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Slaughtering and Butchering Mature Hens


Ktepi
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Who else would I ask about this but eGullet?

My mother raises hens for eggs. Last year, they were getting too old to lay consistently, but the guy she gets chicks from didn't have enough to sell her. This year he will, thankfully -- when I was there yesterday, there was only one egg, from two dozen hens.

She told me that I can have any of the hens I want ... if I "take care" of them myself.

I've seen chickens killed before -- we raised chickens when I was a kid, and a turkey once. But I've never seen them cleaned and am not sure, except by educated guess, what's involved -- or what kind of learning curve there is. I'm not positive she'd let me use her kitchen -- I might be doing this outside, or carting dead chickens across town to my condo to try it in my much smaller kitchen with much less counter space.

I wouldn't have said I was squeamish, until I killed and chopped up a lobster this year, still twitching and wriggling around as I removed the shell.

I'm good with a knife and all, but I don't have any formal experience, I'm just a good home cook who keeps his Wusthof sharp. I can get a whole duck down to constituent parts to make stock and confit in a few minutes, sure, but I'm not having to eviscerate anything.

I know there's less you can do with mature hens than younger chickens -- I'd be looking at braising, right? I used to buy rooster regularly from an Asian market to make coq au vin, I assume hen would be a decent substitution.

... but should I do this? If I don't, someone else will. They'll be put to use one way or the other.

If I pass on this, am I missing out?

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Do it. If for nothing else than educational purposes (although I'm sure they will taste great!). It's really easy. Here's a link from the rivercottage.net If you scroll down there are instructions for killing, plucking and drawing a chicken. I hope you'll post about your experience if you decide to go ahead with it (pictures optional :biggrin: ).

Martin

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Do it. If for nothing else than educational purposes (although I'm sure they will taste great!). It's really easy. Here's a link from the rivercottage.net If you scroll down there are instructions for killing, plucking and drawing a chicken. I hope you'll post about your experience if you decide to go ahead with it (pictures optional  :biggrin: ).

Martin

I thought about saying "if I do this, I'll probably document it," but then realized that would make everyone vote yes!

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Yes, do!

I've always been intrigued by doing something like that; you know, going through the process of slaughtering and butchering an animal, since I, like so many of us in the US (at least us "city folk" :wink:) are so far removed from the whole thing. (Although I won't say I probably would find myself squeamish if it came down to it. I can't even kill a fly! Literally!)

This somehow randomly brought to mind something my mom said once about making soup (broth?) from chicken ovaries. I'm pretty sure she said she had it before, and declared it tasty. I also think she said something about pregnant Chinese women (or women who have recently given birth?) drinking it as one of those herbal-medicine-type-things. Hmmm. Can anyone confirm this? Google doesn't help much except for mention of eating grilled chicken ovaries in Japan on this blog.

But yes! Documentation!! :biggrin:

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Yes, do!

I've always been intrigued by doing something like that; you know, going through the process of slaughtering and butchering an animal, since I, like so  many of us in the US (at least us "city folk" :wink:) are so far removed from the whole thing. (Although I won't say I probably would find myself squeamish if it came down to it. I can't even kill a fly! Literally!)

This somehow randomly brought to mind something my mom said once about making soup (broth?) from chicken ovaries. I'm pretty sure she said she had it before, and declared it tasty. I also think she said something about pregnant Chinese women (or women who have recently given birth?) drinking it as one of those herbal-medicine-type-things. Hmmm. Can anyone confirm this? Google doesn't help much except for mention of eating grilled chicken ovaries in Japan on this blog.

But yes! Documentation!!  :biggrin:

Well, if I can find the ovaries and they're edible in a mature hen, I'll eat 'em. When else is that opportunity going to come up, after all?

I'm a bit squeamish about it, and I don't want to kill a lobster again, but from what I understand (and please, anyone, correct me if I'm wrong), once the chicken stops its initial ... death throes ... it's just going to sit there being dead. What was so hard about the lobster was that even once it was in pieces, it kept moving and recoiling when I was cutting open the shell -- that was really nerve-wracking. I'm sure chefs who work with lobster all the time get blind to it, but I'm never going to be cooking lobster often enough to make it up that hill.

So in that respect, the chicken seems easier.

On the other hand, the chicken'll bleed a lot, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to hang it (or them) for a day before continuing on -- my mother may want this all taken care of on a Saturday afternoon. (Plus there's a dog, and a cat, and raccoons, and ...) I've never had to do anything culinary that required a change of clothes, unless barbecued ribs or roast beef poboys were involved.

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You have what are known as stewing chickens. Very tough old birds. Look for recipes along those lines.

This site and this site look like they know that of which they speak.

Stewing chickens would be a good way to learn. I seriously think the only thing I would use them for is to make stock though.

I would rent mom a good movie, maybe three and do this in her back yard. If your condo association is anything like the ones I've had to deal with they will have a swat team storm your place if they see you with live chickens.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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when i was a kid it was a big deal to watch the grown ups butcher.........

i was always in the way wanting to help.......

when i became bigger and very profficient at everything from rabbits to fowl to hogs and cattle......i wished i could just watch and avoid all the work...

those hens should be great for stewing, or for making chicken salad.......

they will stop bouncing around, i was taught to decapitate them , drive 2 nails into a large block of wood a few inches apart so as to catch the chickens head between them......stretch the chicken out, holding both its wings and feet in one hand, while weilding a hatchet in the other.......

you will want to decide if you want to bother plucking these hens or just skinning them...i don't know what breed they are, or how fat they are, if they're scrawny, i'd skin them without plucking or forget the idea all together........

if they're nice, big , fat ones i'd go to the work of scalding and plucking..

don't do any of this stuff in the house..........

regards, john

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You have what are known as stewing chickens. Very tough old birds. Look for recipes along those lines.

