Processing Chickens

Processing Turkeys

Processing Duck

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  • Killing cone or bucket 
  • Bucket to catch blood, if desired 
  • Sharp knives: skinning knife, paring knife 
  • Large pot and a way to heat the water 
  • Pipe 
  • Small rope 
  • Table 
  • Bowls for saving offal parts if desired 
  • Barrel, buckets, or totes for cold water 
  • Bags or other means of storing the bird(s) 
  • Hose and cold water source 



  1. Begin heating the water to 150 degrees. 
  2. Gather the rest of the tools and materials. 
  3. Suspend the pipe at a height of about 4 feet, so that you can sit and comfortably pluck the bird in front of you. 
  4. Fill your cooling containers with cold water. 

The Kill 

  1. Place bird in the cones or buckets with a small hole in the bottom, feet pointed away from you. 
  2. Grab the head, gently stretching it. 
  3. Slice across the jugular veins. 
  4. Allow the bird to be until it is all the way dead. It will twitch and kick, but it is already out of it by then. 


  1. Dunk the bird(s) in the 150 degree water, swishing it around. 
  2. Keep testing the feathers. When they basically fall off in your hand the bird is ready to pluck. This takes 15 – 20 seconds, give or take. 
  3. If you have a plucker, pluck as per the machine’s instructions. 
  4. If you’re doing this by hand, hang the bird by the feet from the pipe. 
  5. Pull the feathers off the bird, including tail feathers and wing feathers. The body feathers should almost fall off as you sort of rub the bird. 
  6. There may be some yellow skin left. This is just a layer of skin and is perfectly normal. 


  1. Remove head from body. You can remove and save the neck if desired. Loosen the gullet from the body. 
  2. Remove the feet at the joint by bending the leg backward and cutting at the front through to the back so you can more easily see the joint. Save the feet if desired for broth. 3. Open the vent by making a small cut halfway between the breast bone and the butt hole. Cut down and around the bottom of the vent and back up. You don’t need a wide or large opening. 
  3. If doing layer hens or roosters, it helps to cut the flanks. 
  4. Remove the guts, including heart, lungs, and esophagus. 
  5. Save the heart, liver, gizzard if desired. 
  6. Place the bird in cold water to cool. 
  7. Change out the water once or twice to keep the bird cooling. If you cool the bird too fast, it may tighten up and be tough. If you change the water with cold tap water a couple times it will work just right. 

Pack the bird 

Once the birds are fairly cool, they are ready to pack. However you do it, try to get as much air out as possible to avoid freezer burn. Options include: 

  • Ziploc bag. Wrapping in plastic wrap provides an extra layer of protection. ● Food Saver vacuum sealer 
  • The freezer bags that you dip in hot water to create a vacuum and then seal. ● Freezer paper wrapping. 

Birds can go in the freezer whole. They can be cut into bone-in parts. They can be cut for boneless cuts, with the bones for stock. Always label the package with what it is and the date. 

Clean the offal 

Heart: Trim the large vessels off the top and remove the sack if it’s still on it. Remove any clotted blood. 

Liver: Carefully slice the gallbladder off. 

Gizzard: Slice the gizzard through the meaty end, being careful to cut through the muscle but not through the yellow inner sack. Remove the inner sack that contains the grit. If it breaks, just peal it out and rinse the gizzard clean. 

Feet: Using a colander, sack, or some other method, dunk the feet in the scalding water for about as long as the bird was in. Rinse in cold water. Remove the scales, toenails if possible, and cut out and burns in the pads. 

Using the Whole Bird 

Feathers and blood: compost for the garden next year 

Heads and feet: dog food or pig food 

Intestines: compost for the garden for next year 

Unwanted organs: dog food, pig food, cat food 

Bones and feet: chicken stock 

Heart: excellent fried or diced and added to soup, stew, or stuffing 

Liver: excellent fried, or as pate. Soaking in milk, lemon juice, or salt water for a half hour or so will help soften the flavor. Cook very gently so it’s barely done for best texture. 

Gizzard: parboil, then use as with the heart.


Bird jumped out of cone

1) Grab it and put it back in 

2) Leave it be if it’s not flopping around and damaging itself. Especially if it’s too large or too small and will simply fall out again. 3) If you can’t catch it, a pellet gun or 

“bopping stick” will subdue the bird.

Bird isn’t plucking easily

1) Check your water temperature: 

  1. a) too cold and the skin won’t 

release the feathers, 

  1. b) too hot and the skin simply tears 

rather than releasing the feathers. 

2) Birds sat too long between dying and scalding and the feathers set (20 

minutes). Scald as soon as possible after bird dies. 

3) The bird wasn’t scalded long enough. Dunk it again and repluck.

The skin ripped when plucking the bird

1) Your water was too hot. Add a little cold and keep checking it. 

2) The bird was in the water for too long. Don’t dunk them so long next time.

Broken wing bones, legs, or other bones

1) The bird struggled too hard in the cones. It is what it is. It’s ok to eat. 

2) The bird was allowed to flop around too much while dying and broke bones in the process. Restrain with a cone or bucket.

Can’t find the joint to cut the legs off

1) Bend the leg backward. Look for the two bumps that are either side of the joint. Cut there. Keep practicing.

Can’t get my hand in the bird to pull the guts out

1) Try your other hand. 

2) Cut the flank muscle that’s between the ribs and pelvis. 

3) Use two fingers to pull the gizzard and intestines out first, and keep pulling 

organs out as you can. They will all 

eventually come.

The bird squawked when I went to gut it

1) You just pushed air from the lungs 

through the throat. Use that to entertain your kids and get them to help you.

Intestines got cut or broke

1) Quickly rinse with cold water until all material is washed off. Continue with 

processing. Make sure the bird is clean before putting into the water.

The gallbladder broke and spilled green everywhere

1) Quickly rinse the bird with cold water until all the green is washed off. It will stain, 

but if you rinse it quickly won’t affect the meat quality. 

2) If it spills all over the liver or guts, it’s up to you if you want to rinse them or pitch 

them. If you rinse it quickly, it’ll be ok to use the liver yet. 

3) Boys love to play with these. Just know that bile stains.

Can’t get the lungs out

1) It’s ok to pack the bird with the lungs inside. 

2) Slide your fingers in between the lungs, scraping the lungs out. Visually check. 

Try again. After a few birds, you’ll get the feel of it. 

3) Practice makes perfect.

Can’t pull oesophagus and gullet through

1) Pull them out at the neck rather than through the body. 

2) Loosen the gullet when you cut the head off to make it easier to pull through.

My cuts don’t look quite right

1) Watch the video again. Be sure to cut “in the valleys” along the joints. 

2) It’ll eat just fine anyway, so no worries.

3) It takes a lot of practice to get it perfect. Keep it up!

When cut, there is discoloration in the meat of the tenderloin and breast

Broilers are somewhat fragile and can bruise themselves on the breast at any 

point as they are growing up. This bruise is what you are seeing. It can vary from a small point to all of the tenderloin and into the breast meat. Simply cut out what you can. The rest of the bird is fine to eat.

Can’t get enough good help!

This is a tough one. Truly. 

1) Offer lots of pizza and beer. This works once. 

2) Co-op with someone else who needs to process their birds, also. 

3) Offer monetary reward. 

4) Trade for labor helping someone else. 5) Offer payment in product

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