Chicken butchering tools
Our Freedom Ranger meat birds are near butcher weight and we thought it would be a good time to discuss chicken butchering tools. We have been raising and butchering our own meat chickens for years. As a child I learned from my parents as we butchered around 100 a year for our own consumption. As an adult I use many of the same tools as my parents but have added some luxury time saving items like a scalder and a mechanical chicken plucker.
A few basic tools can get the job done, many of which most folks have already. Our list will include a set of the basic and inexpensive tools as well of some of those luxury items that make the process easier and faster.
Basic chicken butchering tools
A good set of knives is on my essential list of chicken butchering tools. A good thin blade for cutting into the cavity of the chicken and a second knife with serrations for cutting through the neck and tail bones. You can use the same blade for everything but cutting into or nicking the bones is hard on a blade and will cause it to go dull quickly.
Knifes and related cutting tools
For the thin blade I like a boning knife, like this UltraSource boning knife. It has a decent blade and the grip is easy to maintain control with wet, or bloody, hands. The edge is easy to renew with a decent sharpening steel between chickens.
For my serrated blade I like an inexpensive hunting knife like this Gerber folding knife with serrated blade. Half the blade on ours is serrated and the rest a normal blade. If you you were wanting to work on a budget this single knife would work by itself. Just keep in mind that a thin blade is easier to control inside the chest cavity of a chicken.
I consider our sharpening steel is a essential if we are butchering more than a few chickens at a time. Being able to dress the edge of a knife between chickens makes the process much easier. An inexpensive steel works. We have been using our oval diamond sharpening rod for a decade and love it.
Tools for bleeding out a chicken
A couple different size kill cones are a valuable tool to have on the homestead where you are butchering your own chickens, You can buy commercially made kill cones that are made from materials like stainless which are easy to clean. In the link above is a XL model. It is my preferred cone for large roosters from a bird bird breed, For meat bird hens and smaller breeds we like the large size of cones. Here at our homestead we run two cones and move them to some baling twine, which is discussed below,
An budget minded alternative to cones is simple baling twine. We secure one end to something like a tree or fence post and tie a loop in the other end. By simply pulling the line through the loop you create a hoop.
Scalder for plucking
Scalding a chicken makes the process of removing feathers much easier. A large pot filled with water can be easily brought to temperature for plucking on a propane cooker. A turkey fire kit that includes the burner, a big pot and a thermometer can be cheaper than buying individual components. It goes without saying, you’ll need propane too.
After scalding the feathers will be removed by hand and simply pulling the feathers from the skin, or with the aid of a plucker. You can make your own or buy one commercial made, It is expensive, so it will be discussed in the “luxury item” section near the end of this blog entry.
If you’re not opposed to having skinless chicken you can remove the feathers without a scalder setup by skinning the chicken, the feathers are removed by by pulling of the skin and the feathers.
A cooler and ice
After butchering it is important to cool down the carcass. We use a cooler and add ice and water to drop the carcass temperatures. If you have a little extra cooler space and some plastic bottles you can save money by filling the bottles with water and prefreezing them. You can reuse the bottles of ice in the place of ice from the store.
Clean water is an absolute necessity. You need it to clean the chicken, yourself and the random accidental messes that occur. A few buckets of water will work, but a hose with a nozzle of some sort is recommended. We use a garden hose and the watering wand from our garden.
Luxury chicken butchering tools
The top two luxury chicken butchering tools would have to be a chicken plucker and a scalder. For the plucker to work properly you need a scalder capable of bringing your water temperature to 145 degrees. If you don’t dip the chicken in that hot water the plucker won’t remove any fethers.
A plucking machine is a massive time and labor saver. But they can also be expensive. We built our first one off a set of plans, you can see it running and doing its job in the video below. There are lots of DIY plans and even build videos on YouTube if you want to build your own. For those who don’t want the hassle of building your own, there are a few companies that make a decent plucker that is made from stainless steel. Coops n More carry a few different models.
A comercially manufactured scalder is another luxury item but is such a time saver. We are better able accurately maintain a constant temperature in this unit over the turkey fryer setup we originally used. The turkey fryer was always tempermental and more difficult to keep at a constant temperature. We saw fluctations in the temperatures which would delay the entire butchering process. Water temperatures that were too high, or too low, make plucking far more diffucult. A good scaldeer that maintains a constant temperature streamlines the entire process.
Shrink wrap freezer bags
A more inexpensive luxury item is the chicken shrink wrap freezer bag. As you can see in the picture