Butchering chickens is something some people can do and other people prefer not to do. This is something you have to decide for yourself. In general, butchering chickens can be done humanely and with speed. The trick is to have everything you need right at hand.
For most people who raise chickens at home, butchering is a necessity. It is one of the best ways to keep the male chicken population down, while providing meat for the family. Once your hens reach a certain age, they will no longer produce eggs as they once did. These, too, can be butchered for meat.
The best way to learn about butchering chickens is to have someone who knows the art teach you. If you cannot find such a person, go online and study any of the many tutorials that are available on the subject. Most have pictures, so be prepared for that.
When you are ready to butcher your chicken, consider starving the bird the day prior. This will help to clean out the insides of the bird and make your work less messy.
You will need to have a cold place to put the meat as you cut it. A refrigerator is best, but an ice chest will work as well. Do not allow your fresh meat to sit out as this can lead to contamination and spoilage.
The complete process of butchering chickens includes: killing, scalding the bird, plucking the feathers, and gutting.
The main ways to kill the bird is beheading or twisting the neck. Both work and it is usually a matter of personal preference as to which is chosen.
Scalding the bird can be done in a large pot of boiling water. This can be done outsider or inside. You will normally want a pot that can hold at least several gallons of water, plus the bird. Scalding only takes a few minutes. Do not cook the bird by leaving it in the water too long.
Plucking the feathers is the next step and this can be done the old fashion way or you can purchase a machine to do it for you. If you plan to dress a lot of birds over the year, the cost of the machine might be a good investment. If you only plan to butcher a few birds, doing it by hand is not as hard as it might seem.
As you pluck the feathers, make sure the flesh is left clean and smooth. For tiny bits that do not come out by hand, use a pair of pliers or tweezers.
Once the bird is free of its feathers, it is time to eviscerate it. This means getting the entrails out without damaging them which can lead to contaminated meat.
The best way to learn these techniques is to follow an illustrated tutorial. None of the steps are overly complicated, but there are several cuts that have to be made in order to get the most meat from the bird.
The importance of using sharp knives and shears cannot be discounted. A dull blade is one of the best ways to ruin the meat and to cut yourself as well. Keep your blades clean and sharp as you work and your job will be completed much easier and with a lot less mess.
After you finish your work, it is vital that you clean your work area and tools with hot, soapy water. This means cleaning your cutting board as well. The risk of Salmonella is greater when working with poultry than with just about any other type of meat. Do not put your family at risk. Wash your tools carefully and thoroughly.