Processed my first bird today

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by xC0000005, Dec 28, 2009.

  1. xC0000005

    xC0000005 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 1, 2009
    Kirkland, WA
    While technically I've done a bird before it has been at least ten years since I last butchered a chicken (and I could recall nothing of the process), so I consider it my first. Today was "moving out" day for a hen who hasn't layed in eight months. We have three young (four month old) bantams to replace her and she wasn't playing nice with them at all, not laying and bullying even the other (laying) bantams. So I read up.

    I read all the processing posts here and gathered my equipment. Got the knives, built a cone, got everything ready. Then it was time. I had a pot of water boiling on the stove, a trash can to put feathers in and the cone hung and ready to go.

    She didn't fight much once she was in the cone but I quickly learned she held still a lot better if I tied her legs up. I have a neighbor who just hangs them by the feet and does it but I tied up the feet and she held still (mostly).

    That said, all my reading and studying didn't do much when it was time. In the videos and pictures the cut on the neck is always clean and fast and it looks like the bird dies inside a minute. I made a bad cut.

    I regret to say that the chicken died a lot more painfully than I intended. The second cut got one of the blood vessels and it began to bleed extremely quickly into the bucket. The second cut also resulted in a gush of blood.

    I was not prepared (I'm not sure that's the right word - I wasn't really aware) for how much blood there is in a chicken. It bled for quite a while.

    It also flopped a lot. The container held it tight and it did not escape but it scared the living daylioghts out of me when I brushed a foot and it flapped. My daughter had volunteered to help but she screamed and ran off when I cut the throat and it started croaking while blood was running off.

    "I didn't know the chicken was actually going to wind up dead," she said. I have a lot of education to do with her.

    After five minutes the blood slowed and I pulled the head back and forth to make sure it hadn't clotted. This resulted in a fresh flow of blood. The body continued to breath this whole time, but at least the eyes were not moving or responding to the flashlight I had on hand to test. I found this somewhat comforting since I took it as a sign that the bird was in fact dead. A decade ago when I did this I used a hatchet and let the birds run around in the yard. That was a lot less creepy but this way resulted in a bird with a lot less blood in it.

    Scalding went as planned - the water had been turned off and was at 145. Took four dips for the leading wing feathers to come out cleanly. Plucking was not hard but I understand why people use pluckers. When I had her clean of feathers there were still hundreds of translucent "hairs" sticking out that I assume are proto-feathers or something.

    Butchering was not bad. Had trouble locating the first leg joint. Second one came clean. I split the gizzard and had to wash the bird, sadly. I'll know better next time. Removing the lungs and entrails was not difficult - I made a cut above the vent and widened it, then worked around the cavity until the whole insides came out. We did not save "vitlins" as my grandma would call it, as my wife said that if I did, she would not cook the bird. I cut the whole tail off because I couldn't find the oil gland. Since we're making chicken and noodles I could've just skinned her but I wanted to practice.

    The bird is now cooling in the fridge. Meat is clean, skin is (mostly) intact. The bird was really, really fat. Huge yellow fat ridges all over her and a mound of fat in the abdomen you'd need to see to believe. The mess is cleaned up, and in a few days we'll cook up chicken and noodles.

    That said next time will be easier. My lessons learned:
    1. Get a tight fitting cone.
    2. Get a sharper knife. I have some sharp ones but it would have gone better with a sharper one.
    3. Tie the legs.
    4. Cut right the first time, even if you take off the head. It's only proper to kill an animal in the least cruel method possible.
    5. The chicken stinks when you first dip it. The stench gets less as you get the feathers off.

    If you have been thinking about doing this (I have a couple more roos that will be going to freezer camp soon) you can do it. It took about an hour. I suspect a second chicken would run about thirty minutes because I know what (and how) to do it this time around.

    I have a few ideas for a simple plucker that I think I'm going to try out before parmesian (spare roo #1) is ready, and I'll know for sure how I want to pluck before fillet (Roo #2) is ready.
  2. The Chicken People

    The Chicken People Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 4, 2009
    Smithville, Mo
    After scalding the bird dunk it in cold water and you will get a cleaner plucking job! My DH said it works great! He dont like the chicken pluckers says it toughens the bird! LOL!
  3. Cindiloohoo

    Cindiloohoo Quiet as a Church Mouse

    Dec 19, 2009
    Southwest TN
    [​IMG] [​IMG] ....[​IMG] Just kidding! I dread the first chicken massacre, but understand it's necessity. Your post is just gross though...[​IMG]
  4. Ibicella

    Ibicella Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 13, 2009
    Everett, WA
    Hey, for a first time comrback, I don't think you did too bad. I've seen and read much worse, believe me!

    You brought up a good point for all the new folk here who are preparing for their firsts: Sharp tools are absolute key to a clean job. Never try to butcher any kind of meat without a good, sharp knife and good restaints for wildly flailing bodys. That is just asking for accidents and unnecessary cruelty for the animals (and your fingers).
  5. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    [​IMG] Good for you! Sounds like you did a great job for a first-time-in-a-long-time. Your detailed descriptions will be very helpful to other beginners, and it's smart to learn something from each session to make the next time go even better.

