On processing our chickens

Well, I left you with four upside down chickens bleeding out under a crab apple tree. Once that was done, the rest was pretty easy. Not that I had any idea what I was doing and there were definitely problems.

Like seriously, I had NO idea what I was doing, though John kept asking me what to do next. Which sent me running in and out of the house, checking a site I had found with a pictorial guide to butchering chickens. Seriously, if you think you could never slaughter your own birds because you don’t know what you’re doing, I’m living proof that it is possible.

You just have to have a willingness to try and not too big of a fear of failure. What’s the worst that could happen? You can’t bring yourself to slaughter the birds? At least you’ll have a story to share with the kids for years to come and it isn’t likely you’ll be stuck with the birds all that long. They don’t do that well in the heat and start succumbing to problems associated to their chronic obesity within weeks of the ideal slaughter date.

Remind yourself you’re doing the poor animals a sort of favor. It makes it easier.

The feathers were a pain. Our camp stove wasn’t able to keep the water heated so we weren’t able to scald the feathers properly which made plucking a chore. Everyone talks about the smell and this being the worst part. Other than the stubborn pin feathers (some of which remained in until I was preparing the birds for dinner!), I didn’t think it was all that bad. It did stink, but not as bad as I was expecting. So I guess if you ever do decide to butcher some chickens, talk to people who hate this part so you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

My son thought the neck removal was hilarious. He’s still talking about it.

“Mom, it’s like you and dad were playing tug-of-war. It was sooo funny!”

There has to be a better way. Indeed, the site seemed to imply it came off with sort of a twist. Not for us. It was a sort of a twist and and a tug and a harder tug and pull and my husband going one direction and me the other until it finally snapped free, sending us flying.

You can see how a seven year old boy would think that was simply delightful.

Our biggest problem was that we decided to get all of our other chores done before starting this. I think we weren’t exactly chomping at the bit, but 6PM is a bit late to start. I’ve heard that, with experience, people are able to process 25 in the time it took them to process their first bird. I’m looking forward to that day, but we’ll probably have to figure out that twist and tug thing on the chicken neck, first.

We eviscerated as the sun went down. Which I suppose isn’t so bad since you can’t see what you’re doing anyway. But standing there with your hand up to your wrist in a chicken’s behind trying to feel the top of the organs in the dark is a unique experience.

“Who would have thought we’d be slaughtering chickens fifteen years ago?” my husband observed.

I laughed. No, this is a long way from where I thought I’d be. Seriously. You’re talking about someone who has difficulty setting traps after seeing a mouse, and whose stomach knots up if the trap doesn’t quite do its job and I have to finish it.

Once it was dark, I was sure every sound was a pack of coyotes waiting to jump me for chicken guts. Or maybe even a mountain lion. Once, I was sure I heard a bear. That’ll keep you on your toes, and keep you from thinking too much about the way these birds used to toddle around behind you, hoping for a treat.

Not that I recommend actually doing this at night. Because those fears (well, except for the bear, of course) aren’t completely unfounded.

But we finished. Four birds, raised from chicks, slaughtered and processed on our property and ready to be put in the refrigerator. We had done it. We had really done it. And that was really what I felt as we washed everything down.

We did it!

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8 Comments on "On processing our chickens"

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Congratulations! And for the record, you’ve totally convinced me that raising meat birds is NOT for me.

But I can certainly see how it would be a satisfying endeavour when you’re trying to live more self-sufficiently. Kudos.


Well, at least I’ve served some small purpose! Maybe you’d like to raise bees? Hopefully we’ll still be able to get some this year and you’ll get to read all about that. 🙂

Congratulations! I remember our first time slaughtering birds. Trust me, it gets MUCH easier with each batch. And I understand @Sheri’s squemishness, but we see it as being responsible for the meat (read: the life) that we consume. Our choice is that either we’re willing to stomach it or we’ll be vegan/vegetarian. We chose the satisfaction and health of naturally raised animal products, along with the frustration and unpleasantness that goes along with dominating another sentient being. Now, the majority of our food (or at least a sizeable portion of it) is homegrown or at least significantly homemade. That makes… Read more »

Thanks! We’ve had lots of discussions with our eldest since about whether it is better to slaughter them ourselves or just buy them at the store. It has been an interesting educational experience for all of us!


Should be easier next time around!

You did a nice job describing everything without pictures! 😀


Well, maybe it was better for the rest of the world that I didn’t take pictures. 🙂

mountain ann

Wonderful post 🙂
It reminded me so much of when we did our first chickens – I must say that you did better than us! It took us all of eight back-breaking hours to get the first bird completely done 🙁
Cangrats on doing a fabulous job and taking your place among the truly brave homesteaders of the centuries 🙂

DJ (Deb)

Oh, Dana, I congratulate you and admire what you’re doing. As much as I would love living in the country and having chickens for eggs, I have no desire to slaughter them. I remember my grandmother telling me all her stories and even though a I admired her very much, I didn’t ever, ever, want to kill chickens! My brother’s in-laws raise chickens and I buy eggs from them and I get Amish chickens at the local health food co-op. Blessings to you! 🙂