Recently I was involved in a workshop on killing chickens. I went through the entire process from killing to dressing to cooking and eating. This is the process as was taught to me

Step One: Catch the Chicken

This part can be rather tricky. If you've never caught a chicken before, my experience is that the easiest way is to catch them off guard in the coop. Just grap the chicken by the legs and lift it off the ground holding the chicken upside down by the legs. The chicken may flap around a bit, but if you're careful, and have a good grip on the legs the chicken won't get away. The important thing to remember is not to let the chicken go, because its going to be really hard to catch it again now that its on its guard.

Step two: Kill the Chicken

There are two methods that I've seen to kill a chicken. One is to simply lie the chicken on a chopping block and cut off its head. This can be rather bloody, but its a sure way to be positive that the chicken is dead.

The second method (and the one I'm going to discuss here) is to wring the chicken's neck. If this is done correctly it's a lot less messy.

So, take your chicken by the legs (you are still holding it right?). In your other hand pull down on the neck and then bend it upward very quickly. If you've done it correctly, then you will feel a snap, and the chicken will reflexivly begin to flap its wings. At this point my great grandmother would drop the chicken and let it run around the yard until it's body finished dying.(hence the term run around like chickens with their head cut off)

If you've broken the neck, then the next step is to drain out some of the blood. Hang the chicken upside down over a bucket. Then with a sharp knife reach into the mouth slightly down the throat and cut across cutting the jugular. Be very careful not to cut through the back of the neck.

Step Three: Pluck the Chicken

This step can be quite time consuming, but it's quite simple. Hang the chicken (preferably over something to catch the feathers). It's best to begin with the larger wing feathers, and simply pull in a downward motion. Take care not to try pulling in large clumps, if you try to pull too many at a time, then you risk tearing the skin. Be sure to get all the large feathers and as many of the small ones from the areas of the chicken that you plan to eat.

After you've plucked as much as you can stand, singe off the remaining feathers. Simply hold the chicken over an open flame.

Step Four: Dressing the Chicken

This step is not for the weak of stomach.

With a sharp knife, cut around the anus. Take care not to cut the intestines. Once you've cut all the way around the anus and freed the intestines from its connecting membranes move to the head of the chicken.

At this point you'll need a heavy knife or a pair of clippers. Cut off the head at the base of the neck. Reach your hand into the chicken from the neck, and try to loosen as many of the internal organs as possible. Now simply remove the internals from the anus end. If necessary reach inside the chicken to be certain that you've removed all the insides.

Step Five: Finishing up

To finish up cut off the feet, and pull out any remaining feathers. If you so desire, now is the time to skin the chicken. Then wrap the chicken and refrigerate it as soon as possible. REMEMBER, wash the chicken thoroughly before preparing.

That's it... you have yourself a fresh chicken. Now, go find yourself a good recipe.

CapnTrippy says to avoid getting poop on everything during step 4 tie a string around the anus before trying to remove it.

I grew up in a small fishing village on the north coast of British Columbia called Dodge Cove. Several of our neighbours in this village raised chickens, and one time, when I was quite young, my mother bought a few of these chickens, with the intention of killing, plucking & dressing them.

My mother is not a squeamish person. Not in the least. She was, however, new to chicken slaughter. A date was arranged for the chickens to meet their maker, and as this day drew near, she undertook a brief inquiry into the finer points of pollocide(?). She visited all the local chicken owners and their advice was consistent:

"What's there to say?"

"Cut off the head. Chicken dies."

"Piece of cake."

Soon the sun was rising on the fateful day. Or so we assume. We couldn't actually see the sun for the heavy grey clouds and misty rain. Yes, the chicken fields were slick that day. Indeed, my brother and I had great fun, running and sliding through the mud. My mother was not so amused. First, she had to catch the chickens. Chickens do not go gentle into that good night. Even, it seems, after their heads have been removed. Headless chickens ran amok, blood and head-guts splurting and mixing with the mud and the sliding children. For a short while, Chaos truly reigned.

