Are you ready to raise and butcher your own chickens? Wondering how do you go about gutting a chicken? Today my husband and I are sharing with you the steps to butcher your own bird. When you process your own chickens, you will save money.
Growing your own chickens isn’t any cheaper than buying store-bought, and to cut expenses down more, my husband and I do all the processing ourselves.
Raising your own backyard chickens for meat is different than raising a dual purpose or even a layer. When it comes to raising your own food, it usually isn’t cheaper, but the taste, the peace of mind knowing what we fed the bird, and how it was cared for is worth the extra cost and effort.
We have tried a dual-purpose bird for meat in the past but decided the Cornish Cross is the best choice due to its fast growth rate and great flavor.
You can scroll down for all the tips or watch the video below.
Don’t forget to leave a comment sharing with us your tips or any questions you have at the bottom of this post.
The Best Chicken Breeds to Raise for Meat
We have only raised in the past cornish cross and Wyandottes. The Wyandottes are a dual puropose chicken, meaning they will lay eggs and you can use for meat. The taste of the Wyondottes was amazing, our issue became we liked the amount of meat you get from Cornish Cross in a shorter amount of time.
Freedom Rangers, aka Rustic Rangers is another meat bird breed that is popular. This breed takes a little bit longer to raise, around 12 weeks, than the Cornish cross, but is known to be a healthier bird.
In the past, with our Cornish Cross, we have always lost one bird. They are pretty sensitive to temperature changes and can quickly get too hot. This is key to raising your meat birds, picking the time of year they will grow and when you will be butchering.
( For the best egg-laying chickens, read this.)
This is our third year raising meat chickens. We’ve made mistakes along the way, and still, our system isn’t perfect, but it works for us.
As a frugal couple, we like to do things in a cost-efficient way, but also in an easy way too.
Don’t stop taking steps to get your chicken because of cost. You only need a few items; we plucked our chickens by hand without a plucking machine or anything else for the first two years.
Our favorite breed of birds for meat is Cornish Rock.
The three main reasons it is our favorite:
- Grow Quickly
- Easier to Pluck
- Lazy bird- doesn’t need a lot of room to roam
I had horror stories about these birds before we took the dive and raised our own. Others told me, “They grow so big so quick they break bones. The smell is horrible and so on and so forth.”
It’s true the birds smell worse than our Rhode Island Reds, Silkies, and others.
But for only 6-10 weeks, you can handle it.
You need to know three crucial steps when it comes to butchering chickens. They are explained in more detail below, but they are:
- Have a scalding pot and the right supplies
- Butcher at the Right Time of Day
- Butcher a realistic amount of birds
Things We Tried to Make Butchering Easier
The first time we butchered chickens, the breed was Wyandottes. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We were going off the butchering skills of my husband Eric with deer.
I put all my faith into him because, well, he has butchered countless deer before. So our first time, we thought it would be fine doing it without a scalding pot.
You can do it, but it makes the plucking process take much longer. This led us into trouble when we decided to kill six chickens at one time before beginning plucking. Add in higher than desired temperatures and flies buzzing around, which made for a pretty bad situation.
You must choose a cool day or after sunset and make sure you can gut clean and bag the chicken promptly.
Best Time to Butcher
It would be best if you butchered your birds at the right time of day. For example, if you get birds in the spring, by the time they are ready to go, you may be experiencing a very HOT day.
So you will need to adjust accordingly. Wake up early enough the sun won’t be beating down on your table.
Do Only The Amount of Birds You Can Pluck and Process
We thought when we did it our first time; that we would do six birds to start. Six birds seemed easy enough to handle.
So Eric killed all six and had them sitting on the table. I started plucking. The birds were tough to pluck. Plus, it was only the second time I’ve ever plucked a bird, and I was a little grossed out.
The sun started rising around the barn, and it was quickly heating up. The flies started to come. It was a hot 80 degrees summer day.
Both of us were starting to panic, and when you and your spouse are stressed and not really sure what you are doing, you argue.
We rushed to bring the birds into the house to avoid the heat and flies, and it was not fun.
This is when we broke down and decided to go with Cornish Rocks.
I won’t go back. The Wyandotte meat was intensely flavorful and moist, but the Cornish rocks are just as good.
What To Feed Meat Chickens
I think there is a difference in meat when you feed your birds more fruits, veggies, and bugs. But, unfortunately, with this breed of chicken pasture, raising them along with our flock wouldn’t work. I do give them a bunch of veggies and fruits, though.
We give them a big red scoop of layer mix in the morning and at night inside the chicken coop. These birds will eat non-stop. We did crumbles for the first two weeks and switched to pellets because this is what the rest of our chickens eat.
I gave them lettuce, apples, and any other food scraps during this time.
It’s best NOT to feed them the night before you decide to butcher the chickens. In our video, you will see this one we fed before and how full the crop is.
