Just how hard would it be to process birds without special equipment?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by chanceosunshine, Jul 23, 2019.

  1. chanceosunshine

    chanceosunshine Chirping

    Jul 15, 2019
    NW Ohio
    I'm considering just letting a rooster and a few hens raise our meat birds and only buying about ten meat chicks two or three times a year to supplement their output.
    So, in doing that we wouldn't have many birds to take to a processor at a time, so maybe it would be better to process them ourselves, but we have no equipment.
    Obviously a pot of water over a propane burner could work as a scalder, but would we be able to pluck them by hand efficiently?
    Is this a bad idea?
    Kris5902 and Brahma Chicken5000 like this.
  2. imnukensc

    imnukensc Crowing

    May 22, 2017
    SC Midlands
    Never had any special equipment to process chickens when I was a kid. They can be plucked by hand. The machines make the plucking job faster and more efficient, but they certainly aren't necessary.
  3. BantyChooks

    BantyChooks Pullarius

    Aug 1, 2015
    My Coop
    I generally use only a flat surface, a water source, and a small kitchen knife. You don't even need a knife, you can use scissors if they've got a tight enough joint. Or an utility knife.

    I'm not very good at plucking, so I skin the bird instead.
  4. ocap

    ocap Crowing

    Jan 1, 2013
    Smithville, Missouri
    I also skin the bird. All feathers come off with the skin. Very similar to rabbits, I never took the hair off a rabbit.
  5. Tycine1

    Tycine1 Crowing

    May 26, 2009
    David, Chiriquí, Panama
    I don't bother with plucking my chickens. I prefer to skin them, feathers and all; but I have plucked and found it wasn't a big deal really, but since I'm not going to eat the skin anyway, why bother with the work?
    I use a machete (read that as big, strong, SHARP knife) to dispatch the bird, it's the only thing that I use the machete for. I usually do this at dusk so that he's had a great day with the flock, eating, foraging, and if he's so inclined, getting petted and treats. I treat him (them) no differently on the day of butcher than I'd treat any of them on any other day... I don't want them to worry about what's coming later because of a change in their routine. Once in the kitchen, I remove the feathers, skin and all by starting with a small incision with a pair of sharp kitchen shears that just goes through the skin at the spot that's at the pointy end of the breast near the abdomen, but I don't cut into the meat or internal organs at this time. I only need about a one inch hole to get my fingers into, so that I can peel the skin off. Once the feathers and skin have been removed, I then carve the leg quarters off of the carcass, followed by the breast quarters. I leave the neck and back on the carcass as I'll be simmering that for stock and soup later. I then open the carcass (very easy to do now that there is very little meat left on it), remove the bits that I like (heart & liver), and the bits my animals like (lungs, testes, gizzard, and other tasty bits), and remove and discard the non-edible parts. With practice, this entire process takes about ten minutes per bird.
    Of note, I have a four-foot deep hole in the back yard to dump the offal, skin & feathers into; I cover the waste with the soft dirt that I took from the hole. The hole is ready to reuse in about one month. If you don't have such a hole, consider what day you plan to process your birds so that the garbage man comes to pick it up no later than the following day, otherwise the whole neighborhood will know you've been processing the birds soon enough. Burning this waste is not really an option as the feathers truly stink when burnt... imagine the smell of burnt hair... now imagine the number of feathers on each bird, and how many "hairs" make up each feather... ewwwww.
  6. Mosey2003

    Mosey2003 Crowing

    Apr 13, 2016
    NC IL
    You absolutely don't need special equipment, one very good (sharp) knife will do you.

    I have found the propane turkey fryer to be great for scalding water, it gets a pot to 145 degrees within, like, ten minutes. I just shut it off and turn it back on as the temp falls.

    I do seriously suggest a digital probe thermometer meant to be used in the oven (with a long wire to the display). I got one from Amazon for about $9 and I use that thing all the time, it's really great. It lets you set a temperature of your choice and it will sound an alarm when that temp is reached, as well as telling you the real-time temperature. Really good for cooking meat in the oven, steaks on the grill, water in the scalding pot, etc. I honestly use that thing at least three times a week.