The next day my mother regaled our chicken raising friends with the harrowing tale.

"Well shucks," they replied. "You should have hung them up by their feet for a while first. Calms them right down, so they don't run around like."

An acquaintance of mine dabbled in chicken farming as a summer side business. It turns out that raising "cage free" chickens is a fairly easy thing to do. You buy the chicks in the spring and put them out in the yard, inside a wire mesh house. The house has an open bottom, and you move it every day so the chick(en)s have fresh grass. Half of the house is covered with fabric to provide shade. The main purpose of the enclosure is to keep out predators and maintain flock coherence; there will inevitably be escapees, but rather than running for the hills they just wander around and eventually get lost or eaten if you don't bring them back in. Domestic chickens are observably very stupid. But of course you're not here to learn about raising chickens, you're here to learn about the peri- and postmortem excitement!

If you're a part-time chickenisto, when harvest/slaughter time comes you go and get the kill cart. This is a special trailer designed for the efficient killing and processing of chickens, collectively owned and time-shared by the local chicken farmers. An entrepreneur need only buy in to the group and, on their appointed day, fetch the cart from the last user. This system makes it easy to enter the business without a significant investment of time and money.

The kill cart is all stainless steel. Every surface is either full of holes or sloped toward a particular drain, keeping fluids out of the way and allowing the whole to be conveniently hosed down for cleanup. There are particular stations around the perimeter of the trailer for different parts of the process, some of which are connected to the large propane tank mounted just aft of the hitch.

Chickens enter at the front of the cart, several at a time. They are placed into "kill cones", metal funnels which hold inverted chickens with their heads poking out the bottom. These prevent the victims from flailing about and damaging themselves, and position them for convenient slaying and draining. It is important to note that the chicken's heart keeps going even after it is arguably dead, getting the blood out quicker. (This is the first problem with industrially processed chickens. They are typically electrocuted, instantly stopping the heart and leaving more blood in the body for the later stages.)

Dead, bloodless chickens are removed from the cones and passed to the plucker, who removes some larger feathers before putting the corpses in a convenient cleaning device. This is somewhat like a washing machine, having a rotating drum with thick rubber prongs on the walls. Hot water cleans the chickens and loosens the feathers, which are then stripped off by the prongs.

The naked, pink, dead, bloodless chickens are put on the evisceration table, where a couple more technicians perform Step Four, as described above by mrklaw. The table is ergonomically designed and directs unwanted guts into easily emptied catches, while channeling fluids out the bottom to the ground. At the end of the table, also the end of the trailer, is the first of two dedicated quality control workers. Their job is to make sure that all guts have been removed, and especially that no feces has been spilled during the evisceration. (This is the second problem with factory chickens. Bulk processing requires mechanical evisceration, which is indelicate and likely to rupture guts and intenstines. Individual hand-treatment greatly reduces the risk of infectious contamination.)

Moving back up the other side now, the naked, pink, dead, bloodless, gutless chickens are tidied up through removal of feet, necks, and other unwanted protrusions. They are then plunged into an icy water bath, under the supervision of the second quality controller. This is the terminus of the process, the output queue of the kill cart. At the end of the day the prepared chickens will be transferred to a larger basin of ice-water, from which customers can choose their own.

The comprehensive facilities of the kill cart and the (dis)assembly line division of labor enable approximately seven people (three would be a skeleton crew, and with ten the cart would be pretty crowded) to slaughter the whole flock of 50-100 in one fun-filled afternoon. Cleaning up is relatively easy too, no harder than washing a car. This gives "killing day" a kind of party atmosphere; you invite a few friends over, you slaughter the chickens, you have some beer, you sit around in the evening and talk about what you're going to do with the money. And few things taste better than an all-natural grain-fed chicken you assisted through its entire life cycle!

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