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How to Butcher a Chicken, Part 3 - Final Cleaning Process, Packaging

Joy has helped raise and butcher poultry for 20 years, including chickens, ducks, geese, guineas & turkeys. The journey has been delightful!

A Beautiful Way to Serve Home-Raised Chickens for Dinner

Simple garnishes make your carefully raised and prepared birds that much more appetizing. Try your favorite fruits, spices and herbs for your own presentation twist.

Simple garnishes make your carefully raised and prepared birds that much more appetizing. Try your favorite fruits, spices and herbs for your own presentation twist.

In Case You Missed the First 2 Parts

This is the third article of three showing how to butcher chickens.

The first article dealt with preparing your work space, catching, killing, scalding, and plucking the birds.

The second shows how to gut and cut up a chicken.

We will continue here with the final cleaning phase of the butchered birds, and show a few packaging techniques.

How Important Are the Steps Shown Below?

Commercially cleaned chickens are frequently not that well cleaned. That is, pin feathers, bits of lung, spots of coagulated blood, and other messies are often allowed to remain. So if you are happy with this norm, and don't wish to proceed further, you can quickly rinse your butchered birds and freeze them. But if you want to avoid having to face the inconvenience of finishing cleaning each chicken after it thaws (lung may be a survival food, but I don't relish it), a few extra minutes spent at this stage is well worth it.

Putting the Chickens in an Ice Bath

Take a whole tub of chickens at a time, if you can, to the biggest, cleanest sink you have. (Miss Heather is wearing a mask because of seasonal allergies.)

Take a whole tub of chickens at a time, if you can, to the biggest, cleanest sink you have. (Miss Heather is wearing a mask because of seasonal allergies.)

A few minutes' soak helps them finish coming clean.

A few minutes' soak helps them finish coming clean.

Arrange them among the ice bottles, so they begin cooling quickly. Chicken meat deteriorates quickly.

Arrange them among the ice bottles, so they begin cooling quickly. Chicken meat deteriorates quickly.

Basic Cleaning of Chickens with Their Skins Left On

Notice where the skin is especially yellowed or fatty. Rub off these yellow portions, if it comes easily, with your thumb. Also get rid of pin feathers and other feathers.

Notice where the skin is especially yellowed or fatty. Rub off these yellow portions, if it comes easily, with your thumb. Also get rid of pin feathers and other feathers.

Cut off any very fatty portions, or skin the bird if you wish.

Cut off any very fatty portions, or skin the bird if you wish.

Cut off the very bony wing-tips.

Cut off the very bony wing-tips.

They don't have enough meat to bother saving, for the time they take to clean.

They don't have enough meat to bother saving, for the time they take to clean.

The water will get bloody. Don't bother to change it unless it gets too dark to find chicken pieces easily.

The water will get bloody. Don't bother to change it unless it gets too dark to find chicken pieces easily.

Next, scrape out any lung portions that didn't come earlier. After a soak, they usually come quickly and easily.

Next, scrape out any lung portions that didn't come earlier. After a soak, they usually come quickly and easily.

This is a clean, ready-to-cook chicken.

This is a clean, ready-to-cook chicken.

Put the birds in rinse water until packaging time. If you do this cleaning phase well, there will be nothing left to do when you get your chickens out of the freezer to cook.

Put the birds in rinse water until packaging time. If you do this cleaning phase well, there will be nothing left to do when you get your chickens out of the freezer to cook.

Waste disposal will vary with your situation. You may compost meat bits, but know your regulations. Be aware that if dumped out, any free-range birds will clean up the leftovers.

Waste disposal will vary with your situation. You may compost meat bits, but know your regulations. Be aware that if dumped out, any free-range birds will clean up the leftovers.

Packaging - The Whole Chicken Method

At 6-1/2 ft. and 300-something lbs., our friend Mark makes these chickens look easy to handle. It helps to have someone with big hands package big birds.

At 6-1/2 ft. and 300-something lbs., our friend Mark makes these chickens look easy to handle. It helps to have someone with big hands package big birds.

If you plan to thaw the chickens in the refrigerator, place them on a folded paper towel pad (folded in quarters), to soak up fluids.

If you plan to thaw the chickens in the refrigerator, place them on a folded paper towel pad (folded in quarters), to soak up fluids.

Placed thus, the towel will help prevent leakage and make clean-up simpler.

Placed thus, the towel will help prevent leakage and make clean-up simpler.

