1. Come check out hundreds of awesome coop pages (and a few that need suggestions) in our 2018 Coop Rating Project!

First Butchering Experience...Have Q's!!

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by ChIcKeN_DiNnErS, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. ChIcKeN_DiNnErS

    ChIcKeN_DiNnErS In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2011
    This is embarrassing, but please bear with me as I tell this. I am highly dissapointed in our first time processing chickens for our lack of knowledge, the stupidity of not researching better, and allowing this spur of the moment butchering to occur, from the result of a chicken-angered husband, sooner than planned. Thinking back on it all, I most definately should have asked someone with experience in butchering birds (not just rabbit and squirrel).

    Yesterday evening was pretty eventful to start with. Dear Hubby came home from work and found all the chickens (2 banty roos, 2 RIRs, 3 buff orps, and 1 bbr) had escaped from the backyard, and so we spent a good hour or so rounding them up, putting the roos in a cardboard box. By that time, hubby was pretty mad and exclaimed that we were to start butchering and the roos would be first to go (hence the roos in a box). I put an immediate kabosh on that seeing as it was supper time and I was in the middle of making it when this all occurred.

    So after eating supper, since hubby was still gung-ho on it, we prepared to butcher. I got down my big canning pot and put it on the stove with water to boil. Hubby set about sharpening his hunting knives. After we had gotten everything rounded up and placed outside on the front porch, we grabbed the first roo out of the box began to bleed it out. This was not as easy as we had anticipated, after watching it done a few times on YouTube. Who knew chicken skin was so darn tough?? It took a few tries to cut a slit, poor roo, but we got it done. Scalding and removing the feathers was MUCH easier than bleeding. This part of the process I'd have to say was THE easiest part. Next we, or I should say ME, started in on gutting. For some reason hubby thought it to be my job ha ha ha. Well, it took about 20 minutes to do it with issues. First, I fumbled around the neck/breast bone area until finally finding the craw and differentiating the two tubes for eating and breathing from the rest of the neck. There was quite a bit of other tissues that I was unfamiliar with, I had expected to just see two tubes a neck that would have been that. How wrong was I? (Laugh)

    Next the butt area... which went pretty smoothly cutting around the vent and getting a visual of the intestines, until it came time to pull them out. From what I had seen and heard on the YouTube video, it was easy. Not so, the intestines wouldn't just fall out like in the video. I tried to gently pull them out, using gravity of course, and then I thought "Maybe I'm just not pulling hard enough?" So I pulled harder to my big surprise, this was a HUGE mistake. I ended up rupturing the intestine and all the poop came shooting out all over my hand, up and into the sleeve of my coat, and the cutting board I was using. The stench was nauseating. Gagging and bravely trying to pull what I had in my hand out of the chicken, my husband came to the rescue and took the carcass away to remove the rest of the innards while I took the cutting board inside to wash up.

    By the time I had come back out, he had finished with the bird and was handing it over to me to bring inside. Now after all that, I realized standing next to the kitchen counter, rinsed off bird in hand, that I didn't know what else to do. So I asked hubby if I could leave it on the counter while we finished the last roo, or if I should place it in the fridge. He tells me that the bird should be fine on the counter, that it won't be too long with the next one, since we had some experience now. Trusting him, since he had hunted and processes his own squirrel and rabbit for years, I left the bird in a dish on the counter, still thinking that I should put it in the fridge. Moving outside the dilemma soon dissapeared from my mind as my hubby now has the last roo by the feet and is off to start the whole process again, this time with a bigger knife. This go was a bit smoother than the first, but definately will be getting some better knives. Was 10 times faster wiping off the feathers and I got the bird gutted out in 9 min. with only minor difficulties getting into the rectum area (which the skin was tougher than the first roo, we are guessing b/c it was the dominant one and was usually the one going to town on the hens). All finished, I brought it inside, rinsed it out well, and immediately placed in a freezer back and thrown in the freezer. The first roo's skin had dried a bit while sitting so I rinsed it again and placed in the fridge for tonight's supper.