    What did you use for your cone? I have 3 different ones attatched to a repurposed metal porch swing frame. One is a cut-down traffic cone, one is a big cut-out bleach bottle, and the last one is a plastic plant pot twisted into a cone. The different sizes can accommodate different chickens. I too find it easier when the legs are tied together, with cord or a plastic zip-tie. I use a sharp fillet knife bought at WalMart's fishing dept, pull the bird's head through the cone to stretch the neck, bend it a bit to one side & slice just below the jawbone. I think the bird has fully "crossed the road" with that first gush of blood, but I'll cut the other side too just to get a good thorough bleed-out. I hold the head in place until it's stopped flapping just to keep the surrounding area cleaner.

    I cut the head off with shears before removing from the cone, and keep the legs tied so I can hang the scalded bird from a hook (also on the frame) for plucking. It helps to have 2 hands free to do the plucking faster. Those fine hairs can be burnt off over a candle flame before cooking. I don't think hand plucking is such a bad chore, especially if you're only doing a few birds at a time. But there are plans you can see/buy/copy here for plucker attatchments for your electric drill and also for larger tub-style pluckers.

    What I dislike most for plucking is lots of new pinfeathers growing out of a younger bird. I did 3 roosters today, the youngest was 17.5 weeks old & he looked like a porcupine under his feathers, bleah! I didn't realize he had all those new feathers coming in, I might have left him to grow a few more weeks more if I had known. I had to use a knife to scrape them out, there's still some left, I may have to skin him before cooking.
    [​IMG] Enjoy your well-earned meal from this chicken!
  6. xC0000005

    xC0000005 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 1, 2009
    Kirkland, WA
    Quote:I used a flower pot that was obviously not designed for flowers (way too small at the base - we took the plant out because it kept tipping). The head was great - just fit but the body bloomed too quickly and left room to flop. I'll make a sheet metal tight cone next time.

    Three things will make this go much smoother:
    1. Being prepared for the process (because I've done it sometime in the last decade now).
    2. A tight fit cone with a tie for the legs.
    3. A wickedly sharp knife.

    I intend to cut a wire coat hanger with my tin snips and make a chicken handle - basically cut it six inches down from the hook and twist the stubby "arms" around the chicken's legs. This should prevent them from struggling as much and I can hang them by the coat hanger hook from my yard swing while I pluck them. Also I can hold the hook to scald them.

    Should go better. I have a "hen" that turned out to be a "him", so I'll have a chance to try this out soon enough.
  7. kimbalaya

    kimbalaya Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 28, 2009
    Rogue Valley, S. Oregon
    We haven't got our chickens yet, and so far my husband and I are a bit at odds over what to do with them once they stop laying. He's more "farm-boy" oriented, where I'm more "family pet" oriented, so I want to keep them as pets until they die of natural causes! Either way, since we're vegetarian (lacto-ovo; we eat eggs, cheese, milk, etc), we don't need to butcher the birds ourselves, so if we do end up going the farm route, we'll probably be selling them to someone else to do their own butchering. After reading your experience butchering, that fact is set in stone! [​IMG]
  8. xC0000005

    xC0000005 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 1, 2009
    Kirkland, WA
    Quote:Well, to each their own. I personally didn't find today a negative experience, despite my mistakes. Just an opportunity for me to learn and to warn others "Don't be like me. Don't make the same mistakes. Make new and better ones!" At least you have thought about the answer to "what happens when..." I see too many people who don't think about that, and a lot of animals that bear the consequences.
  9. magentamomma

    magentamomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 26, 2009
    We didn't use a cone we put 2 nails in a V formation in a log and tied their legs. Then my husband or I cuts the head off with a very sharp machete. Only once was a bird strong enough to flap out of my hands and flop around the yard, and I think that was only cause it was my first time as holder. Then we hang them up to bleed out. I am thinking of cutting the throat next time, buut I have a fear that they can still feel as long as their hearts are beating. Does anyone know if that is true?
  10. ultasol

    ultasol Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 30, 2009
    SE Washington
    You can also use cervical dislocation followed by cutting the neck. I've done both cervical dislocation followed by bleed out, and cutting the jugular. The key on getting a good cut is not only a sharp knife, but a firm touch and used under the jaw on either side of the neck.

    I have never used the kill method involving the knife in the mouth (it has a specific name I can't remember right now) but that is supposed to be a quick way to dispatch a bird that also loosens the feathers.

    To the vegetarian that posted-a good friend of mine who is a vegetarian came over to watch me process some birds. It was so quick and without suffering that she actually did one herself which was NOT the reaction i expected. Guess who is doing meat birds this upcoming year? The former veggie... still no mass ag meat for her though, only small farm grown.

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