Chicken Butchering Set Up: 7 Things You Need
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Chicken butchering day is quite an event here at Clucky Dickens Farm. When we butcher, it’s usually no less than 50 birds at a time. I’d like to share with you the open air chicken butchering set up that we’ve come to use after several years of chicken butchering experience.
(Listen to today’s podcast by clicking on the play button on the black player bar above, or find the Farmish Kind of Life podcast on your favorite podcast player!)
First of all — if you’re wondering how to choose the right breed of chicken to raise for meat on your particular homestead, check out my book that will answer all your questions!
And — if you aren’t quite sure how to butcher a chicken, let me explain how to do that.
If you already know how to — let’s take a look at all the items we use (in the order they are used) in the processing of our birds. Ready?
Chicken Butchering Set Up Item #1: Kill Cones
Also known as restraint cones, these are cones that the birds go into upside down, head first. The cone part keeps their wings from flapping, and you pull their head down through the hole in the bottom to cut their jugular.
You can buy kill cones or you can make them yourself from heavy plastic or a similar material. If possible, it’s nice to have adjustable cones (or make inserts that will go inside of them) so you can use the same cone for butchering different sized birds.
Remember, there is a big difference in the size of an egg bird, a Cornish Cross, and a turkey. With a large cone, the egg birds might fall through into the bucket below. With a small cone, Cornish Cross birds will not fit to the bottom of the cone to pull their head through.
Normally you would attach the kill cones to a wall or a fence post. We built this stand out of recycled materials around the farm and it has worked out well for us. It is sturdy and the ledge on the bottom holds the buckets at just the right height to catch the blood with minimal mess.
You may also like: 10 Tips for Home Butchering
Chicken Butchering Set Up Item #2: Propane cooker and large stockpot (aka turkey fryer kit)
After a bird is dispatched but before you pluck it, you have to scald the bird in hot water (145-160 degrees) to help release their feathers for plucking. A turkey fryer kit is the perfect set up to get this done.
In the photo, you can see a green stake to the side of the fryer with a wire coming from it. That green stake is to hold the display from a digital thermometer (and the wire is from the display to the actual thermometer in the water). It is very helpful to have a thermometer so you can monitor the temp of the water.
It will be obvious the water is cooling down if the feathers aren’t plucking as easily…but it’s nice to know the water is cooling down before the chicken plucker informs you there are issues. 😉
Pro tip: Know that if you’re doing a lot of birds, you may have to add water as your chicken butchering event goes on. All the dunking and swirling of the birds usually means there will be some water lost. If too much water is lost, the thermometer will no longer sit below the water level, and your birds won’t be able to be dunked as completely.
Pro tip: Also, remember if you add water, you’ll have to wait for the water in the fryer to get back up to temp—especially if you are filling from a cold hose. This is okay, though. It gives people a chance to catch up on their chicken butchering job or take a swig or two of coffee.
Chicken Butchering Set Up Item #3: Chicken Plucker
Here at Clucky Dickens Farm, I’ve never hand plucked a chicken. I give props to those of you who have.
We have used many kinds of chicken pluckers since we began our chicken butchering adventures: everything from a small drill style chicken plucker to this large drum style plucker my husband built. It’s similar to a Whizbang…but with a few modifications like a chute out the bottom for the feathers to collect into the tote. It keeps the mess in one area instead of having feathers spread all over the yard.
A somewhat similar chicken plucker would be the Yardbird. If you’re looking to build your own drum style chicken plucker, you can buy drum style chicken plucker plans here…or do what my hubby did: watch a lot of videos, read a lot of stuff online, and then get to building (and tweaking. and building. and tweaking…)
Chicken Butchering Set Up Item #4: Butchering table
After the birds are plucked, it’s time for evisceration. And you need a butchering table to get that done on.
We wanted something a little taller than most tables you can find so we built this one. My hubby is 6 ft 5 and while I can easily cut on a table that is a little taller than normal, it’s a real pain for him to cut at a table that’s too short for an extended period of time.
This stainless steel table has lots of room, as well as a sink which we can hook a hose up to if we’d like and have “running water”.
Pro tip: Make sure you have a tote or a 5 gallon bucket lined with a strong contractor garbage bag beneath you to catch all the chicken parts you’re not keeping.
Did I mention strong garbage bag? Yes, I think I did.
Chicken Butchering Set Up Item #5: Large totes or a stock tank
After the birds have lost their heads, feet, and insides, it’s time for them to rest in a cold water bath.
Back when we made the video Our Chicken Butchering Day Set Up, we were still using large totes of water to hold our birds after evisceration. However, we found that all that water (and then all those birds!) was a lot of stress on the totes. The totes would end up bowing and cracking.
My husband suggested we invest in a 150 gallon plastic stock tank which ended up working awesome. We fill it with water and then add ice to keep the water cold as we add birds to it.
Chicken Butchering Day Set Up Item #6: PVC Chicken Rack
This is the chicken butchering set up item I am asked the most about. And it’s one of the best time saving things we’ve built!
After all birds are eviscerated, we move on to the second phase of our butcher day which is packaging the birds. This simple PVC rack we built holds the chickens while they were waiting to be packaged.
There is no air that runs through it, it’s just a rack they can sit on. The bird basically fits over the pole part of the rack. Like so:
The reason this PVC rack is awesome is because: the birds can dry off a bit before getting packaged, and it’s perfect for not needing two people to bag the chicken. It saves a ton of time.
Bag the chicken? What? Keep reading.
Chicken Butchering Set Up Item #7: Poultry Shrink Bags
To package our birds, we use poultry shrink bags. They are basically a bag you put the bird in and dip it in hot water to shrink the bag around the bird. We have used the bags from Texas Poultry Shrink Bags or CoopsNMore, both with great success.
Not only does this help our birds look neat and professionally done, the bags really help protect against freezer burn.
Pro tip: Plan ahead. These bags can be very hard to get at times of the year when everyone is butchering.
You May also want to read…Death: It’s Part of Life on the Homestead
So, that’s how we go about setting up for a day of chicken butchering here at Clucky Dickens Farm. Any questions? Post them in the comments below!
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