Tag Archives: Slaughter

Butchering the Backyard Chicken

set-up for butcheringSome time in July, between netting salmon and harvesting cucumbers, the time arrives for the chickens to transition from the yard to the freezer. These little gems are between six and eight weeks old when I butcher. I buy day-old Cornish-Rock cross birds (actually, I get them in the mail – my post office is great about calling me the morning the birds arrive.) I’m not going to go into the details of raising them here. If you are interested, I will create another post on that topic.

Slaughtering a chicken

Insert the tip of the knife to the right of the neck bone with the blade facing out. Slide along the bone toward the front of the bird and pull the blade out to sever the muscle and buried artery.

This is an old traffic cone I nailed to a board. The cone hugs the bird’s limbs so it doesn’t break a leg or wing and it allows me to humanely sever the artery in the neck. The chicken barely makes a sound as the blood drains into a bucket below, and eventually just “goes to sleep,” as the neighborhood kids like to say. (I seem to always have an audience, but then, I am in my front yard, so what do I expect?)

Removing limbs

Once the bird is dead, remove the neck, legs, and wing tips. If you pluck, you may want to keep the wing tips, but I prefer skinless chicken, and there’s not much meat on the tips, anyway.


Carefully slide a thin knife up the breastbone between the meat and the skin, then pull it back to expose the meat.

breast exposed

off like a sweater

Pull the skin down the back and off the “arms” like removing a sweater, then the same with the legs until the skin comes off. Cut off the tail.

body cavity

Now that the skin is removed, it is time to open the body cavity. Be careful not to nick any internal organs as you slice the thin muscle just below the breastbone.


Pull out the innards. Don’t forget to scoop out the lungs, which nestle between the ribs. If you want to save the liver, heart, and gizzard, put them aside.

Then dig your finger on either side of the backbone to remove the kidneys.kidney

Dig your finger on either side of the backbone to remove the kidneys.

hose it out

To really get the last bits of kidney removed, I jet out the inside with the hose.

Check for any bits of stuff you wouldn’t want to eat, paying particular attention to the neck area and the crevasses between the body and thigh.

I don’t recommend eating poultry immediately after butchering because rigor mortis makes the meat tough. I place the birds in a big cooler with ice water (well water here is around 38˚ F. If you need to use ice, do it.) Let them soak 24 hours, which allows the muscles to relax and removes extra blood. Then cut them up and freeze them according to your preferences.

cold waterLet me know what you think of my method! I’m always open to suggestions.

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Self Sufficiency – Not for the Faint of Heart

I apologize to those of you looking for the gluten free beer recipe. You’ll have to wait, because I haven’t been able to get to the brewing process for pictures, yet.

Skinning the steer – yes, that’s war paint on his face

The last two weeks have been full of twelve hour days processing food in one way or another. For decades I have been obsessed with self-sufficiency, at least when it comes to food. And living in Alaska makes doing so difficult in some ways. Our autumn is short. Blink, and the carrots have frozen into the ground. Plus our daylight is disappearing at a rate of over five minutes a day – we are down to about ten hours of daylight if we need to work outside.

But the cool weather is perfect for butchering. We slaughtered my son’s 4-H hog and steer, which surprisingly took only one twelve hour day. Then we cut up and froze the pork while the beef “aged” in the back yard for a week. The quarters hung from a beam set across two industrial strength ladders. Game bags kept the marauding magpies at bay (mostly – the cheap game bag made of a stretchy material had several suspicious holes in it along the suet line, so I think little beaks may have nibbled a few bits. We cut those portions away.)

From quarter to burger

Sausage patties

Once we began butchering, it took us five full days of work to reduce all four quarters to neat little packages for the freezer.

Stew meat

Breakfast patties

Freezer packages

I’m no professional butcher, but my cookbook has pictures of cuts of meat with a labeled picture of what part of the animal they come from, so I am pretty pleased with our results. Last night we ate bacon wrapped Filet Mignon and maybe it was all the hard work, but I’ve never had better.

This isn’t mine – we ate too fast to get a photo

There is something intensely satisfying with setting a table prepared with food all raised by my own hand. I know if the world falls apart (like in Botanicaust) I’ll be able to at least feed my family.

And while I may not have been writing while bringing in all this food, I have been gathering ideas for future books along the way. Maybe I’ll figure out how to make leather 🙂

Salting the hide

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© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.