first butchering - sharpening knives and where to cut (helpful links!)

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by junglebird, Jul 22, 2011.

  1. junglebird

    junglebird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 29, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Butchered my first 3 cockerels last weekend. Went well, except my knives weren't nearly sharp enough. I felt bad because I don't think they bled out as fast as they should have - blood kinda dribbled, rather than spurting, and took about 2 minutes. [​IMG]:(

    I tried sharpening my knives with a stone, according to videos I watched on youtube. They felt really sharp when I tried them out on banana skins and lemons, but I had a hard time cutting through the neck deep enough to get a dramatic flow of blood to minimize suffering. Then, when I was cutting them open to clean them out, it was hard to cut through the skin. The birds were heritage breeds, 16 weeks old. Oh, and they were moulting. [​IMG]

    I tried a cheap knife and an old knife with good steel that were sharpened on a stone and honed with a honing steel, as well as my kitchen paring knife which is a chef quality knife sharpened with a sharpening gadget.

    Since I ended up using a disposable scalpel, and still had trouble with that, I'm also wondering if the problem has more to do with technique. How hard to you press the knife into the neck? Is there a sure way to slice into the artery, instead of just cutting the neck? I sliced at a 45 degree angle to the throat, just below the wattles. Is there some better way to grasp, angle to cut, etc, to be sure to get that vein? I've watched a bunch of videos, but haven't really heard anyone talking about that in particular.

    I'm butchering 5 more on Sunday, and hope to have this worked out, to provide the best deaths possible.

    Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  2. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

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    Mid-MI
    My best "way" is to almost scruff the chicken - grasp it gently by the feathers at the back of the head/neck, and tighten the skin against the throat - not enough to choke them and scare them, but gently. You need the skin to be taut so you're cutting through it, not dragging it across. I cut perpendicular, not at an angle. I prefer to hold the head with my left hand and the knife/scalpel with my right, and I place the blade on the skin, just behind the jawbone. When the bird is calm and I'm ready, I just smoothly pull the head to me and to the right, and press the blade down and to the left, so it makes a good, quick, clean slice. I can then let go and let it bleed out.

    Here's a picture of the "grip":

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  3. RareBreedFancier

    RareBreedFancier Surrounded by Broodies

    Nov 5, 2010
    Australia :)
    Well I've only possessed one roo so far but I used a axman's pocket stone which is round and curved on the edges, fine on one side and super fine on the other. I bought it for sharpening my scythe and it works great sharpening everything so far. I used a filleting knife and had no issues cutting skin or through joints except when I was in the wrong spot.

    booker81 Thank you! I used a hatchet because I wasn't confident I knew where to cut, your pic solved that problem. [​IMG]
     
  4. oaklandmama

    oaklandmama Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 20, 2011
    Oakland, CA
    I can't give advice on cutting technique since I'm totally new at chicken keeping, but I've worked in restaurants, and the sharpest blade you can get is to do it by hand and then finish it on a leather strap. Those gadgets just make you lose metal and shorten the life of the knife, and the honing steels are ok, but it is very hard to get the perfect angle all the way down. What you want is to straighten the near microscopic bits of metal on the edge and make it straight all the way through, if that makes sense. Doing it on a leather belt is the best (after you meticulously sharpen it on a good stone, of course). [​IMG]
     
  5. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

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    Apr 18, 2010
    Mid-MI
  6. Saltysteele

    Saltysteele Chillin' With My Peeps

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    you don't need to sharpen your knife every time. even freshly sharpened knives do not feel their sharpest, either. you need to use your steel to roll your edge straight again (even after a sharpening, the edge will be leaning to one side).

    if you're new to steels, place the far end on a counter top or table. using firm pressure, run your blade from base to tip like you're slicing a piece off the steel 5 times one way, 5 times the other. then 4 times the first way, 4 times the second way. then 3 times the first way..... after you're down to one slice, repeat single slices on each side for a couple times.

    after you've been doing this for a while, you can feel the edge as you run your knife across your steel, and where you need to pay special attention to.

    we process 2-3 beef a week, and don't sharpen our knives very often at all. maybe every 1-1/2 months? using your steel will make it feel sharper and cut better.

    be careful, though, keep your fingers of the hand holding the steel behind the guard/handle at all times
     
  7. Abirdbrain

    Abirdbrain Chillin' With My Peeps

    If using a leg hangup or Kill cone, it is much the same thing. I will grab the head and beak, and J the head into a tight curve placing my thumb of that hand lower on the neck below the curve. This tightens everything up on the outside. A smooth stroke and the cut is done just behind the jaw, and the blood runs freely but does not really spurt. The bleedout is about 2 minutes, so I think you did mostly right. They are unconscious after only a few seconds, long before the blood stops.

    I do not like the ax method, as it sometimes fails to cleanly cut, and excitement to get things done make for careless chops, with fingers around, a bird flopping in dirt and, other problems. A freind of mine used to behead them hanging, with tree lopers. Snip, and headless....

    Not pretty, but necessary. Make it quick.
     
  8. oaklandmama

    oaklandmama Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 20, 2011
    Oakland, CA
    Totally agree that you don't have to sharpen your knife constantly. I obviously like leather, but also second the recommendation to watch your fingers when you use a honeing steel! I worked in an expensive restaurant and had my knives in use for 12+ hours a day, and I sharpened every other day, and that was because I was doing really intricate things.

    edit: I just looked at your blog, really helpful! We were just worried that we'd have to cull a rooster (we're not allowed to have them), but he turned out to be a she. [​IMG] I'll remember your post when it comes time though--great pictures.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  9. junglebird

    junglebird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 29, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    WOW! Thanks so much for all the really helpful and expert knowledge, folks!

    Booker81 - your blog post should be stickied here on BYC, what a thorough and thoughtful set of well illustrated instructions. Thank you so much! I get what you are saying about "scruffing" and can visualize how that will help me.

    Saltysteele - thanks for the clear description of honing ... I definitely hadn't gotten that part right.

    Abirdbrain - thanks, that makes me feel better. [​IMG] I thought I had heard that bleed out could be as fast as 40 seconds, but maybe I didn't understand.

    oaklandmama and RareBreedFancier - thanks for the suggestions of the leather strap and axeman's pocket stone, I'll look into those, too

    Even though I feel like I didn't do a very good job slicing my birds, they did remain calm through the whole thing, just twitching on the final death throes. I think it's due in part to the fact that I sewed their kill cones out of blue tarp, so they were hanging upside-down and also being swaddled by the pliable material.
     
  10. Abirdbrain

    Abirdbrain Chillin' With My Peeps

    I made several sizes of cones from furnace duct parts, really easy to do with a duct bending plate. Easy to wash and dry, and put up til next time. In my youth, long ago, Gramma used part of a gunny sack to drop the birds neck into, and tied the legs, and bunched end together. Hanging from the pole of the wash line she would first Pith the bird and then make the bleed cut, the bird was always very quiet. Very seldom did she miss and have a 'pole flyer'. Without the wing restraint , things can get unhandy, as Grampa did things rough and direct, sometimes having a headless bird running the yard. Icck!. I knew Gramma loved all the world, and was gentle about her business. I follow suit.
     

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