This site and this site look like they know that of which they speak.

Stewing chickens would be a good way to learn. I seriously think the only thing I would use them for is to make stock though.

I would rent mom a good movie, maybe three and do this in her back yard. If your condo association is anything like the ones I've had to deal with they will have a swat team storm your place if they see you with live chickens.

Oh yeah, there's no way I could do this in my yard. I've gotten some static just for growing peppers and tomatoes in the front instead of flowers. The most I'd be doing here, if anything, would be the indoor work -- after the plucking.

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gallery_28691_4819_143318.jpg

These are (some of) the chickens a couple weeks ago, so potentially the "BEFORE" photo.

I don't know what breed they are, and my mother tends to lose track of details like that. They don't look as plump as they could be, but I'm not a good judge.

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On the other hand, the chicken'll bleed a lot,

Slaughter houses use disposable "jumpsuits". They are made of some treated paper. I'll bet your supermarket could get you one. If I was going up against 2 dozen hens I think I would invest in one.

You mention raccoons? I would dump the remains tightly sealed in some commercial retail dumpster. Maybe some place you ate at and swore never to return. In these circumstances I think you could go back on your oath.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Slaughter houses use disposable "jumpsuits". They are made of some treated paper. I'll bet your supermarket could get you one. If I was going up against 2 dozen hens I think I would invest in one.

You mention raccoons? I would dump the remains tightly sealed in some commercial retail dumpster. Maybe some place you ate at and swore never to return. In these circumstances I think you could go back on your oath.

If I do it on a Saturday and finish in time, I can take them to the dump if my mother will let me use her car (I live on the town line in the next town over, so don't have a license for her dump). My mother grows corn, so yeah, the raccoons are always near enough that I'm sure they'd notice the sudden arrival of bags of chicken remains.

(Of course, a candidate did immediately jump to mind when you mentioned a worthy retail dumpster!)

The jumpsuit sounds like a good idea, and much less creepy -- if less photo-worthy -- than a blood-splattered raincoat.

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they look worthwhile to me...........

if it's ok w/ mom, keep them another month and really pour the cracked corn to them, this will fattn them nicely, even though they seem decent enough now......

if you let the weather get cooler, it's a much more "enjoyable" job........

scalding birds is a little bit of an art, if the water is too hot you will cook the skin and have a mess, resulting in skinning the entire bird and losing all of that fat you wanted......

you'll get a feel for the right temp/dunking time real quick when the feathers can be rubbed off the bird in large handfuls.......

use an outdoor "turkey cooker" deal for the scalding.......

i could do those 24 hens in 3 hours, have them in bags and in the freezer....

by myself..no shit.....try it, get the whole family to help.......it's fun........

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bury the remains in the corn patch........

put the feathers, heads, feet and entrails in 5 gallon buckets and bury it.......

use a leaf rake to clean up the feathers that will inevitiably be blowing around the yard........

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I can only add a little anecdotal advice.

My dog meat buying group got a line on a couple of hundred chickens from a local university. The chickens were dead when we took possession but we had to skin them (quicker than plucking) and clean them (including removing head and feet).

I was booked to pitch in but then one of my dogs ended up in surgery for an unexpected accident so had to bow out of the experience.

And the advice...make sure you bleed them well. Because these were for the dogs, the people processing the birds didn't bleed them. Some people's dogs wouldn't eat them because they tasted "different".

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when you whack their heads, let go of their wings, but hold onto their feet..............hold upside down if you can.........

the wings will flap like a bitch, the legs will move in your hands,...........

the blood will shoot out of their neck.........

when they stop flapping dunk em in the hot h2o......

btw jen....how did the univ kill the birds????

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In the link I posted above, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (I love writing that name :smile: ), seems to advocate simply wringing their necks and bleeding them afterwards. I thinks this would be much easier on both you (not nearly so violent and messy) and the hens. He also seems to advocate dry-plucking over scalding (probably generally simpler, as well as producing superior results). If you'll be drawing them at your house, you can place the entrails in a double garbage bag and put it in a freezer until garbage day to avoid any smell.

Edited by Mallet (log)

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Consider using a killing funnel. They keep the bird relatively still and make it easier to bleed the animal.

These take me back to when i was a kid. My mum would take me to the Halal butchers to get fresh chickens and seeing them slaughtered using these funnels. I remember one popping out of the funnel and running around neck half severed - i was quite disturbed by it. Though it is true what they say about Chickens not tasting as good as they were back then.

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Okay, I told my mother I'll do it. This may actually take some convincing now, even though she made the offer, because she may think I'm going to just start doing it and then back out when it gets messy, or ... who knows. (I may be 32, but she's still my mother.)

I imagine this won't be until later in the season -- right before the weather gets cold, maybe -- so I'll suggest fattening them up as much as we can. That gives me a few weeks to pick a method, too.

Like I said, I work at home, so I do not mind at all having to braise meats for a long time -- I'm here anyway, and it's not like there's additional labor there, it's just time.

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I recommend that you find some outdoor site to to draw the hens. The smell is abominable.

It would be well worth your time to do this as most have mentioned above. Mmmmm! Chicken and Dumplin's.

My late Mother-in-law could wring chicken necks faster than any one I've seen. Have never done this myself as I'm afraid I would just injure the bird. I have used the hatchet method.

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I just want to add one more link : Backyard Chickens

My husband and I have a flock (err...two) of laying hens in our urban backyard and that site was priceless for information from others who have "been there, done that." They have a forum dedicated to meat birds and a lot of good advice about small scale butchering.

Hopefully I'm a few years away from thinking about it yet, we're getting 10-12 eggs a week from our two!

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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