    Ah when supper time rolled around today, I took the bird out of the fridge, still stiff from rigor mortis (which I thought was odd since the ones from the store were so pliable), to rub in butter and seasonings. I rubbed butter all along the body, under the skin where I could, and dollops of butter inside the cavity. At the time, I noticed a smell but thought that maybe the smell was relative to what it ate (free range + meat fowl crumbles+odd bits of scraps) I am a complete newby to done-at-home freshly processed meats. After the bird was prepared for roasting and thrown in the oven, the awful smell intensified as it cooked. I was most definately thinking by then that something was seriously wrong. I also noticed the smell was trapped in the skin of my fingers too, which made me want to gag, and NO amount of washing has removed the smell so far.

    To my relief when the bird was almost done cooking the smell had dissapated from the air and all I could smell was roasting chicken, which temporarily anchored the belief of smell being relative to what they ate. Yet again another mistake. When it was done cooking, I pulled it out and let it rest while I cooked the sides. When I got back to the bird, I could smell the delicious roasted chicken smell, and faint wisps of the gross smell detected earlier. This made me hesitate, I debated on carving the bird or chucking it in the trash (remembering the smell on my fingers and the part of the prep and cooking process). Against my better judgment, I carried on, instead of carving off the originally intended leg, I peeled a piece off the breast and tried it. Tasted fine enough I thought, then when I started carving the leg off, oh once again, another HUGE mistake. As soon as I had cut off the leg which opened a much larger hole into the cavity, that horrendous smell hit me like a 10 ton bag of bricks. I immediately had my head in the kitchen sink with fork and knife in each hand unable to release them, my body issuing a steady flow of grueling dry heaves for several minutes. By that time, hubby had arrived home from work. As soon as I could, I steered him to the chicken and told him between gags to get rid of it. He of course being a welder and having hardly any sense of smell, said "I don't smell much of anything but cooked chicken" and proceeded to peel a chunk pulled from the lower breast area. Placed it in his mouth and chewed. He immediately went to the trash can to spit it out. I was too wracked with waves of dry heaving to have protested against his taste test. He placed that wasted bird into a ziplock bag and threw it in the trash.

    I know we had made some major mistakes. Here are my questions:

    1. Should we have chucked the first bird which the poop had exploded out of while trying to remove the intestines? I've heard in the past, with deer that the meat is ruined if feces/urine explodes in the carcass, I would have thought the same for birds, but again I trusted my dear hubby.
    I now firmly believe that one major mistake was leaving the carcass on the kitchen counter to do the last bird, it is quite obvious that bird meat does not keep well after butchering when sitting on a kitchen counter for 15 minutes, but will ask non-the-less.

    2. should we have placed the bird immediately in the fridge and not on the counter? Next, I found someone on here that had posted that they were told to put the bird in a cold bath for 5+ hours before cooking/freezing, is that something that we should have done too?

    3.Will the bird I just threw in the freezer be ok, since it ended up there immediately after gutting or is it ruined too because I didn't put it in a cold bath first? Please help!! I would really love to know these things and any other helpful tidbits, before we butcher any more of our flock!
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011

  2. Saltysteele

    Saltysteele Songster

    Apr 10, 2011
    two organs are not completely obvious and need to have conscious effort expended on their removal. the kidneys and the lungs. the kidneys lie on each side of the backbone, towards the hole you create in the rear end of the bird. as you run your fingers along the back bone, push down and scoop them out.

    the lungs are further up in the cavity and also need to be scooped out. usually with some pressure i can run my fingers along the back (on the inside of the chicken) and get them out whole.

    neither of these items will taste very nicely if left in.

    if chicken poop gets inside the bird, no biggy, just rinse it out really well. however, there is a sac on the liver (the gall bladder) that you need to be very careful with. that can make the tastiest cuts taste like garbage. usually, as long as you are careful to not pierce anything while cutting the rear end open.

    after processing the bird, throw the carcass in a cold water bath. we leave them in there for an hour or so, just long enough to cool the carcass down completely. after that, we throw in the cooler (we have a walk-in meat cooler, i don't know what others do, besides a fridge) overnight, then bag and freeze the next day.
  3. ChIcKeN_DiNnErS

    ChIcKeN_DiNnErS In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2011
    Thank you for your quick reply. I am pretty certain that I had completely removed the kidneys and the lungs. I had repeatedly scraped the cavity until nothing else came out, and even looked several times inside to be sure nothing was left. The gall bladder I am not so sure if I noticed it when pulling everything out, after pulling out the intestines, I left all delicate handlings aside and just started raking. I may have squashed this gall bladder while pulling the rest out. That may explain the overwhelming smell and appauling taste. I did rinse the carcass as thoroughly as possible, rubbing with quite a bit of pressure, inside the cavity with my fingers under cold water.

