butcher questions


9 Years
Jun 3, 2013
North Alabama
I plan to butcher several cockerels soon and am doing some planning. First, I really don't have any way to keep the selected birds separate from the others (remove from roost during the night and separate until dispatch time). Has anyone ever 'hobbled' their birds--as in tying the legs closely with a string so they can walk but not really run so they'd be easier to catch? Second, and this is because I watched Shogun, can you slit the neck to bleed them and then hang them in a cold (50 or less) spot until, say, I get home from work before I pluck and gut? The grandkids want to come and help me butcher, but they won't show up as early as I'd want to let the rest of the birds out for the day. If I could kill them and let them hang, even for several hours, before plucking and gutting it would be a help. They are now 12 week old dual purpose birds and I want to do at least 2 (hopefully all but one cockerel) in about 2 weeks so we could have them for dinner between Christmas and New Year's Day.


Free Ranging
12 Years
Jul 28, 2008
I am far from being an experienced chicken processor, but I would want to gut as soon as they have bled out. Maybe someone with more experience will put their 2 cents in.


5 Years
Aug 11, 2015
West Virginia
Also no expert here but I've had to do a couple emergency processings in the last couple months (crowing hens in the city). I did not have an opportunity to separate and fast either time, I was just very careful and the processing went fine. Mine are bantams, too, so there's less room to work in. I always keep a garden hose close so I can spray everything down right away if I do get some poop in there.

Maybe you could get them used to chasing scratch into a dog crate or something and catch them that way on the day? I agree that you don't want to chase them around forever.

I usually finish the processing and then age the bantams in the fridge for a couple days after they look like food. I do have a colleague who hangs the entire carcass for a couple days after bleeding before continuing. I'm sure a few hours wouldn't hurt and may be a little less stressful for the grandkids and you. The first part always stresses me out and I wouldn't want kids watching even though I've never had problems.

Hope this helps!
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Free Ranging
13 Years
Mar 19, 2009
I can tell you this. Game birds used to be hung in a cool spot and aged for a while before being plucked and processed. In the 1940's and before, the chickens and other poultry you bought at the market were usually bled and plucked, period. They still had their heads, feet, and innards. You gutted them when you got them home. You often had to singe the pinfeathers, too.The reason they had their heads and feet was so that you could be sure you were buying a young chicken.

Remember seeing that famous Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover where the butcher is weighing a chicken and the little old lady customer is pushing up on the scale with her finger and the butcher has his thumb on the scale pushing down? If you google Norman Rockwell pictures you will find it. If you look, you will notice the chicken is as I described. It has its head, feet, and innards.

If you hang the chicken in a cool spot you shouldn't have any problems.


In the Brooder
5 Years
Oct 24, 2014
If you are able to have a lighted area have you thought of just doing them in the evening? If you are in the northern hemisphere your birds are probably calling it a day pretty early so you could just pull them one by one from the coop (Plus have your assistants on hand) and do the process in one go? Even for someone inexperienced a hand full of birds with help shouldn't take that long.


9 Years
Jun 3, 2013
North Alabama
Actually, evening would be feasible. I'm just the kind of person who gets up and hits the ground running, so I naturally think early. But I'll have to give some thought to doing it later. Thanks for the idea.


Free Ranging
12 Years
Oct 16, 2010
Birds are fine to hang for awhile as long as it's not hot. Just think of grouse hunting. Those are not processed as soon as you shoot them. I take my time in dispatch so the first bird killed has sat for a good time before i'm starting the plucking. They all get plucked then I start the gutting, which each is watched and chilled as they are done in turn. Years ago I had a large cock bird I dispatched and hung then the day got away from me so went to finish the butchering in morning, he was frozen. Hung for a few days until thawed then finished the butchering. That was actually a really good roasted bird. I didn't let the inside thaw completely though, just enough to clean it out.


7 Years
Oct 23, 2014
SW Michigan
Easiest to wait until they go to roost in the evening, then take them one by one off the roost and kill. I do mine in the morning before daylight, when their crops have had time to empty.


Dec 7, 2015
That's a great suggestions regarding doing the killing in the morning. Full crops can be a mess.

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