Raising poultry is a terrific hobby, but you can only use so many eggs and only one rooster, so you should know how to butcher a chicken. Butchering your own chickens is not only economical, but avoids the risk of hormones or antibiotics in your poultry. You'll have the satisfaction of eating meat that you raised in a healthy natural way.
To butcher a chicken you will need:
- Large bucket or cooler filled with cold water
- Chopping block, with two nails driven in about three inches apart
- Axe, well-sharpened
- Knives, well-sharpened
- Rope or strong twine
- Large pot of hot water
- Large pot of cold water
- Don't feed the chicken for twelve hours before butchering. This will clear out its system.
- Lay the chicken on the chopping block with its head between the nails. Stretch the neck and strike with the axe, hard enough to sever the head with the first blow. With younger birds, you may also hold the head firmly, brace the bird over your thigh, pull it taut and twist sharply downward and outward. The head should separate completely from the neck.
- Hang the chicken upside down and allow to bleed out thoroughly.
- Heat water to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit (hot to the touch but not burning), and immerse the chicken for a couple of minutes. Remove before the skin begins to cook and tear.
- Dip the chicken into the cold water.
- The feathers should now pull out easily. Pluck the chicken clean.
- Separate the legs from the chicken by locating the joint. Slice carefully through the skin and then separate between the joint, rather than cutting the bone.
- Slice a circle around the neck and remove the crop, which is a pouch where the chicken's food goes before moving to the gizzard. The windpipe and esophagus will pull free with the crop.
- Use the point of your knife to separate the neck rather than cutting the bone.
- Cut off the oil gland, which is a little button of flesh right above the tail. If you don't do this, it will compromise the flavor of your poultry.
- Cut into the belly of the bird without piercing the intestines. If you pierce the intestines or cut the anus, you may release dangerous bacteria into your chicken.
- Work the internal organs out of the body. Be careful to drain downward away from the bird so any fecal matter won't contaminate your poultry. Cut them free and set them aside.
- Use or freeze your chicken whole, or follow your butcher's diagram to separate your chicken into cuts.
Make sure you sterilize your tools, follow food safety rules, and wrap, date and preserve your chicken carefully to avoid food-borne illness.