    Did leaving it on the counter while attending the second roo, attribute to the ruined chicken too? Since I didn't give the second bird a cold bath, and just threw it in the freezer after a good rinse, is it ruined too? My husband thinks that maybe the bile sack was ruptured, would that too cause the horrific experience we had?

    I greatly appreciate any and all feedback. Thank you so much!
  4. Mamma_Duck04

    Mamma_Duck04 Chirping

    Apr 27, 2011
    Crazyville, VA
    From our experience with deer (or rather, hubby's waaaay before I came along LOL), yes, you can ruin the meat if you rupture the intestines. But understanding the gut flora & the processing of deer (typically), this can lead to a quick growth of bad bacteria in/on the exposed meat since it stays at a favorable temp for quite a while. I would only assume (since I've never had your experience with chickens) chicken can have the same response & I would guess that the short rinse out & leaving on the counter, it allowed the junk to settle in to the meat. While cooling in the fridge, it's actually quite a bit of time that it's at an acceptable level for bacterial growth (part of the reasoning behind the ice-water bath). If you got bile in the meat, IMO I'd just toss it, but that stuff's pretty noticeable due to the coloring, it doesn't look like the regular poo in the rest of the tract & it will taint meat in a heartbeat.

    Another reason behind the ice bath is it helps draw some blood from the bird too. Also, letting it 'rest' in the fridge vs. the freezer for at least 24hrs, it lets the body go through the rigor process. You'll actually notice that the juices from the bird will change during that time & the meat relaxes. The bird in the freezer may be tougher due to being put straight in the freezer- might make a good stew bird rather than a roast bird.

    Also, I would caution you from now on, to trust your instincts/nose in cases of meat. Fresh or 'fresh store-bought' meat should never smell to the point of being repulsive, ESPECIALLY while cooking! (Unless you're like me, who gets sick at the faintest smell of meat when I'm very-early-pregnant LOL)

    Just my $0.02 though!
  5. ChIcKeN_DiNnErS

    ChIcKeN_DiNnErS In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2011
    Thank you for your feedback, I knew I should have done something other than let it sit on the counter, even with hub's insistence. I thought the bird had a funny smell before cooking, but I didn't think the smell was really repulsive until it started cooking. You are right though, I should have let my instincts stop me from trying to keep going with the bird. I feel so silly. I'm feeling hesitant with the one I've thrown in the freezer... I'm pretty certain that nothing ruptured in the second bird while I gutted it, that one went so well. Though since I hadn't bathed it, I'm afraid maybe it too isn't safe? Seems from what I've been told, cold water bathing is essential to good meat. I knew this was a bad idea to just jump in and git 'r done. Well after I thaw it out and do a good sniff check, maybe I'll try to boil it like you suggested, and see what happens.

    Thank you both, I will definately keep all your suggestions in mind and do some more research of the chicken anatomy, and also how to correctly butcher and store the chickens. If you think of anything else just let me know, I welcome any information! [​IMG]
  6. I think the combination of guts breaking and being left on the counter / fridge caused the meat to spoil. Next time, have a cooler of ice water prepared. If you rupture an intestine, use copious amounts if water from the hose to flush the bird immediately. After butchering, straight into the ice bath, either until bagged and into fridge or freezer or for 24 hours, your choice.
    You would have seen bile, it's bright green, so probably didn't happen. Even if you do rupture bile, it usually can be rinsed off. It usually leaks onto the liver, in my experience and rinsing it off immediately seems to work, although I give my livers to the dogs. My dogs wouldn't eat it if it were bitter.
    I have frozen immediately after a short ice bath and then rested the bird for a day or two after defrosting. Honestly, those have been my most tender birds, despite being 12-14 week old Cornish X. I think the freeze/thaw cycle helps to tenderize the meat.
    Another meat tenderizing trick I've learned for less tender chicken is to marinate in kefir or yogurt overnight.
    If you have a sensitive nose ( its hereditary and related to being able to taste nuances of flavors), trust your senses when it comes to detecting bad meat. Home grown chicken should have no smell which was a revelation to me, compared to the odor of store bought chicken which I can hardly stand to prepare for my dog's raw meals anymore.
  7. blue lotus

    blue lotus In the Brooder

    Jul 27, 2011
    A couple of extra thoughts, to add to the great suggestions so far:

    1. Make sure hubby has a SHARP knife to do the deed. Mine uses a 4" blade which is razor sharp. A good knife sharpener does wonders.

