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"The English Method" (technique for slaughtering chickens)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, I thought I'd write a little post about the so-called "English method" of dispatch, because we really like using it for a number of reasons, and while some people are familiar with it, it seems like it's not as widely known as it deserves. IMO it has many advantages over a lot of the popular killing techniques.

 

For the "English method," basically, you use nothing but your own two hands to restrain (hold feet and wing tips in off hand) and to dislocate the chicken's neck right at the base of the skull, which severs the neck arteries and jugular at the same time as the spinal cord, but leaves the skin of the neck intact. For a while I did it gripping the neck held between the thumb and first finger (of my dominant hand), but now I prefer doing it with the neck between the first and second fingers--I find it somewhat easier because it seems to give better leverage. The head is held so that the comb is pressing into the palm of the hand, with the fingers and thumb wrapped around the head. The chicken is then hung by the feet (either in the hand, while holding the feet and wings to restrain, or by a noose around the legs or whatever) and the blood drains out of the body into the space of loose skin at the top of the neck. The blood is then rinsed away later on when you remove the head and neck while gutting.

 

Pros to the method:

 

-Requires no equipment such as killing cones, chopping block, hatchet, etc (to purchase, or to clean each time)

-Results in instantaneous loss of consciousnes and death, like decapitation (but unlike "Kosher" method for example)

-Very tidy and "civilized" because there is no blood splattering (makes it more pleasant for you--and for anyone who happens to be helping or observing!)

-It's botch-proof if you learn to do it right

 

Cons:

 

-Does take a bit of technique to do with confidence, particularly unless you have someone to show you

-Requires modest arm strength, so may not be suitable for everyone, tho mostly it's about the right technique, not brute strength

-Most people can't perform it on old roosters or large waterfowl (which have very muscular necks), tho arguably this isn't a con since you just use another method for those birds!

 

I really like the pros, and the cons aren't relevant in our case, so it's come to be the method we always use when slaughtering old hens or dual purpose fryers or roasters. I first read about this method I believe in Harvey Ussery's book THE SMALL SCALE POULTRY FLOCK (also in this tutorialhe wrote), but it's also described in the wonderful old handbook RAISING CHICKENS AND RABBITS ON SCRAPS, by C. Goodchild and A. Thompson. These are the instructions from the latter book (you can read Mr. Ussery's description by following the above link): ..."Take its legs--and wings if you like--in one hand [off-hand] and its head in the other [dominant hand]. Grip just behind the head with the first finger and thumb, or if your fingers are strong the first and second fingers. Thrust the head back and give a good firm pull until you feel a sudden 'give.' This will indicate the parting of the neck bone just below the head and the blood will drain if you hang the bird head downwards. There will be strong fluttering and spasmodic reflexing of the legs but do not be deterred. This shows that you have made a job of it. If you pull the head off--well, it's better than half pulling it and allowing the cockerel to run off."

 

Like I said, I just think this method deserves to be more widely known and considered. Perhaps people are sometimes intimidated because it seems difficult to learn? I'm not sure, but It doesn't really have to be, if you get a good description of how it's supposed to work, and follow through with enough force to deliver a quick kill until you fine tune it. I was able to learn it without firsthand instruction, and I'm not particularly clever or strong. Most of the problems I've seen with people trying to do it for the first time involve them simply not using enough force to make a clean break through lack of confidence (like the above excerpt says, it's better to pull too hard and just yank off the head when learning than not hard enough--at least you have a clean kill, and you can learn guilt-free and then focus on fine-tuning the force next time).

 

If anyone is really interested to see it, I might try to put up a quick video demonstrating the technique at some point...?

 

Anyway, I hope this proves helpful to someone--this killing method sure made my life easier!

Cheers!


Edited by triplepurpose - 4/24/16 at 6:12pm
Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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post #2 of 9
Double post sorry
Edited by ShannonR - 4/26/16 at 11:37am
post #3 of 9

I would be interested in seeing it.

post #4 of 9

I think you can easily find videos showing the method done with rabbits.  I also saw a product a few years ago for rabbits (rabbit wringer) and thought it would work for poultry, seems they have come to the same conclusion: http://www.rabbitwringer.com/html/demo_videos.html

 

ETA: skip to near the end of the first video to see it in use with poultry.

I was interested in the product and rabbit method (usually on the ground with a broomstick) because I'm short and don't have enough arm length to hold bigger birds' head and legs far enough apart--I'm usually dealing with leggy dual purpose birds.


Edited by popsicle - 4/25/16 at 12:10pm
usually have between 20 and 50 chickens
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usually have between 20 and 50 chickens
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post #5 of 9
Thanks for the video!
post #6 of 9

X2

post #7 of 9

I achieve the same result using a broom shank and since I mostly process 6 month or older free ranged cockerels, which are significantly more sinewy than 8-10 week old meat birds, I find the broom shank gives me better leverage for a more fool proof and quick kill. I made a "Killing cone" out of a piece of carpet off cut nailed to a piece of ply and lined with a plastic feed bag to pop them into after I've necked them, which restrains them until they stop convulsing....it's less upsetting for me than seeing them flapping about and keeps them contained whilst I go and get the next one. Then once they are still,  I hang them by the feet and the head is very easily cut off with a knife where the neck has been dislocated. Once the head is off I feel more comfortable about the rest of the process.... but then I'm a bit soft and find the whole process quite challenging!   

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Yep, the rabbit wringer works on exactly the same principle, just oriented a little differently is all, but if you watch how it works you get the idea. 

 

I couldn't find any Youtube videos of the "English Method" used on chickens, so I had to make one myself: I took a little video the other day for a workshop I did, so here is a short clip taken from that:

 

https://youtu.be/CqDzcnlxk68

 

(I messed up that time by not holding one of the wingtips securely enough so that I got a couple feathers in the face--if held properly there is no flapping or dander flying about.)

 

"I'm a bit soft and find the whole process quite challenging!" I hear you. But it shouldn't be easy to kill something, should it--having sensitivity and sympathy is a really good thing! :)


Edited by triplepurpose - 4/26/16 at 3:52pm
Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by popsicle View Post
 

I was interested in the product and rabbit method (usually on the ground with a broomstick) because I'm short and don't have enough arm length to hold bigger birds' head and legs far enough apart--I'm usually dealing with leggy dual purpose birds.

 That's a good point. That could be an issue for some people too. I think that's part of the reason my wife finds it difficult--even if you can get the stretch, if it's near the maximum extension of your arms it could be hard to give enough force. However, I think the grip with the neck between the first and middle fingers would help some people too--when I switched to that I found it markedly easier (tho my wife has yet to try that way)...


Edited by triplepurpose - 4/26/16 at 4:04pm
Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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