Home Butchering Chickens and Ducks Humanely for Food with Images

Butchering chickens and ducks is easy once you know how. Slaughtering chickens and ducks has to be done humanely and easily, both for yourself and for the poultry involved. Our step-by-step guide written by Gypsy, our resident homestead blogger on killing chickens humanely.
Next year I will be home butchering no less than 200 ducks alone, not counting slaughtering chickens, guinea fowl - which are great for getting rid of Japanese beetles by the way - turkeys and geese. I suspect I will disappear again for a few months.

I was talking to a few friends about butchering chickens and dressing chickens and it was surprising that so many people that live on the farm, really don't know how to do this, or do it with ease. It’s not rocket science but it can be a painstaking ordeal if you don't know how to do it right.

Butchering and Plucking Chickens

I thought I would share some of the ways I get the job done in butchering chickens. Everyone has their own way. Some use a chicken plucker. I don't care for these as they leave the long "hairs" on the bird that still need to be singed off.

It takes no more time for me to pluck a chicken as it does the plucker and I think I can do a better, cleaner job. Some people prefer to take their birds to a USDA inspected plant where they come out all pretty and wrapped for the freezer. I again, do not care for this. I don't like the way they end up butchering chickens, and I don't like my meat soaked in its own excrement, and bleach.

Again, I think I can do a much more humane and healthy, clean job. I have friends that will not help me butcher because I’m so picky, my methods may not be for you.

Slaughtering Chickens: Fryers

When slaughtering chickens, especially a young fryer, you can simply step on the head and pull the hind legs. The head is very easily removed and killing chickens this way happens so fast the bird feels nothing. Just don't mess around with it. Pull up fast.

Plucking Chickens

From there I put the body in a pot of hot, almost boiling water for the count of 10 (slow count) while moving it up and down so the water gets to the skin. When the  water is this hot, if you leave the bird in too long you will start to cook it. You don't want to do that.

scalding a chiken at home butchering

  Scalding the Chicken before Plucking

Start with the wing feathers, as once they cool you won't get them out. From there move to the tail and neck, then complete the bird. This should take under 2 minutes once you get the hang of it. I can do most in around 1 minute. The feathers just slip off.

removing the head of the chicken during home butchering   Butchering the head of the chicken

From here I take the bird over to the water and rinse it off. I have a small table by an outdoor faucet so I can clean the gizzards while I remove the organs I wish to keep. Place these aside in a clean container and get them into the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible.

Do this before continuing to butcher the bird. Once gutted, you can remove the legs. If you save the legs, make sure you get them in the hot water as well. This will skin them so you just have to clip off the nails and bag.

Butchering the legs of the chicken

    Butchering the legs of the chicken

evisceration of chicken during home butchering

Evisceration of Chicken-Looking for the Intestines


removal of chickens intestines during home butchering

  Removing the Chicken's Intestines

Slaughtering Chickens that are Older Birds

When killing chickens that are older I take a small paring knife and insert it into the bird's mouth up into the brain. This keeps it from flipping out and getting blood all over the place like they do when the head is removed. The bird is dead, however like all reptiles, will appear alive for some time.

Slaughter a few chickens this way and go have a cup of coffee so you don't have to watch the reflexes. It bothers me, even though I know they are dead, I don't like it. So, I go have coffee and come back. When you come back, slit the throat to drain the blood. The bird may still flip out a little, but nothing like they would have otherwise and the kill is instant when the brain dies. Unlike having to bleed to death. 

Butchering Ducks

Butchering ducks are another matter. Trying to get anything into their mouths could find you with a black eye from the wings and them with broken wings from you trying to hold them. I sit down and hold the duck until its quiet, then I place them between my legs where the wings are held tightly and the bird feels calm. You don't want to excite them. It’s not good for the meat to have all that adrenaline going, and its bad karma.

Once the bird is secure, and calm, I use a very sharp knife and slit the throat, then bend the head backwards so that the neck is broken long before the bird bleeds to death. In this way I can assure a fast death, and as close to a painless one as possible. After the neck is broken the head can be removed.

If you have guardian dogs I suggest you do all this out of sight of the dogs. You could either upset them greatly, or be giving them permission to do what you are doing. Either way, don't let your flock dogs watch. I also do this out of sight of other birds waiting to be slaughtered. Again, I just don't want the karma. I don't know if they understand or not, but if it was me, I would not want to watch.

Butchering Chickens With Respect

To me, death is a spiritual thing. Everything in life must die. Everything in life, must take life in some form to live. Life begets life. We can't get around it. What we can do is respect that life. Take care of what takes care of us. Treat your food like it will soon become part of you, it will.

Every year around harvest season I, along with everyone I know disappears like a hen sitting on eggs, nowhere to be found until the job is done. As most of you know, I live almost totally from what the farm produces. I also harvest, feed and care for the farm alone. This means a lot of work. It’s worth it. I would never live any other way. It does, however, explain my occasional disappearances.

This year I put up two 30 gallon trash bags of sumac. I use this as tea, and as about 1/2 my "flour" in cooking etc. It is more a staple in this house then is wheat flour. I put up about 3 bags of Elderberries, I just love Elderberries. The list goes on!

By Gypsy, our resident homestead blogger from One Sky Ranch Gypsy's Wanderings Homestead Blog


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