    2. It sounds like the gall bladder may have been ruptured as well as the meat spoiling faster due to being left out.

    When dealing with the entrails, try putting your hand all the way INSIDE the bird (belly-side up for the bird works easiest), and pulling the innards out towards you. You are MUCH less likely to damage the gall bladder or intestines that way. It is also easier if you try to dislodge the membranes as much as possible from the neck and back end of the bird before you begin pulling. They won't ever just fall out, or else their guts would just get tied into knots! [​IMG]

    Personally, I don't worry about removing the lungs or kidneys, I leave them in the bird and dispose of them with the rest of the carcass once we are done with it.

    We also have a cooler with ice water in it to put the bird as soon as it is gutted and rinsed out well. We often let it sit overnight to a day, and then rinse well and freeze later.

    Here is a link that I read a bunch before we started processing our birds. It really helped with some of the details in the process, but be sure to real ALL the pages (I think there are 7 or 8?), it really helps:


    Good luck the next time!

  8. angie3881

    angie3881 Songster

    My kids and I butchered 10 meat birds this summer. Never again! Chicken is inexpensive and I am inexperienced. It was debotchery! (Or however that is spelled)
    funkychickenmom likes this.
  9. ChIcKeN_DiNnErS

    ChIcKeN_DiNnErS In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2011
    @ Tracydr: I thought that was the problem, I could taste the smell long after trashing the bird, I SHOULD have gone with my gut feeling on that one, but with a combination of stupid things I trudged on. Rediculous and a no brainer I know, believe me I kicked myself pretty good on that one for a while [​IMG] . I will definately have a cooler of ice water for the next go around! Thank you for your suggestions! [​IMG]

    @ Blue Lotus: Yes, we definately agreed that a sharper knife would have been much better. He started with one of his short knives and went about sharpening it for a bit, he had thought it would be sharp enough until we tried to use it. He then went and sharpened a butcher knife for the second roo, it was easier to cut a slit to bleed the bird, but not cutting through the tough neck afterwards. He says he's going to go buy a different knife for when we do two of the hens next, and sharpen the tar out of it [​IMG] Thank you for the website, I will be sure to read it all. Since I am completely new to this, and hubby had only seen it done when he was 10 (he went about it the way he thought he remembered it [​IMG] [​IMG] ) I will definately be taking more care with gutting and cleaning. Also I will never leave another bird on the counter again, I promise! [​IMG]

    When dealing with the entrails, try putting your hand all the way INSIDE the bird (belly-side up for the bird works easiest), and pulling the innards out towards you. You are MUCH less likely to damage the gall bladder or intestines that way. It is also easier if you try to dislodge the membranes as much as possible from the neck and back end of the bird before you begin pulling. They won't ever just fall out, or else their guts would just get tied into knots!

    I did this with the second roo, and it was much easier AND faster, with infinately less mess [​IMG] will be doing it this way from now on. I am not one to give up, and will keep trying (using all the new information that all of you kind people have given me and with what I've researched out myself) Thank you all so much! You have been a great help! I will be sure to ask more on BYC on things that I am unfamiliar with, this site has been a tremendous gift! [​IMG]
  10. blue lotus

    blue lotus In the Brooder

    Jul 27, 2011

    Oh, and investing in a goon long-handled fishing net is a really, really good thing. [​IMG]

    When you have to chase down chickens (or turkeys, ducks, or small goats for that matter) that have gotten out, it is an INVALUABLE tool to catching them!! Trust me. I am SOOOOOoooo thankful we picked one up!!! You can get one for about $20 - $30 at local sporting goods stores usually.

    I'm glad you aren't giving up. Our birds are the tastiest I have ever had, and my daughter actually refused to eat a store-bought bird recently because we didn't grow it ourselves [​IMG]

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by