Processed my first chicken

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Agricola, Jan 5, 2010.

  1. Agricola

    Agricola Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 24, 2009
    South Jersey
    Last week I processed a chicken for the first time! I have (had) six RIR roosters who are all for meat. I did the first one last week and it was pretty much a disaster. I did end up with a pretty tasty bird, so all's well that ends well, but it was quite an ordeal to get this thing on the table. I thought I would I post my experience here, and see if anyone can give me some pointers to make it go smoother the next time (probably tomorrow).

    From start to finish it took me about three hours. No joke. The plucking alone took close to an hour. Anyway, my plan was to break the neck then hang it upside down and cut the throat to let it bleed out. Well, I followed the instructions in Story's guide, but the neck just would not break. I wanted to get is suffering over with so I laid his neck on the table and tried to cut his jugular. I made the cut and held him over my bucket, but I could tell he was not bleeding out properly. While I was thinking of what to do next, he suddenly fluttered like mad and hopped out of my grasp and ran off into the yard with his half broken, bleeding neck. He didn't get far though. I grabbed him by the legs and brought back to the table and made another cut. This time the blood poured out. I really wanted to kill it quickly so I felt bad for it. After bleeding out for a couple minutes I could see that he was finally dead.

    Since I was plucking right after killing him, I didn't dunk him in scolding water. I had no problem getting the body feathers out, but the wings were almost impossible. I don't even know how long I struggled with the wings. I cut the head off, then it was tune to separate the crop and wind pipe from the neck. I cut the skin away, but I did not see any wind pipe or crop, just a neck. I may have accidentally cut the wind pipe (and crop) when I was trying to kill the rooster. So I just cut the neck off. I tired to loosen the guts then from the front, but I didn't feel much.

    Then I went cut out the vent and draw the guts. I looked at three different tutorials, but none of the pictures looked like exactly what I saw in front of me, so I was still unsure of what I was supposed to be cutting. I took my time with it, and I believe I eventually made the proper cut, but the guts were not coming out at all. Eventually I realized that I did not cut the neck off far enough back, so when I tried to loosen all the guts from the front, I basically didn't do anything. I then slowly worked the guts out from the front and the back and eventually got them all out. I ripped open the liver itself, but thankfully not the bile duct. Finally I washed it up and put it in the fridge.

    After I cut the neck off, it still seemed to be bleeding a bit from the top. Does that mean I did not bleed it out properly?

    As I said, it cooked up pretty well. The breast meat was very good, but I am not sure it was cooked quite the whole way through. The thighs seemed a bit bloody. Again, does that mean I did not bleed it out enough? Also the cavity looked pretty red, and like there was traces of guts in there. Do you think it was just not cleaned well enough? All I did to clean the cavity was run some warm water down it, and lightly scrub it with my rubber gloved hands.

    Thanks in advance for any advice and pointers!
  2. CamillaRules

    CamillaRules Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 29, 2009
    I think I'll process mine someday in saran wrap....done by someone else. I just don't have the guts to do it myself. [​IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2010
  3. phoenixmama

    phoenixmama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 12, 2009
    Gilbert, Arizona
    This is the kind of thing that just gets easier and easier every time you do it. My first bird took me a long time too. Don't feel bad about it. You gotta learn somehow!

    Putting the bird in scalding water would have helped tremendously with getting the feathers out. For me, even after scalding sometimes the feathers are too hard to pull out. Although, my hands aren't very strong from nerve damage due to surgeries and radiation.

    As for the gutting part, you really have to get your hand in there and pull everything away from the sides of the body cavity. There is a lot of connective tissue that holds everything in place, so even if making the perfect cut everything isn't going to just come out. It's easy to miss pieces of lung, so you that could be what you saw inside the bird after you were finished.

    It's possible you didn't cook the bird long enough, or it could've been an inadequate bleed out.

    Again, it'll get easier every time...and you will feel like the finished product looks better every time.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2010
  4. wohneli

    wohneli Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 6, 2008
    I've had some blood stay in the few birds I processed even though I let them bleed-out for nearyl 30 minutes. Your bird may have tensed a muscle when you offed it and trapped some blood or something like that.
    I suggest the scalding water to get the feathers off - much easier!
    Good luck next time.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    The first one is the hard one. The next ones will get easier.

    I use an ax and chipping block. For you, I'd suggest searching for a thread on here that shows a killing cone. I haven't done it but I wonder if an empty bleach bottle or maybe a gallon milk jug will work for the cone, just cut the bottom off and open it up around the top. You basically hang the chicken in it with the head coming out of the bottom of the cone and slice the neck with a sharp knife. He will bleed out sufficiently that way. The blody color was not because he was not bled out enough. It was much more likely that you did not cook him enough as you mentioned. I'm not directing this specifically at you, but I have seen some posts on here where some forum members think our birds are safer than the commercial birds. In my opinion, that is not true. Our chickens can have the same bacteria that the commercial birds have. They do need to be washed and cooked thoroughly. I believe 160 degrees is the recommendation.

    I strongly recommend the scalding water before plucking. I dunk them in water about 160 degrees F until the wing feathers come out easily. Then they are ready. If you scald them, once you get the hang of it, plucking is easy. My problem with scalding them is to get enough water hot enough.

