Warning: This post contains descriptions (but no pictures) of butchering and processing chicken. Please feel free to skip it if it’s not useful to you. Thanks for stopping by.
We had a rooster brawl yesterday between Legs Maran (the black one whose backside you see above) and our Chantecler rooster, Eustace (the photo bomber*). Maybe Eustace decided he didn’t want to be No. 2 anymore. He beat the stew out of Legs, chasing him all over and bloodying him up. J found him under the car hiding, so for the second time we ended up temporarily housing a rooster in the mudroom. This was more serious than just establishing the pecking order, and we knew we didn’t really have enough hens to support two roosters. One of them had to go, and unfortunately it had to be Legs. My playground sense of justice was wounded by this. I wanted to go after the instigator, and I’m also not particularly fond of Eustace. I’m pretty sure he has a serial killer inside. But we were always planning to cull Legs at some point for the sake of our breeding pool (no more marans, please,) and his occasional sideways charges at us when we worked in the coop seemed to foreshadow later issues.
I will say that this time butchering (our second time) was emotionally easier because we knew what to expect, but it was logistically harder. The first time around was five roosters from the original hatch. They were butchered at about six months, so they didn’t have so much breastbone and sinew. That made it easier to get to the inside cavity to eviscerate them. Legs was much larger and further developed, so it was a bit of a struggle.
We also chose to skin the carcass rather than blanching and plucking like we did last time so that the operation could be less involved, considering it was just one bird. I did not like this method because we lost the tip joint of the wing with the skin. We also disliked how the feathers kept getting in the way when we tried to clean out the innards.
One thing we changed this time that we did like was that we switched from cutting the throat to using a hatchet on a stump. I know there’s a whole school of thought on the killing cone/throat cutting business, but we felt that even compared to the very sharp knife we used for that last time, the hatchet was surer and just so fast. You also still get the calming benefit of holding them upside down, just with the head resting on the stump.
There are plenty of photo and video tutorials online discussing both of these methods if you need to know more on the basics. One thing I’d like to point out, though, is that the chicken’s feet are worth saving and involve a separate process. It’s worth learning how to clean them up (peeling them) and save them because then you waste less of your chicken, and they make extraordinary chicken stock. I learned from a great tutorial from Reformation Acres. I’ve often bought these from the farmers market before we started keeping chickens, which was handy because I knew what to do with them by the time I needed to do it as part of our butchering process. If you’re interested, anyone local who sells chicken is likely to be willing to save you those.
*The beautiful rooster in the middle is Bobwhite, a British Cream Legbar. He has been re-homed to a lovely person who plans to show him.