Pithing meaties--what went wrong? (Graphic description of butchering)

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Sunny Side Up, Sep 14, 2008.

  1. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    I processed my 2 Cornish Xs today, and tried dispatching them by pithing -- you know, by sticking a sharp knife up into the roof of the mouth, poking in & twisting.

    At first I thought I was quite successful, the bird barely struggled, then went limp & quiet. My processing pal & I were impressed, no flapping or flopping, no blood spattering all over. Next I cut the jugular veins for the bird to bleed out.

    But then we noticed its belly still moving, as if it were breathing. And then it started moving its head & flapping its wings! Igor, it's alive!!! I stuck it again in the roof of the mouth, twisted the knife, cut again the veins in the neck.

    I tried to do better with the next one, tried to stick the knife deep & twist. But this one also continued to keep its eyes open, and flap & flip. It was so heavy & moved around so much it fell off the hook on which it was hanging (suspended on a porch swing frame) and into the garbage can below. I waited until it finally became still, and when I pulled it out it looked awful, its white feathers now all red.

    Everything else went well, scalding, plucking, & gutting. This is the first time I've tried Cornish Xs, they sure look good, can't wait to compare them for taste.

    But what did I do wrong with the pithing? At first I was thrilled with the ease & lack of drama it seemed to involve. Did I not stick the knife far enough into the head? I know I tend to "chicken out" when doing the Actual Deed, and have trouble being firm when I really need to be. I don't lower the axe hard enough when chopping, so I thought this would be a better method for me & for the birds. I did twist the knife after inserting it in, but never got that sound from the bird that indicates success that I've read about. Maybe I didn't have the correct angle, and was poking them in the back of the throat instead of up in the brain? They weren't hard to pluck, but we had good hot water for scalding.

    Would it be better to put them in a cone first? When they're in the cone can you dispatch them simply by cutting their jugular veins, without pithing? We also wanted to get our birds to bleed out more than they've been doing, would that be a better method for us?
  2. Acre of Blessings

    Acre of Blessings Canning/Sewing Addict

    Apr 3, 2008
    Axton, VA
    I can;t help you with your question but, I hope someone gives you an answer so I'll know. I am ordering 100 broilers tomorrow and processing day will be mid November.

    If someone can help Sunny-side-up, please do.
  3. ChickenToes

    ChickenToes Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2008
    NE Wisconsin
    Pithing is just not a recommended way to kill birds. I've never heard of anyone doing it before.

    The best way is to either cut the head off or cut the throat. If you cut the jugular for the bird to bleed out anyway, you may as well just cut the throat to kill the bird as well. And yes, they will flap and run around. Use a cone or do as we do - stick the birds down a length of stovepipe to keep them from running around.

    Sorry you had a hard time - we butchered 2 roos today and everything went really well.
  4. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

  5. miss_jayne

    miss_jayne Lady_Jayne

    Jun 26, 2008
    Columbiaville, MI
    i did the pithing on mine and it worked awesome. it must be that it has to be done 'just right'.

    here's to better processing next time!
  6. emilyfrancis

    emilyfrancis Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 26, 2008
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    does anyone have pictures of their cone set-up?
    I'd love to see what you're using.
  7. pdpatch

    pdpatch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 5, 2008
    Hastings, Nebraska

    both the large and extra large ones are home made. I use a sheet metal cone layout program I found, to create the layouts for them. The large one is the correct demisions and works for most standard size chickens. I have a slip roll which i used to form the curvered sides, and pop riveted it together. The metal is some aluminum sheet I had laying around.

    The large one is not correct it's only 11 inches tall and should have been about 20 inches tall.

    The first few we did, we tried cutting cut the throat I just could not get the correct angle to do it correctly. So we ended up using a meat clever to remove the heads while in the cone.

    That is what the two 2x4 's are for at the bottom of the cones.

    We finally ended up using a pair of sharpened tree loppers to remove the heads. It has the advantage of being very quick and the cone keep the birds from spraying blood all over the place.

    Since we did the butchering in my shop I had to make a stand to mount the cones to. I made it large enough for two cones with extra room. When I made the stand I made it overly large so that is could be adapted to what every way we ended up using.

    The large one standard chickens will fit correctly. A cornish x did not fit the large cone very well. We used the X-large oe but it was the wrong demensions.

    for the large cone the top opening is about 11 inches. height is 11 inches and the small is 3 1/2.

    the x large should have been
    top 20 inches, side 21 inches tall, and bottom opening 4 inches.

    As far as the stand if I made another I would cover it with something metal or plastic. Since the blood did get on the wood and that will cause problems with bacteria even though I clean the stand with warm soap and water and treat with bleach.

    We have finished all the broilers for this year, and have just 6 turkeys to go

    Last edited: Sep 15, 2008
  8. Acre of Blessings

    Acre of Blessings Canning/Sewing Addict

    Apr 3, 2008
    Axton, VA
    pdpatch~~That's neat. You gave me the frame idea and I have vynal siding pieces I could cover it with to make cleaning easier. Gotta get it on paper now. Thanks again.
  9. Opa

    Opa Opa-wan Chickenobi

    May 11, 2008
    Howell Michigan
    Quote:I'm surprised that you haven't heard of pithing being used. It's also called "debraining" and is an effective humane way to dispatch a bird. After you insert a long narrow knife (I prefer an icepick) through the mouth into the back of the head it's basically over without alot of flapping. You then cut the jugular vein to bleed them. The skin will be relaxed and you can drypluck without the stink of scalding.
  10. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    Quote:That's the post I read which gave me the idea to do this. I had the impression that it would cause the birds to die instantly & hang limply. That's why I was surprised when they began to flip & flap a few minutes after pithing.

    I'm going to add to that other post now, to get more info. I won't have any more birds to butcher until Dec or Jan, so I have time to learn more and prepare better.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by