Thursday, July 3, 2008

Blood and Guts

DISCLAIMER: Following are pictures that detail the process of slaughtering a chicken. Parental Discretion Advised.

There Will Be Blood. And guts, even.

So if that sort of thing bothers you, now would be a good time to stop reading.


Shoo now. Off with you!

Are they gone?

Ok, now for those of you with the pioneering spirit, I present, How To Kill and Dress a Chicken.

So we "processed" the last of the meat birds today. Processed is the PC term for butchered, slaughtered, killed, massacred, hacked to bloody bits... well, you get the point.

First, the bird is placed in the holding cone, head down. Then the heartless farmer uses a very sharp knife to cut through the skin and the main carotid artery in the neck. The bird then bleeds out. Because the bird is still alive, the heart continues to pump, speeding bleeding time. The cone confines the bird to minimize splattering of blood on the work area. Bleeding out will take 5 - 10 minutes.

The bird (don't worry, it's dead now) is then dipped in scalding water at 130 - 140 degrees Farenheit for 30-45 seconds, until the large feathers of the wings and tail pull out easily.

After scalding, quickly begin picking. With the feet towards you, rub the thumbs against the grain of the feathers to rub many of them off as you move your hand toward the neck. Work over the body, wings, and legs quickly to remove the largest feathers.

Then go back over closely to remove embedded pinfeathers; these will need to be pulled out with thumb and forefinger. A dull table knife can be rubbed along the skin to help help in removal.

EDIT:  After this batch of birds, my wise older sister told me that when my mother killed chickens, rather than bothering with plucking she just pulled the skin and feathers off in a single piece, like pulling off a coat.  I decided to try this on my next butchering day, and LO AND BEHOLD, I will never pluck another chicken again.  It was sooooooooo much easier and faster - especially not having to deal with those @*%$ pin feathers!  Yeah, so, keep that in mind.  If you wish to have the full nasty experience, by all means Dunk and Pluck.  But once you've got the T-shirt, I recommend switching to Shucking. 

Quick and Dirty Shucking Instructions:  After killing the bird, dip in the hot water for 10-15 seconds.  This makes the skin separate from the underlying flesh more easily, plus wet feathers are easier to control than dry flyaway ones.  Then, take a knife and cut the skin around the neck just below the head (but don't cut the head off), and continue cutting the skin down the chest, like a zipper on a coat.  Holding the head in one hand, use the other hand to pull down on the skin, working it around and off shoulders, wings and down to the tail.  Cut off the tail, then continue peeling down to the hocks below the drumsticks.  Then cut off the head, the wingtips at the second joint, and then the feet (shown in the picture below) which will remove the whole coat of skin at once .  You will still have to pick a few feathers at the top of the neck, at the drumstick, and at the wing edges where the skin tore loose.  Cut off the wingtips at the second joint.


After plucking, remove head and feet with a large knife. With the bird on its back, cut in the middle of the joint between the hock and drumstick.

With the bird on its back, slit the neck skin to reveal the esophagus, trachea and crop. If the bird has been denied food for 12 hours, the crop will be empty. Cut below the crop and pull it out, along with the esophagus and trachea.

Turn the bird around, and cut a LARGE inverted U around the vent (where the poop comes out). Be very careful not to cut into the vent or the organs behind it. The opening should be large enough for your hand to fit inside and reach up into the rib cage.

Reach inside, keeping your fingernails in contact with the smooth breastbone.

Then curl your fingers and pull out the organs in one smooth motion. Try not to squeeze them, like my neighbor boy is doing in this picture.

The large intestine will still be attached to the vent.

Then carefully cut under and around the vent to release the organs from the body.

All that's left is to cut off the tail and its oil gland. Then chill the body in ice water until it cools to 40 degrees. Dry, and then wrap in plastic, then put in to the refrigerator to age for 1-2 days before cooking or freezing.

Next, I'll demonstrate how to cut up a chicken.

I'll bet you can't wait.


  1. Ok, while that was not what this city girl enjoys seeing on your blog, :), I am so grateful that you showed this to us. Now in the event of a disaster we will know how to kill a chicken. The only problem is that we would need to find a chicken first. :)

  2. Lisa, Thanks for inviting us to learn how to do this and posting it as well. These are skills I hope I never have to use, but at least I know how to, just in case. My kids thought it was cool too. It surely makes me want to not waste any meat, as well as eat it in moderation. You would think it would make us not want to eat meat at all. That is not the case however it did solidify the fact that I NEVER want to eat the gizzard!

  3. You are right, I can't wait. Keep the good stuff comeing.

  4. So wait... You just let it bleed to death? That seems cruel and inhumane to me...

  5. christina, the bird would be dead the second the knife cuts the main atery. So chill the chicken just probably felt a small tingle then died

  6. Well, anonymous, that's not correct. Even if you severed the bird's head the brain will continue to function, albeit at a progressively less capable rate, for four minutes after it stops receiving oxygen (from the blood). So, the chicken does have awhile to ponder its situation.

    It is more humane to pierce the chicken's brain first (through the mouth) before cutting the neck to bleed it. The pierce will stop, or at least severely interrupt, the brain's processes so there should be no further awareness of what is happening.

    There is some controversy as to whether piercing the brain first would then cause a nerve reaction that would make the feathers harder to pull later. You generally bleed a chicken first to make it easier to pull the feathers.

    My opinion is to kill the brain first; make it harder for me than for the chicken.



  7. Thanks for this. I didn't take pictures when I had my first chicken killing lesson recently, so this is helpful to job my memory. (It's hard to assist in an execution and take pictures at the same time. I'm not that good at multi-tasking.)

    Being a city boy who's new to the country, it's a strange thing to have eaten chicken all my life, but to have never killed or even plucked one. What a bubble we city folk live in!

  8. Is there something wrong with me that this brings back such fond memories?