Whether it is your first time butchering chickens or you just need a reminder, the Yardbird Chicken Processing Guide walks you through every step from start to finish.
Restraint cones (3+)
Multiple 5- gallon buckets,
2 – Large Coolers
Hoses with spray nozzles
Accessibility to power
Cutting tables and cutting boards
Yardbird Chicken Plucker
Make sure your tables, plucker and scalder are on level ground. Your processing station should be able to take on a considerable amount of water during the butchering process and properly drain.
Transport of Birds
Many people process their birds away from where they spent their time raising and feeding the birds which is typically due to water and power. A dog kennel or similar style crate works well to transport your birds. This can also help you butcher small batches at a time and focus on the birds at hand.
Securely attach the restraint cones to the sturdy workplace. Trees, sawhorses, fence posts or sheets of plywood propped upright are commonly used. Place the bird with its back to the side of the cone and insert into the cone head first until head sticks out the bottom. Yardbird cones have larger holes in the bottom which makes getting the head out much easier. Pro Tip: using bench clamps on the chicken’s feet can help detain the bird from flopping or escaping in some cases. Also, spraying cones with an aerosol vegetable spray can aid in cleanup. With a sharp knife make a small horizontal cut on the right side and the left side to the carotid artery and the jugular veins. You will not want to remove the entire head, it’s important for the brain to remain connected to still keep the bird calm. Two narrow “jets” of blood will begin to fall. Allow the bird to bleed out for at least 2-3 minutes and confirm that the bird has expired before beginning any further processing.
It’s important to note that this is the step in the process can be messy, collecting and containing the blood will keep your workstation clean. Also, it should be noted that in this step birds do have the tendency to defecate or urinate. Most seasoned chicken processors would tell you that this step is both humbling and terrifying.
Scalding is not boiling water at 212 degrees, if the water is too hot you will tear the skin off the chickens in the plucking process. A proper scaling pot will keep your temperature at 145 degrees and will save you time by keeping the temperature consistent throughout the process. Many people use scalders that do not have temperature control, this can result in a poor butchering process or unfavorable results in your chicken processing. Scalding is very important because it removes a lot of dirt and other grime from the bird. Make sure to monitor the temperature throughout the process with a thermometer to ensure the scalder is working properly.
Using a heat resistant glove dunk the bird in the scalder pot by holding on to a foot for 10-15 seconds. Once the pin feathers can easily be pulled out, its ready for the Yardbird Chicken Plucker. Scalding is very important because it removes a lot of dirt and other grime from the bird.
Yardbird Chicken Plucker
Attach the hose to your Chicken Plucker and turn on both the water and the machine. Place in either 1 or 2 birds at a time (depending upon the size) and monitor that the birds continue to rotate in the machine while de-feathering. Pro Tip: you should have a 5-gallon bucket with small holes in it to catch the discarded feathers and let the water run out. The entire process should take around 15-30 seconds if your scalding temp was accurate and your Yardbird Rubber fingers are in good shape.
At this point in the butchering processes we’ve found it helpful to rinse the birds off again and cool them down in a tub/cooler of ice water.
Remove the Oil Gland
The oil or preen gland must be removed or it can ruin the taste of the meat. Make a cut above the gland at the base of the tail and cut all the way down to the bone. Slide the knife along the bone, ending at the tip of the tail. Make sure there is no yellow glandular tissue left on the birds tail.
Remove the Feet
Straighten and bend the leg until you see exactly where the joint is located and cut between the joints to remove the chicken’s feet.
Remove Head, Trachea, Esophagus, and Crop
Using a sharp knife or cleaver, cut right through the bone to remove the head. Slit the skin along the back of the neck and slide it down. Separate the trachea and esophagus from the neck. Loosen the trachea and esophagus all the way down to where they enter the body cavity. You should feel the crop. This keeps your meat clean and simplifies the process. Loosen the crop from the skin. Carefully pull the crop free of the body and leave the trachea, esophagus, and crop hanging free of the body until the next step. Pro Tip: Do not feed your birds for 24 hours prior to butchering to ensure the crop is empty.
Cut Open the Body Cavity
Insert the knife about 1 inch above the vent, and slit the skin open up to the breastbone. Carefully cut around the vent on either side of it. Pull the vent free of the body and the intestines will follow. Be very careful not to cut into the intestines.
Eviscerate the Bird
Reach into the bird through the incision on the bottom of the bird and run your hand along the sides of the ribs and sides to free the entrails. The gizzard is a hard oval shaped organ in a chicken. When pulling the entrails out of the bird, start by grabbing the gizzard and pulling, the rest of the entrails should follow . If you have loosened the trachea, esophagus, and crop, they should also come out with the entrails. If they do not, you can remove them separately.
The lungs are the only organ that does not typically come out with the rest. They are a soft texture and are attached to the ribs along the spine. Reach in and remove them individually. Sometimes they break into pieces, so keep going back in until you don’t feel any more soft lung tissue. There is also a tool called a “lung scraper” that may help with this step. Remove the neck by cutting the muscle tissue around the bone, then bending it and breaking through the bone. Be sure to rinse the bird thoroughly if any digestive fluids have come in contact with the meat.
Chill and Store the Bird
Prepare an ice bath in a large cooler. Chill the bird in the ice-water solution for at least 30 minutes, though 60 minutes is better.
Packaging and Cleanup
After chilling, remove the bird from the ice water, lay on paper towels, and pat it dry. Many shrink wrap bags are popular for storing whole birds. Each bag comes with its own set of instructions that are important to follow. From our experience its best to remove all the outside air.
For the final cleanup, make sure to wash everything you used – knives, thermometer, pails, restraint cone, tarp/tablecloth, etc. – with a diluted bleach solution and rinse with water. The Yardbird Chicken Plucker cleans up easy with its detachable drum.