A local farm had a seminar last week on how to process backyard chickens. It was $25 a head, so I took the Missus for an afternoon of fun and frivolity. Gotta hand it to her for being such a good sport.
I’ve killed chickens before (once with an axe, once with a machete) but I’ve never processed a chicken for consumption from start to finish. You can watch videos on Youtube, but just like riding a bike… it’s something you need to actually do yourself to really learn it.
And I figured learning how to process a backyard chicken under the supervision of somebody who already knows how to do it — especially when I’m not hungry– is a far better plan.
The farm had seven or eight young roosters that they wanted to dispatch. I was surprised by how docile the roosters were. Even our hens aren’t really happy about being picked up. Supposedly, they get more docile with age. We’ll see.
Anyway– I was the first up. The instructor handed me a rooster. He had a “killing cone” (Google it) already attached to a wall with a bucket underneath for the blood to drain. In a nutshell: You put the chicken head-first into the cone and then pull his head out the other side. Then you stretch his neck and use your knife to slice the jugular (hot dang, those Mora knives worked great! I’ll do another post on those for sure, as I’ll be ordering more myself).
It’s a very humane process and much, much less stress than using an axe (for both me and the bird!)
After the blood has mostly drained out of the corpse, you cut the head off.
I was worried my wife would be squeamish. But when you’ve got a half dozen people standing around all doing the same thing, it makes the entire experience seem like not such a big deal.
Then we put our chickens on a table waited for the rest to finish.
The next step was dunking your bird in a pot of almost-boiling hot water. You hold the carcass under the water (with a big pair of tongs or a fork) for a minute or two. Then we took the chicken over to another bucket and pulled the feathers off. (Tip: Wear latex gloves!)
I was surprised how easy the feathers came off. It took probably 10 minutes, but some of the others had more trouble. I think it has to do with how long you keep the chicken under the scalding hot water: It needs to be long enough to loosen up the feathers but not so long that it cooks the chicken.
The difficult part was butchering the chicken. Fortunately, those Mora knives we had did a tremendous job. I wouldn’t want to butcher a chicken with a dull knife. A sharp knife makes all the difference.
Still, not being a chef or having experience butchering a chicken before, it was difficult to know where to cut and where not to cute (the bile sack!).
But we did it. We got the chickens butchered. Afterward, you rinse the chicken off under a hose.
I have no idea how people don’t get salmonella? But apparently, they don’t. Wash your birds and area, well!