Harvesting Meat Chickens
By Cassie Lewis
Today was a big day in our homesteading journey; for the first time, we butchered meat chickens!
We prepped for it for the past week or so, and today we actually did it — and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
We bought the meat chickens through a catalog, and they were delivered eight weeks weeks ago. Then it was time. Our chicks were getting so heavy that it seemed they could hardly walk around!
Step 1: Bribe a crew to help us. We had nine chicks that were going to be butchered. We figured that, to be most efficient, we would need helpers We promised a barbecue — hamburgers, not chickens — and had four people offer to help!
Step 2: Research. I read blogs. I watched videos. I prepped in every way I could. When we bought the meat chickens, my husband essentially told me, “This is your project. I’ll help, but you have to do the hard part.” I would have to kill the chickens. In a way, I wanted to do the “hard part.” Part of my enjoyment in self-sufficiency is the challenge, learning what I’m capable of. But I also didn’t want to be surprised by the process.
Step 3: Gather the supplies and set the stage. I had two slipknots tied at about eye level on a 4×4 support; this was for the chickens feet. Then a bucket to catch the blood. I set up a table for the other half of the outside crew — the person skinning the carcass. We had decided against plucking because of time, patience, and learning new skills, but we would need one person with a relatively clean hand to skin the chickens. The inside crew would need freezer bags, bowls, towels, and sharp knives to piece and put up the meat.
Step 4: Do it. It went surprisingly well. Like I said, the separate crew really greased the wheels. I would cut the chicken’s jugular and let it bleed out. Then I’d cut the head and feet off and pass it to the skinner. The skinner would clean and skin the chicken, and then pass it to the inside crew. The inside crew pieced it and put it in labeled freezer bags. We harvested 35 pounds of chicken in about 2 hours.
Step 5: Bask in the accomplishment. This step could take days.
We did it!
Photo by Adobe Stock/capacitorphoto
Read this editor’s letter about her new chickens and their lively personalities.
Backyard Chicken Tools
What tools do you need to raise and process meat chickens? Killing cones are humane, and promote a complete bleed, scalding tanks, plucking machines facilitate easy feather removal.
Integrating Chickens, Dogs and Cats
Introducing the pets to the chickens has been a little more challenging than originally anticipated.