Pin for Later: Our Frugal Things To Use for Your Chicken Coop
You can gut a chicken with only four supplies: a knife, a hatchet, a hose, and a bucket.
This is what we did for the first two years, and then we scored a deal on a Turkey fryer and found this cuts down the time of plucking. If you are a canner, you could use a big wide canner to put your bird in.
There is a slight smell; it didn’t bother my husband, but if it bothers you, add a couple of small squirts of dish soap. Honestly, though, you don’t need it. You got this.
I like the Turkey fryer because it can be outside.
You will need a clean work surface. We used to use stainless steel, but we had an extra piece of the countertop, so we used that. Clean the surface before use.
For your first time, this will likely be the hardest part for anyone. Eric handles this part on our farm. Many people use a cone to hold the chicken securely upside down then cut the neck with a sharp knife to sever the arteries.
We don’t have a cone, so we go with the old-fashioned stump and hatchet method. A well-aimed swing will do the job just as quickly as the cone method.
We saw another homesteader use a stick with a split to hold the head slightly more steady and loved that idea. Costs nothing.
Processing our Chicken or Gutting a Chicken
If butchering a chicken for the first time is intimidating to you, trust me, if we can do it, you can. Well, mostly if I can do it, you can do it.
The worst part for me is the actual gutting of the chicken. Oh man, but when I think about the fact we were able to know what it ate, how it was raised and butchered, it was worth it.
After scalding, the feathers will easily peel off. You remove all the feathers.
To gut the bird, I suggest watching our video here.
It will cost more for you to take your chickens to a processing place, so we choose to do our own.
Saving money always drives us to give things a try we didn’t think we could.
How to Store Butchered Chickens
How Long Does it Take?
My husband can do the entire process in about 20 minutes once the scalding pot is up to a good temperature. But, of course, if you involve the kids or pluck a chicken, you will be more efficient. And trust me, you will get faster and faster each time you do it.
The Cornish Cross chickens do pluck easier than when we did the Wyandottes without scalding. Once, my husband, has the birds gutted and cleaned, I will bring the birds in. I’ll pluck any leftover feathers. The tiny little ones you really can leave if you can’t pluck another feather. I get it. When you cook it, remove it or don’t eat that part or eat it!
We salt the entire outside of the bird before we place it into the Food Saver bag. Before we purchased our amazing Food Saver, we used plastic wrap. The best brand I have ever found for our meat was at BJs called – Stretch Tite.
You can fit an entire bird into a food saver bag. We use the rolls so we can cut our own length. You can see in the video we shared on Youtube how the bird fits and seals into the Foodsaver bags.
I’ll seal the birds up and let them rest in the fridge. We try to keep the birds in the fridge for 24 hours. You don’t want to when people joke about eating the bird for dinner that night.
The meat will be tough. Think of it like processing a deer. The longer the meat hangs, the more tender and less game taste it has. The same goes for canning, right? The longer your pickles sit in the jar, the tastier they are.
I made a mistake and forgot the last round of chickens we did we placed in the freezer right away. So I got a Ninja Foodi for Christmas and tried frozen chicken; well, here is how it turned out.
It feels incredible to have a freezer full of chicken!
What questions do you have for us? Or what tips do you want to share with others?
Don’t Forget to Pin It!
Thursday 24th of March 2022
I would love a tool like your husband uses in this video to help with the scalding process of the birds. He uses it to push the body down under the water and uses a hooked end to grab a foot. Did he make this or purchase it? Can you give me more info on it? Btw, Loved the video & your site….thank you
Saturday 31st of July 2021
Hi there, I was wondering if there is a time limit between killing and gutting? I have heard alot of old wives tales but nothing certain. Do you have an idea?
Tuesday 3rd of August 2021
I don't know for sure, but we starting gutting right away.
Monday 3rd of May 2021
I am sorry lol I watched the video and have butchered chickens and ducks but I just can’t do my own , someone else’s no problem but mine get to be like family pets and we have become so attached to them that killing is out of the question, my comment is on the food saver, I have also used the food saver to Preserve food and vegetables and the cost is way to high I recommend saran Wrap we have done our own deer , hogs and poultry for years and you can’t go wrong with a industrial size roll of Saran Wrap the cost of the roll will pay for it self just with one roll of vac bags :-).
Wednesday 7th of April 2021
Great information! Just started a homestead last year and I just started processing my roosters last week. I was hoping to wait until this coming fall but had too many roosters and they were ganging up on the hens and hurting them. I did purchase a plucker and love it. I was wondering why you salt your birds before freezing? I do the 24 hr resting period, vacuum seal and freeze. So just curious if it's something I need to do.
Thursday 8th of April 2021
We just salt it as part of the curing process, I don't think you have to. We also found that if you have older roosters or hens grinding up the meat works really well too. And then you can skip plucking!
Sunday 21st of March 2021
Thank you for your video our roosters have been flogging our chihuahua puppies so I'm going to eat them, that will show the mother f*****