    People have hand-plucked chickens for generations. I don't like doing it, but if I had to, I would again. Try to have somewhere you can hang them up by their legs and have the bird be about chest height, that helps. And have some water to dip your hands to get the feathers off.
  7. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    Hi there, hope you are enjoying BYC! :frow

    What a worthy goal. :thumbsup

    When I first started... we skinned the chicken due to all the horror stories I read about plucking stinking to high heaven or ripping the skin off type stuff. Eventually we wanted to be able to cook a bird with the skin on or at least quit wasting it in the trash... so I decided to try plucking. The one piece of equipment you need for plucking is a thermometer for your water temp. (at least the first couple times until learning what the water bubbles look like around 145-150F). Add some dish soap into the hot water to help minimize any smell. I was truly shocked at just how easy it was to pluck! After making sure to swirl the bird pull at the long wing feathers to check readiness. Easily removed, ready for plucking. Not very easy, dunk and swirl some more. Beyond that I just use a knife and cutting board. Oh, and a homemade cone from a vinegar (or bleach) jug for dispatching via the jugular. I have tied them up by their feet instead, but have more control with the cone. Some folks will use the broomstick method, wring the neck, or ax & stump I think are some of the more popular methods of dispatch in addition to the cone mentioned. I suggest watching some videos and seeing which MIGHT be the best for you to try.

    I never do large batches as it's just me processing, so usually 2-3 birds is my max in a single day.

    Raising heritage breeds... the skin really is not delicious, to me. I'm a bit of a texture freak. But my dogs love it. Come to find out, I'm not fond of the skin on younger birds either. Beekissed said she just left her offal for her animals to clean up. My dogs did enjoy the foot they got a hold of last time.

    I used to drain and put offal in a double bagged garbage. But started leaving it on another part of my property for scavengers. No point in wasting my energy to bury what one will come behind and dig up. I did bury it the first time I tried, it got dug up and left for my own animals to find which they did.

    I am slow (meticulous over thinker) and each bird takes me about half an hour - 45 minutes which is down from an hour and a half each when I first started.

    I kennel all the boys I will be processing after they go to roost or before the sun comes ups. I don't offer feed or water that morning. And I don't have to chase anyone. Having been overnight without adding stuff in is SUPPOSED to help make less mess... no full crop and almost empty intestines make for more room to get my hand inside the cavity.

    I did have a friend over helping do his birds when the plucker I bought suddenly stopped. The plucker never really gets it all anyways even if it is a tad faster, you still have to pluck some by hand. Never mind checking the GFI... I plucked my next birds by hand... it was almost easier than washing out the plucker. Surprisingly no big deal... as stated by another poster!

    One nice thing about doing as few birds as I am is that I can air chill them in my fridge instead of an ice chest. I was also shocked at just how much longer the chicken stays fresh in the fridge. Up to 14 days with NO nasty smell or sliminess like market chickens. Rest the meat before freezing.

    Also, you are correct... most folks willing to process for me were not willing to do less than 10 birds to be worth their time. But in addition to that, it was at their convenience... and sometimes there are accidents, attitude, or other reasons you may decide to process one sooner... then there ya go below 10 already.

    Lots of good support and advice here. Good luck! :fl
  8. chanceosunshine

    chanceosunshine Chirping

    Jul 15, 2019
    NW Ohio
    Wow! This is so encouraging! I never thought to skin them which would be great since more than half the family doesn't eat the skin. AND I can carve it up like David has suggested.
    I think my daughter-in-law has a turkey fryer that I can use to pluck a few whole birds too!
    I'm getting really excited about this! Thank you all so much. This is just great advice!
    We process our own deer each year and this can't be much worse than that except for the killing part since you know these animals.
    Do you all shrink wrap them?
    EggSighted4Life and BantyChooks like this.
  9. BantyChooks

    BantyChooks Pullarius

    Aug 1, 2015
    My Coop
    Nope. I put them in gallon bags. Or, if the bird is too big, I use two one-gallon bags taped together.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  10. chanceosunshine

    chanceosunshine Chirping

    Jul 15, 2019
    NW Ohio
    EggSighted, my mom likes chicken feet! lol Maybe she would want them! I wonder if those need processed a certain way??

    I feel much better about the thought of doing our own processing. My hubby will be the killer, I'm sure. I will have him read over this thread so he can decide which methods he'd like to use.

    ETA-I love the information I'm getting from BYC! So, yes, I am truly enjoying it here.
    Mosey2003 and EggSighted4Life like this.

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