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Forget Plucking! There’s A MUCH Easier Way To Process Chickens

Forget Plucking! Here’s A MUCH Easier Way To Process Chickens

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Processing chickens usually involves plucking feathers, which can be a long and tedious job, especially with some heavy-feathered traditional chicken breeds such as Cochins, Orpingtons and Wyandottes. Instead of inviting a herd of neighbors over to help pluck your chickens on chicken butchering day, make your chicken meat processing easier with these simple ideas.

Skin Your Chickens

Forget plucking altogether and instead, skin your chickens. The process is quicker, eliminating not only all feathers, but the skin, excessive fat, the tail and the head. You get all of the meat in a neat, freezable package.

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The chicken skinning process is as follows:

  • Hang upside down – After putting a bird through the killing cone, tie a cord between its legs, and hang it upside down from an outbuilding ceiling rafter or tree branch.
  • Skin legs – Use a sharp skinning knife and start skinning from where feathers start on the legs. After just a couple of turns around a leg, and you can simply pull the leg skin off with one downward motion.
  • Skin body – Make a slice from leg to leg on the bottom of the bird’s abdomen. Then, skin rearward and frontward. Again, most of the skin will separate from the meat by simply pulling it downward. More delicate skinning is required on the bird’s rump, lower back, and where its wings attach to the abdomen. Only skin to the wings’ elbow joints.
  • Separate unwanted parts – Using a stiff hunting knife, make a slice on one side, and then the other side of each elbow joint, thereby severing them in two. You won’t keep the end of the wing, but there’s not enough meat on that part to worry about. Next, slice through the neck with your hunting knife. Dispose of the skin with all of the feathers, the neck, the tail with its oil gland, the head, and both wing tips. What’s left hanging is the meat and legs. Unhang this carcass, make a slice at the hock joint, snap it sideways, and then cut off the scaly ends of the chicken legs. Slice open the bottom of the cavity, pull out the guts, and wash the carcass in a bowl of fresh cold water. You can separate out the liver, heart and gizzard, if you enjoy chicken giblets.

Clean Up the Whole Bird

Thorough cleaning is best performed in a sink with running water. Rinse the cavity and remove any parts missed by prior gutting. Pay particular attention to lungs, trachea and ovaries or testes, which still might be attached. Cut away unwanted fat. Trim any remaining feathers from the ends of the legs and wings.

Cut Body into Parts

To cut up your chicken into individual pieces:

  • Legs and wings – Cut to the inside of the thighs. Then, grab both legs and snap them backward, exposing the joints. Cut them off of the main body and cut the drum sticks from the thighs, again through the joints. Cut the mini drum sticks of the wings off of the main body.
  • Back and ribs – Stand the bird on its neck. Cut from the tail to the neck along one side of its ribs, and then cut the other side. Bend backward until the back snaps. Cut across the points of least resistance, cutting the lower back from the ribs.
  • Breast – Put the front of breast down on a cutting board. Cut on both sides of the cartilage, slide fingers along the breast bone and peel it out. Cut the breast in half, giving you two pieces of breast meat.

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Packaging and Freezing

A nice aspect with skinning and cutting up your chicken is that you get a more compact package of chicken meat that fits better in the freezer than does a round chicken carcass. After you’ve cut up your chicken, thoroughly wash all parts again under cold water. Then let the water drain from the chicken parts by leaving them in the sink with the water turned off.

Avoid wrapping chicken meat in freezer wrap paper. Chicken meat lasts longer in the freezer when it’s packaged in plastic. Zippered gallon freezer bags work best. Traditional chicken breeds butchered at 12 weeks old will fit nicely into gallon freezer bags. Once excess water drains off the chicken parts, place them all within a gallon bag, partially close the plastic zipper of the bag, and then squeeze excess air from the bag before closing it.

You now have a nice, flat package of chicken meat. Now, wasn’t that easier than plucking the chicken?

Do you have any advice for processing a chicken without plucking it? Share it in the section below:

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  1. This is just wrong. The (crispy) skin is the best part of the chicken! And healthy animals fats are good for you and provide most of the flavor.

  2. Skinning a homestead chicken is blasphemous!
    The skin is the best part and homesteaders aren’t this wasteful!

  3. I agree with both of the above comments! I eat a lot of chicken and it is the skin that makes a chicken taste like a chicken!!!!!

  4. It’s not that hard to get the feathers off of a bird if you dip it in scalding water first. And do be careful not to break the gall bladder or you will ruin the meat.

  5. While the skin is nice, for me, skinning does make the process much faster.
    Skinning I can kill and have in ready to break down or put on a rotisserie, in 7 1/2 minutes.

    Side Note: If I have 10 or more chickens/turkeys/ducks to butcher, I use Craftsman pruning shears! The make quick work of all the cutting, and when finished, replace them so you have sharp shears the next time.

  6. Skinning is fine for soup, broth or dumplings, anything else the skin holds fat essential to make juicy tender chicken. I made a human powered plucker out of an old bike for 20 bucks. With 2 of us chop, gut, scald, pluck, torch off hairs, in the freezer in 5 minutes. We do 100 birds a year takes us one afternoon.

  7. I skin mine. Even though I agree the skin contains valuable fat, I just don’t have the patience to pluck them.

  8. I can pluck a chicken in just a few minutes. I will invest that to be able to eat the skin.

  9. Or- poke a small hole in the neck skin. Insert an air nozzle. Inflate the chicken. The complete skin will separate from the carcas like an oversized dry suit. Then slice the skin open like a sweater, and cut rings around the legs and wing tips whete you want. I agree that the skin is the maximum flavor generator, but only when it’s worth the trouble to leave it on.

  10. This sounds like an efficient method, but many people do like the skin. There are alternatives that leave on the skin. One is to singe the feathers off, another is to dip the bird in hot wax, let it cool and then peel off the wax. The feathers will come off with the wax. I have also seen some mechanical pluckers on YouTube that beat the feathers off. Don’t know what the beating does to the meat, though, and you should take out the innards before putting the bird into such a device.

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