As a farmer, my main goal is humanely raised meat, and animal products. I want to know my animals. I want to know what they ate, what antibiotics (if any) they were given. I want to know they had the privilege of living the life God intended for them. As contrary as it may seem, a huge reason I raise my own meat, is for the animal. Although I may end up slaughtering them, they have the right, as every creature does, to live. To feel grass underfoot, and the sun warming their backs. The photos that go along with this post are graphic. If you can’t handle seeing where your food comes from, or how it looked before it was wrapped in plastic, beware. When you look at these photos, you should feel something. I will always embrace butchering day as a sorrowful time. I love to fill my freezer, but doing so comes at a cost.
Most people withhold feed before butchering. It makes it a much cleaner process. We usually do feed, mainly because it makes me feel better. Going forwards we will probably always feed, but probably significantly less. That way they get some, but aren’t stuffed full.
Before grabbing a bird, it’s important to have all your supplies ready. I have my cutting board laid out, along with all my (sharpened) knives, and a hose fitting with a sprayer attachment. Also nearby is a trashcan for entrails. On the patio next to my station, we have a heat source heating water, and next to that is our homemade plucker. Behind the shed we have two traffic cones set up to be kill cones. We wait until our water is almost hot enough for scalding before we go and get a chicken.
The walk down to get the chickens is somber. If ever there is a moment that makes you feel stoic it’s picking out the first chicken to slaughter. I’d like to take a moment here, to mention something I thought was profound when I looked back through these photos.
My husband grabbed up this chicken, and cradled it as he took it to the kill cone. To be honest, there are usually whispered condolences on both our parts. Trying to keep them as calm as possible is important to us. I see no reason for there to be undue stress on this animal. Even if it’s “just” a chicken. To compare this to a factory farm is impossible. They often suffer broken wings and legs as they are being loaded on the truck to go to the slaughter house. They are then again handled roughly as they are stuck in machines that hold them upside down.
Once to the kill cones the chicken gets slid into the cone, often with help to make sure the head goes into the hole, and doesn’t get caught sideways. We usually pull the head out gently, just to make sure there is one, swift cut. The knife gets drawn across the neck, under the jaw bone. When done correctly the blood starts flowing quickly and strongly. Although this may seem a horrible way to die, it’s very peaceful. As peaceful as death can be. Cutting them across the neck renders them unconscious in a few seconds. We then just let the chicken bleed out, and let the body stop flailing.
Once the chicken is dead, it’s moved to the hot water. It’s dunked a few times in the water, until a wing feather pulls out easily. At this point it’s laid out so the feet can be removed, and then transported to the plucker. The plucker is turned on, and water is sprayed into it as we drop the chicken in. Within minutes we have a nice, clean, feather free carcass!
From there it head over to the cutting board. Its head is removed, along with all the organs and entrails. I usually cut the tail off, and make a little slit for the legs to go through. The liver, gizzard, and feet are saved.
Everything else gets tossed. We end up dumping all those extra bits way out in the field. Within a day or two everything is gone. The chicken is given a final rinsing, any extra feather parts removed, and gets to rest in ice cold water. Once we have quite a few chickens done we place them in shrink wrap bags to seal them, and they are labeled and placed in the freezer.
Butchering day is long, messy, smelly and exhausting. However, opening your freezer to beautiful, local, humanely raised meat is worth it all.
My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.