In our house this counts as being educational. Chicken anatomy and physiology or economics or home ec. Count the chicken heads and you've got math! Chasing and catching is PE!
Six year old Douglas is our handy chicken catcher, though we all got in on the crazy, chase-a-chicken-round-the-yard thing once or twice. We use a big net. It helps. Chickens are amazingly fast once they realize their minutes are numbered.
Here we go. To butcher chickens, you will need (or at least it is helpful to have):
A big net or really quick feet
A pair of very sharp kitchen shears
A sharp chef's knife and/or boning knife
Reynolds zip lock bags that come with a sealer in quart and gallon sizes
Two work tables, one that can be nailed into
A garbage bag in a garbage can for feathers and guts
A spare nail
A stove or turkey fryer base to heat up your big pot of water to 180 degrees.
First, catch your chicken:
At this point your chicken is still alive. An easy way to make a chicken docile instantly is to hold them by their ankles. Do chickens have ankles? I don't know. Just hold them right above their feet upside down.
Now there are two ways you can quickly kill your chicken. Our preferred way is to hold them upside down with one hand and whack them on the head with the baseball bat. Quick, humane, bloodless. It doesn't sound nice, I know.
It is much nicer than the stories we've all heard of chickens running around with their heads chopped off.
These fat hens were too big for that. They got up and scurried away.
Hence the noose method. Hammer your nail into the leg of your work table and make a noose with your strong wire. Slip in the alive chicken's head. Tada!
Flop the chicken up onto the table, still holding its feet.
Okay, that chicken just got its head chopped off with the hatchet. If you have a six year old boy, he probably made off with it by now. If not, toss it in the garbage can.
The chicken needs to hang upside down for a bit to let the blood drain out. My husband used an electrical staple for this purpose. Smart guy.
After you've got a few chickens hanging, wash off your workspace. Heat up your water to 180 degrees. This temperature is very important as it makes the difference between plucking being absolute misery or easy-peasy.
We use the cooking base that comes with a turky fryer.
We've tried the paraffin method and like the hot water method much better.
Unhook your chicken's foot. Uncover your hot pot of water.
Stand down wind.
Dip it in.
Swish it around a bit. Pull it out. Plunge it in again.
Swish. Swish. Okay, you are done. Toss it to your wife. The one who forgot to put on an apron but is trying to look cute for her husband while plucking a chicken. Which I don't think is possible. But I try.
And, yes, I realize I look seventeen here. Sorry.
At least no one has come to the door lately and asked if my parents are home.
At this point the feathers will come off very easily. It begins to resemble the whole chickens you see in the supermarket.
A little. It still has feet and chicken poo round its nether regions.
I pluck the whole thing except for round the vent (chicken poo hole end) and by the neck. There's no need as you'll see.
At this point you call call your older kids over and say, "Hey, try this, it's fun!" (Guffaw, guffaw.)
They will not be fooled and you'll soon be left to pluck alone with your thoughts of how you were once a tofu eating vegetarian.
Once plucked, Sean takes the chicken, cutting off its feet above the ankles. We decided chickens have ankles, right? Right? He cuts right above the yellow part.
Cut off the tips of their wings. There's nothing down there to eat.
Now where the chickens scrawny little head was, there is a feathery mess. Carefully slice the chicken skin around the neck below this feathery mess. There, much better.
Here's the neck, which is my grandmother's favorite part. Sean kept them to try. He once convinced me to try escargot at a fancy French restaurant we love.
Eh, I wasn't impressed.
Here's that neck again. Peel back the skin a bit and you'll find this. The crop. The crop has small stones and sand in it that grinds up what the chickens eat. Chickens don't have teeth.
If you're at our house and go hollering across the yard that a "chickens trying to bite me" don't wonder why I fall over in hysterics. Chickens are pretty harmless.
So the crop.
Cut it carefully out. Toss it in the garbage can. Want to see what your chicken has been eating. Cut it open. Kids love this part.
One of our chicken's crop was the size of a softball. We assume it must have been clogged.
At this point we heard Brutus barking, and asked each other,
"Where is Brutus?"
"Didn't you leave him inside this morning? "
"Who, me? Yes, I kept him inside."
What? Doesn't everybody's Great Dane crawl through open windows and stand on the roof?
Back to the chicken, folks. Nothing to see here.
Place your chicken like so:
Douglas is showing you how to feel the chicken to find where to cut next.
Find the end of that bone. That is where you are going to slice.
Make about a two inch horizontal slice here at the midline, from right to left between the chickens legs. Cut this very carefully cut this with the tip of your knife. You do not want to poke the guts. Eck!
This is the rear end of the chicken. Slice just where Sean is slicing. This is directly opposite where you just made that first slice at the end of the chicken's bone on the other side.
Your cut will look like this.
Fip the bird back over to that first slice you made.
Wiggle your fingers on in. Stretch it open.
Now stick your hand inside. I'm serious now. Hop on in.
And pull all the gooey goodness out.
These are the beginning of eggs. Sean says these are a delicacy in some cultures and I believe him. He's smart like that.
No, we don't eat them.
Once the guts are pulled out, you can set aside the chicken livers if you like. They aren't a big hit round here. The kids are much more partial to duck livers.
With you knife, carefully slice round from the opening where you pulled the guts from to the small sice you made on the other side. The offically makes your chicken without a rear. This is a good thing.
You can now wash out your chicken, rubbing your hands around inside and leave as is...
Because of the size of ours, we had to take out the backbone and split it for it to fit into the gallon bags we freeze the chicken in.
Which is the beginning of a really, really good recipe you can find here. Our personal favorite.
(yes, I realize I use sarcasm freely where blood and guts are concerned. So sorry. I was once a plastics nurse...)