Steps to easily butcher chickens at home.

Chickens standing on chicken coop door

Learning how to butcher your own animals on the farm can seem pretty daunting at first, but in the end its pretty simple! Here are some ideas and steps to get you started in butchering your own chickens!

Your questions answered!

  • How long do I let them hang before putting them in the water?
  • Best way to kill them?
  • How hot should I heat the water?
  • Do I need a specific breed of chicken to butcher?
  • Do I need certain equipment to butcher chickens?

Here are some common questions and I’m going to give you an easy step by step process and answer some of these questions in this post!

We are just a small farm and by no means have fancy equipment or anything that you might think you need, we just make do with what we have and it’s worked for us for several butchering sessions! With that being said, please do yourself the favor and get a chicken plucker if you’ll be doing several! We have a very sweet friend that lets us borrow theirs, but if you plan on doing this chicken thing for awhile it will be well the worth the investment! Check out this one and a few other things you might find handy below!

Items you may need

Step 1

Catch the chicken! As you can imagine, this is not always the easiest of tasks. I would recommend doing your processing in the morning, then because your chickens should already be cooped up for the night, this step will be easier.

If you’re doing your processing later in the day, here are a few options. Draw the chickens back in the coop from free ranging with food, shut the door, then begin catching them from there. If you have a smaller place inside the coop for chicks, ect. you can draw them inside there as well to give them a more limited place to go. Do what works best for you and your schedule and go from there!

We honestly don’t usually get to do our processing till a little bit later in the day, so we end up doing the latter option. However, it always ends up working out….though sometimes it may look like we are going on a wild chase!

Step 2

It’s time to kill the chicken! Definitely not the funnest or most favorite job, but a necessary one! How do you do it? What’s the best way? Probably the most common and oldest trick in the book is to simply chop off the head. There are other methods, such as, breaking the neck, using a gun, ect. I personally would recommend placing them in a container head down, then quickly cutting off the head with a sharp knife. Linked above are some items you may need for butchering, including the cone. You can also just click here for my amazon affiliate link-

feeder with hole in bottom to cut chickens head off
hole in bottom of feeder to cut chickens head off

As you can see, this old feeder as been well used as our “butchering cone”. Although homemade, it has worked great for us! You do not need the fanciest equipment to get the job done!

Step 3

After the killing is done and you let the chicken bleed out for 3 minutes or so, (time is flexible, we just do what needs to get done with one chicken and then go back for the other one that’s been hanging), now it’s time to put them in your water that’s been heating up! Before we get to how hot the water needs to be, let’s talk about heating it up. Take any big pot you have. We use our large water bath canners, but any pot about that size will work! You can either put it on the stove and heat it up that way, or use a portable stove. A portable stove would really be the best, but if you don’t have one, you can just heat it up on your regular stove like I mentioned then move it to the grill to keep it up to temperature. Now, moving on to temperature. Best water temperate should be somewhere between 130-170 degrees Fahrenheit. We always test the chicken by making sure we can pluck out the tail feathers, but if you want to be precise the University of Wyoming suggests you should scald them between 30 seconds and two minutes.

Chicken in old feeder with bottom cut out after head was cut off
butchered chicken before entering hot water
butchered chicken entering hot water

Step 4

Okay folks, this is where a chicken Plucker come in handy! It’s officially time to defeather the chickens. Like I said before, you’re really going to want this if you’re doing a lot of chickens or if you’ll be doing this butchering process one a year or so. Sitting there and plucking out the feathers will not give near the satisfaction as watching the chicken Plucker do the magic for you. 🙂 All you need to do with this style is hold the hose on the chickens while the plucker is plucking the feathers. If you’re doing the plucking by hand it will probably take around 10 min on average, but if you get a really good scald it could go really easy for you! In contrast, a good sized chicken plucker can do about 3 chickens in less than a minute or so. Determine how valuable your time is and decide if the tub style plucker is worth it to you. You could also get a drill powered plucker and do it that way as well, however, I’ve never tried that so I can’t comment on how that works. I have one linked above in the home processing kit if you want to check it out!

Man carrying chicken over to chicken plucker.
Chickens in the chicken plucker before getting plucked

Before the chicken plucker is turned on.

Chickens in the chicken plucker after getting plucked

As you can see, they come out nice clean (defeathered) after about a minute or so in the chicken plucker.

Step 5

Once your done plucking the chickens, you can start gutting them out to get them ready for the freezer. We take them in the house at this point. To start with, you’ll cut a hole in the rump of the chicken, then you’ll pull about everything out. This will include guts, heart, kidney, liver, and crop. Find a good YouTube video on this step and it will help you visualize what needs to come out. Check out this one!

Finished product before bringing them in the house to finish processing.

Step 6

A step that the University of Wyoming suggests is cooling the chicken before freezing. You would do this by putting them in a tub of cold water while gutting. The suggested temp is 40 degrees within 2 hours. Honestly, we have never done this and haven’t had a problem. That being said, it may yield a higher quality bird.

Step 7

You’ve finally reached the end of the processing and it’s time for freezing! We have used two things for this. Either freezer bags or freezer paper like you would wrap beef in. My favorite and easiest are the freezer bags! Depending on how big of chicken/bird you’re butchering, you may need a little bigger than gallon size, but gallon size has worked well for us!

Final thoughts

Some people prefer meat birds over just regular laying hens for butchering because they are bred to get fat fast and then butcher, yielding a bigger, more meaty bird in the freezer. We have done this once on our farm, but then just decided to butcher our extra roosters and/or laying hens instead of doing the meat birds. Its all a personal preference and either one will work just fine!

I hope this blog post gave you some good insights and ideas into getting starting when butchering chickens.

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