firmly attached to the ribcage, so it takes some work to get your finger up under them and pull them out. You're lucky if they come out in one piece!
I hang the chickens the way he does. That way they don't flap around all over the yard. To be kinder to the chicken, this initial cut is not a time to be tentative. Cut firmly and deeply. I cut their throats and step well back. You'll find that the chickens flap their wings as their heart stops and the death flaps will spray blood all over the place - including all over you!
Dip the killed chickens in the pot of hot water. You can cut off the heads before this step or wait until after. I tend to wait until after. There seems to be less blood getting in the water. To heat the water, I use a propane turkey fryer. I surrounded it with chairs to keep the wind from blowing out the gas. If your water is hot enough (I found that 160-degrees or even a bit more), you should be able to dip and swish the chickens for about six or seven seconds, pull them out a bit, and test to see if the feathers wipe of the legs. If they wipe easily then its time to pluck.
I now have a strong appreciation for the amount of work done by our foremothers. Plucking is hard work! If your water temperature was right, you can use your thumb to get most of the feather and little quills out and they come easily. But my arms and hands were very, very weary after a few chickens. I started with the legs, then the crotch of the legs, the breast, the wings, thighs, and then back. I didn't worry too much about tail or neck feathers as I would be cutting those off anyway.
Butchering. Have a good sharp knife. Watch the Survival Skills With Russ video. Be sure not to feed the chickens the night or morning before (only water) - it makes for chickens with much cleaner insides.
Good luck and I'd be very happy to hear any tips, hints, or questions anyone may have.
I have a lot of fruit trees and my own little vegetable garden and chickens. And every time I eat, I bless my food; I say I'm grateful for for it and let it nourish every part of my body.
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