    I don't work at the neck end to gut them. I take the wings, legs, and thighs off first. Then I cut around the vent carefully. Most of the time I can get the guts out through the cut on the vent area, but to get the rest out (the gizzard, liver, heart) I cut along both sides between the breast and back, starting from the back. This allows me to open the bird up to get the insides out. The craw usually comes out when I am pulling the other internals out. The lungs are those bright red things up in the chest cavity. They can be a bit difficult sometimes but they do need to come out.

    There are a lot of different ways to do this but at least you may get a clue about how I do it. Good luck.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  6. Andi

    Andi Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm fairly new to killing chickens also, so I understand where you're coming from.

    What I did was make my own killing cone. I'm too cheap to buy one. I'm so glad I had it. The birds didn't put up much of a fuss being put in them. Once they were in I just grabbed their head and slit their jugular. The first attempt didn't work so well. By the 3rd bird I got better at it. I think the problem I had was I didn't want to hurt him, which is kinda silly seeing I was killing him. The cone will prevent the bird from running off as well as breaking a wing during the thrashing around that happens when the nerves kick in. All the blood neatly drains into a bucket and you'll know you're done draining when no more blood seems to be coming out.

    I also was unsure at cutting him up and getting the guts out. I also watched the tutorials and things didn't quite look the same. I can say that experience helps. One thing the tutorials can't teach is the way it feels. Its hard to say about the cavity being cleaned out without seeing it.

    About the bloody thighs after cooking. You probably should have cooked it longer. If you were seeing red the blood hadn't cooked that was in the flesh. There will always be some blood that will remain after you are done draining.

    As far as the feather plucking goes, doing the water between 140° and 150° will really make a difference. (I bought a dial candy thermometer.) Using liquid dish soap (I used Dawn) in the hot water is the trick. It will work so much easier. I found out how much of a difference it made when I had forgotten it on my 4th or 5th time. I was wondering what I screwed up on and realized I forgot the dish soap. If you do the scalding water, be sure to soak it in ice water for a good while. It will help reduce the skin tearing when you start plucking.

    I don't know if I answered your questions, but that's what I learned this last Summer.
  7. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    I think the first one is always the hardest. DH and I did three about a month ago (our first). I did write up a detailed account and it shouldn't be too far back in my posting history if you're interested in reading it. I let DH do the cutting. Our plan was to slice across the jugular but we were having trouble figuring out exactly where that cut should be so we ended up doing the cut where you go through the neck and get both major arteries at once. They bled out really quickly doing that and did not appear to suffer much, if at all. Like a PP, I made my own killing cone, using an old (largest size) vinegar bottle. I just enlarged the neck a little to accommodate the head, and cut the base off entirely to put the bird in. We screwed this into our fence so that the bird was supported and our hands were free. When I picked up the birds, I put a pillowcase over their heads to calm them while carrying them to the "cone". They all seemed very relaxed.

    As for plucking, although we were plucking immediately after killing, we did dunk because my understanding is that the dunking is what makes the plucking easier - loosens the feathers or something. It is important to be at the correct temperature. Too cool and the water won't loosen the feathers; too warm and it will start to cook the skin. We had the water at the right temp and then dunked 5-6 times, leaving them in the water for 10 seconds or so at a time. The feathers came out in handfuls once they were dunked enough. Between the two of us, it took just two hours to do three birds from start to finish (i.e. from going outside to catch the birds, to work area cleaned up).
  8. Andi

    Andi Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:From my experience a gallon jug wouldn't be big enough. The chicken would fall out once the nerves started in.

    I got plastic sheets of cross stitch stuff. I'm not sure what its actually called. Its sold in craft shops for a little over a dollar. I used lots of zip strips to form it into a cone shape and nailed it to a tree stump in more than one spot (in case the plastic tore - and it did give in a few spots of great strain on the biggest bird I did). Had I been thinking I should have dunked the cone in the hot soapy water before hosing.

    Oh, I also tied the feet together and looped the rope around a nail so the feet couldn't claw at the cone.
  9. jaku

    jaku Chillin' With My Peeps

    Haha, it will get easier! The first ones we did took forever too. Get a cone, or at least secure the bird so he can't move around. If you aren't comfortable with your throat cutting skills, just chop the head off. The scalding water is crucial- you won't have an easy time plucking without it. The crop isn't in the neck. It's off to the side between the skin and the meat, on the breast. As for the guts, I make a small cut above the vent and rip it open large enough to fit my hand in, then just grab a pile and pull. If there's still blood dripping at the end, it didn't get a good bleed out. Blood around the joints and in the veins of the skin also indicate this. The "guts" left in the cavity were probably parts of lungs. They are easy to leave pieces of. Get a tomato huller for $2, it works great for removing lungs.
  10. dichotomymom

    dichotomymom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 19, 2008
    Dayton Indiana
    Our first cull was our rooster and it was difficult (even though I'd helped on our farm as a kid). By the time we were ready to do the hens, I was ok and prepared. We had two pots of scalding water going at all times, we used long handled clippers to just cut the whole head off at one time and immediately put them in the cone. We scald them for a minute, pluck ,then dunk in ice water. Cutting them up in the right places and avoiding entrails has been my biggest challenge.....

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