Place each bird in a suitably sized bag...

Place each bird in a suitably sized bag...

...and squish out all the air.

...and squish out all the air.

Sometimes chickens which are only bagged expand in the freezer. If this is a concern, wrap the birds tightly in plastic wrap.

Sometimes chickens which are only bagged expand in the freezer. If this is a concern, wrap the birds tightly in plastic wrap.

Get them frozen as quickly as possible. We placed ours in easy-stack baskets in a walk-in freezer. In a home freezer, space them out at first, overnight, in the bottom if possible.

Get them frozen as quickly as possible. We placed ours in easy-stack baskets in a walk-in freezer. In a home freezer, space them out at first, overnight, in the bottom if possible.

A Great Packaging Method - Shrink Wrap Bags

Packaging Cut-Up Pieces

A simple and space-efficient way to package cut-up chicken pieces is to first place the various parts in a bread pan. Usually, one small or medium-sized bird will fit in a 5"x9" loaf pan. Freeze hard.

Remove the frozen-together parts from the loaf pan, and place in a recycled bread bag. Close with a twist tie, and stack in the freezer.

You may mix-and-match the parts any way you wish, placing together legs and thighs, just wings, or whole birds. You may package the giblets separately, or keep them with their respective birds.

Packaging Techniques for Freezer-Ready Poultry

Do You Raise Chickens Currently?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen

Comments

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on August 10, 2016:

Tabrash, thanks so much! I'm happy you like my articles.

Tabrash on February 18, 2015:

I have been surfing oninle more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours Goats Chickens & More: 40 Acres For Free-Range Chickens, Goats and More. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on March 10, 2010:

De Greek, you are so welcome.

De Greek from UK on March 10, 2010:

Tahnk again. Great stuff :-)

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on January 20, 2010:

Ya think so?

Akhil Anil on January 20, 2010:

Gr8 dishes chef!:P

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on October 17, 2009:

Ivorwen, these birds weighed anywhere from 6 to 10 lbs., depending on their age and sex (the roosters are bigger than the hens).

However, being Jumbo Cornish Rock and Cornish Roasters, they are designed to be huge. Many breeds don't top 5 lbs.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on October 17, 2009:

Jarn, the walk-in freezer is at Dad's. When he decides to do something, he does a thorough job of it, and the barn kitchen/meat room was no exception. He has a better butchering set-up than some professional locker plants. With the cement floor and spray-off surfaces, it's also handy for just plain cooking. One time he decided to make caramels, and they boiled over, running down in the burners of the stove and under it, all over the floor. He had a trail of ants for a few days, but, unlike in a house, it was no big deal.

Also, Mark's family had bought some of these chickens before butcher time. That's the main reason he was helping. He is great to have there, because he's quite experienced. He used to work in the meat department of a grocery store. You have to keep on your toes though, with him around. A couple years ago, as he was wrapping chickens for freezing, he suddenly called my name, then threw one of these monster birds across the room like a football. It was all I could do to catch it without getting knocked out or knocked down.

We usually have about three families that have "shares" in the chickens.

The knife you mentioned is called a T-handle knife, and it is designed for meat cutting. (I'm not sure where Dad bought his set; he has 3 or 4 of various sizes.) It is my favorite butchering knife, as it does not tire the wrist and arm nearly as fast as a conventional, in-line blade. It also allows for superior control, such as is required while slicing the fibrous membrane off beef steaks and such.

I'll have to get back with you on what it costs to raise these birds. Mom said with the batch before this one, it cost her about a dollar a lb. She said it wasn't so much this year, but she didn't remember exactly how much. When she gets a chance to check her records, I'll post the answer here.

Jarn from Sebastian, Fl on October 16, 2009:

So is the walk-in freezer at your place or your dad's? I'm guessing what with Mike helping out that a few chickens get passed around come Christmastime? Also, the knife in the shot just below the first picture of Mark has an interesting blade/handle design I don't think I've seen before; looks effective for cutting meat. Do you know if it's called by any specific name?

I recall you mentioned how much time went into carrying for these tasty-looking little guys, but I don't remember if you mentioned how much their feed cost. I hope it's not too personal a question, I was just trying to figure about how much it costs to raise chickens by the pound versus store-bought.

Great series, professional quality to a T.

Ivorwen from Hither and Yonder on October 16, 2009:

Those must be big birds! The whole chickens I have bought wouldn't fill a gallon sized sack.

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