Update: Last summer we raised 7 Red Ranger (meat) roosters from one day old chicks until they were 12 weeks old, then butchered and processed them in one morning using the technique and checklist below. It worked well. One change we made was to fasten the cone to the frame of our firewood storage stack so it doesn’t move while in use.
We have killed only two chickens, but I am willing to share what we learned. If you are sensitive to this type of information, please stop reading.
We killed a hen using the technique of a pole on her neck then yanking up on her feet to separate the spinal column. It worked fast and is the best way to kill rabbits. But you still have to cut the chicken’s neck to bleed it out, and she flopped around after she was dead.
Chicken Killing Cone
We used the cone method for a one year old rooster, and it worked very well. We bought a traffic cone and cut a few inches off the tip so the rooster’s head and neck would fit through. He was very sedate and didn’t struggle at all. Make sure you have a VERY sharp knife.
We hung the cone by a chain from my clothesline pole and put a bucket under him to catch the blood. Once his neck was cut, we let him hang for about 15 minutes to drain. There was no flopping around. Before we use it again, we will fix the cone to something more stable using some boards.
We had a large pot of hot water heating on our outdoor gas burner (camping stove). It was about 145 degrees. We dunked him for 30 seconds until his feathers came out easily. We added a small amount of dish detergent to allow the water to soak through the surface tension of the feathers. I was surprised how easy he was to pluck.
The rooster was a year old. It was difficult to cut through some of his bones, particularly the back bone to remove the internal organs. It was very much harder than cutting up a broiler or store-bought chicken. His thighs and legs were very large and the meat very dark. Even though I don’t typically like dark meat, his meat was very good.
I have included a list we prepared for ourselves to use whenever we butcher a chicken. We read a lot of confusing information so got things organized to suit us. We used two books as references: Raising Chickens for Dummies and Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.
Here are some videos that demonstrate the harvesting and cleaning of chickens.
Respectful Chicken Harvest Part 1
Respectful Chicken Harvest Part 2
Checklist for Butchering Chickens
Don’t feed chicken for at least 12 hours prior to killing.
- Very sharp, large knife
- Heavy scissors/poultry shears/pruning shears
- Big pot of hot water (140°-150°)
- Water thermometer
- Rubber gloves
- Soap and water
- Paper towels
- Large stainless steel bowl
- Garbage bag and trash can
- Needle nose pliers (to remove pin feathers)
- Dull bladed knife (to remove pin feathers)
- Garden hose
- 2 pair exam gloves
- Long handled tongs
Killing and Bleeding
- Place chicken head down in cone
- Stretch neck out
- 2” cut just behind jaw from front to back
- Let bleed for 15 minutes
- 145° water with Dawn dish soap
- Immerse bird for 30 seconds
- Lay bird on table
- Remove feathers
- Use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to remove pin feathers
- Rinse with clean water
- Cut head off
- Use poultry kitchen shears
- Close to body
- Cut off feet
- Remove oil gland and tail (Storey P. 396)
- 1” above glands nipple, deep enough to reach tail bone
- Cut Back Open
- Start at rear
- With poultry shears, shallowly cut backbone from back to front
- Be careful not to rupture the intestine
- Remove entrails
- Carefully remove the liver without bursting the attached gallbladder which will cause the meat to taste bitter.
- Rinse with clean water