Are you ready to raise and butcher your own chickens? Wondering just how do you go about gutting a chicken? Today my husband and I are sharing with you the steps to butcher your own bird.
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 the bird was fed, 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.
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 back away from taking the steps to gut your own chicken because of cost. You only need a few items, we plucked our chickens by hand without a plucking machine or anything else the first two years.
Our favorite breed of birds for meat is Cornish Rock.
The three main reasons it is our favorite:
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 definitely smell worse than our Rhode Island Reds, Silkies, and others.
But for only 8-10 weeks you can handle it.
Things We Tried to Make Butchering Easier
The first time we butchered chickens the breed was Wyndottes. 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. Our first time we thought it would be fine doing it without a scalding pot.
It can be done, but it makes the plucking process take much longer. This is what led us into trouble when we decided to kill 6 chickens at one time before beginning plucking. Add in some higher than desired temperatures and flies buzzing around and it made for a pretty bad situation.
You must choose a cool day, or after sunsets and make sure you can gut clean, and bag the chicken in a timely manner.
Best Time to Butcher
It is crucial you butcher your birds at the right time of day. 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 according. 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, 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 very difficult 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 up around the barn and it was quickly heating up. The flies started to come. It was a hot 80 degree summer day.
Both of us were starting to panic, and well, when you and your spouse are stressed and not really sure what you are doing, you argue.
We rushed to bring the birds in the house to keep away from 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 do think there is a difference in meat when you feed your birds more fruits, veggies, and bugs. 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. 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 to NOT 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.
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 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 small squirts of dish soap. Honestly, though you don’t need it. You got this.
You will need a clean work surface. We used to use a piece of 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 simply cut the neck with a sharp knife being sure 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 quckly as the cone method. We saw another homesteader use a stick with a split to hold the head a little 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 which is why we choose to do our own.
Saving money always drives us to give things a try we didn’t think we could.
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. If you involve the kids or you each pluck a chicken you will be more efficient. And trust me each time you do it you will get faster and faster.
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 just leave if you can’t pluck another feather. I get it. When you cook it just 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.
I’ll seal the birds up and let rest in the fridge. We try to keep the birds in the fridge for 24 hours. When people joke about eating the bird for dinner that night, you don’t want to. 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. Same goes for canning right? The longer your pickles sit in the jar the tastier they are.
It feels amazing to have a freezer full of chicken!
What questions do you have for us? Or what tips do you want to share with others?
Welcome! I have desired my own backyard farm since I was a girl. I started a frugal crazy couponing lifestyle that allowed us to pay off our debt, create an online business and purchase our farmhouse and land. Join me as I share everything we are learning with you to encourage and inspire your dreams.