Feeding before processing?


10 Years
Mar 10, 2009
Cartersville, Ga.
I have heard not to feed 24 to 48 hours before you kill your birds. I have 5 cockerels to process this Saturday and they are in a coop with the two I want to keep. How important is it to stop feeding them? Would you not feed all the birds until the unwanted ones are gone? Seems wrong somehow. I know they wont starve to death. Any help and advice is appreciated.
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12 hrs worked for me. I just pulled feeders in evening and butchered 1st thing in the morn. I went out early enough that they were just waking up and easy to catch without disturbing the other birds too much. After the last bird to be done is grabbed I let the rest out of the coop where I have a feeder out for them. That way they don't have to wait to eat while I finish butchering/cleaning up.
It is so that there isn't a lot of liquid poo in the intestines when you butcher them (which could leak out into the meat & spoil it). I give only water for 2 days before I butcher. The others will be fine without food for 1-2 days. I have a special pen I put soon to be butchered birds in that I call "the Hopper".
I go 24 hours without food before butchering. Seperate them if you can, but if you can't, it won't hurt them all to go 24 hours without food. Animals in the wild do it all the time. In fact, my vet said it's actually good for animals to do it occasionally. You definitely want to do it though- otherwise you'll be cleaning out nasty crops, and poo filled birds. It's disgusting at best, unsanitary at worst.
I feed them the day before in the morning and take feeders away at about 3:00 in the afternoon and process at about 6:00 the next morning... so it's more like 15-16 hours without food.

2 days is a long time for a bird to go with out food. I wouldn't attempt to go more than 24 hours. Even 24 hours with no food stresses an animal enough to release hormones in the body that may cause the meat to be tougher than normal.... I think the names of the hormones are... adrenaline and cortisol.

I have found this to be true in a number of cases, best case scenerio is a 12 -15 hour holding period... and the majority of that time should be at night. Always give plenty of water to help flush the crop and intestines.

Good luck...
I think it depends somewhat on your personal style of processing; I have starved some overnight and left some with food overnight and honestly not found the latter any less easy to process, in terms of speed of action or in terms of contamination.

For one's very first chicken-processing adventure I think there is something to be said for letting the bird HAVE something in its crop at the time (if you really want to starve it overnight, you could give it some food shortly before slaughtering), because it makes it obvious where the crop is. An empty crop can be pretty hard to find and separate from the surrounding tissues, as it is floppy tough and darn near invisible
Sure, with food in the crop it is possible to squeeze it out or tear the crop, but all it is is drooled-on feed
, you just wipe or wash it off the table and proceed.

JMHO, good luck, have fun,

Yeah, 48 hours does seem like a bit much. And, I guess when my vet mentioned animals going without food, he wasn't referring to animals about to be butchered, so that could make a difference!
I have a collection of wire rabbit cages in which I place the candidates the night before they're butchered. That way it's easy to catch them & cage them after dark, and easy to reach in and retrieve them one at a time the next day for processing. I give them only water but no feed, not even grass under the cages where they can reach.

I don't have any trouble locating empty crops on the birds I butcher, and much prefer having their entire digestive tracts as empty as possible.

Plus, I'm such a cheapskate, why give them feed that they won't have time to convert into meat?

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