Some Chickens Were Harmed


All the pictures between this one–

–and this one are a little gruesome.

Yesterday, neighbor Skip came over with his big scalding pot and his homemade (AWESOME) plucker. My cousin Mark came over to wield the knife breaking down chickens while 52 and Skip caught, chopped off heads, scalded, and ran the plucker. I was in charge of washing, patting dry parts, bagging, and frying.

Forty chickens. One day.

What. An. Experience.

I’ll try to put up a post next week sometime with more details and photos–in a post with a separate page, to protect readers who don’t want to see or hear about it, but to allow those who are interested to take a look at the process and what a day killin’ chickens is really like.



  1. rurification says:

    Congratulations! It’s kind of a mind bender, isn’t it.

  2. Bev in CA says:

    Suzanne, job well done. Nice to have help and worth all the hard work. For many of us we are removed from our food source. We take it for granted. Knowing what is in the food we eat really matters to us. The only thing is that usually for us it is quite a while before we want to eat the chickens we butcher. Winter has arrived at our place and it is so nice to go to our freezer and later sit down to a tasty chicken dinner.

  3. Michele-lee says:

    I’d very much like details, but not sure about the pictures.

  4. langela says:

    I can’t wait for the details. We are looking at doing the same thing soon.

  5. Glenda says:

    Been there; done that including the killing part!
    It is a lot of work but it is the most delicious chicken you will ever eat. It positively ruins ‘store’ chicken for you.

    I hope to raise meat birds next spring but will try an abattoir fairly close that does it for you and flash freezes them for $2.50 each. Cheating, I know…

  6. Miss Judy says:

    My husbands Uncle used to do between 60 to 100 every year. Most of the family would come in to help (large family). They always had fried chicken afterwards. I didn’t think I would be able to eat fried chicken after all of the stench of wet feathers…but I did!

  7. wildcat says:

    Your neighbor Skip sounds like such a handy guy to know! The men here in my subdivision probably wouldn’t make it a day on a farm. LOL

  8. holstein woman says:

    You are a very successful lady. Nice to have help, we do when we do a large quantity.
    Suzanne, have you ever canned any of the meat? It is wonderful in pate`s, casseroles or sandwiches. It also makes delicous burgers.

  9. nld1959 says:

    I can’t wait for more info. I want to do this so badly (I think) Maybe pictures and details will help me to decide. I don’t seem to have problems preparing other animals but they don’t have to be plucked :hungry:

  10. The Pocket Farmer says:

    Back in August we butchered a dozen roosters, it was our first time. It is a big experience, one that is just starting to fade to gray for me. All of our meat is still in the freezer, although the plan is to start incorporating it back into our diets. Since I wouldn’t buy any at the store and wasn’t ready to eat our own, the net effect of our butchering so far was to eliminate chicken from our meals. Kind of ironic, I think.
    I wrote about it here ( ) in case you are contemplating butchering for yourself. It makes sense to me, to butcher, but a little hard on the pysche. Hoping next time will be a little easier.

  11. Flowerpower says:

    I will pass on the pictures thank you very much. I would never make a good farm wife. I used to have chickens but the idea of killing and eating them was just not my idea of fun. I know chicken comes from all that but at least i dont have to do it. I told you I was a wuss! :happyflower:

  12. Ramona Slocum says:

    Back in my farming days, the husband and 4 kids and I raised 300 chickens every year. We killed, cleaned and baged them and sold them to people in town. Never had enought for all the people who wanted to buy them. We did it in 2 days. My dad and mom and a few neighbors came to help. At the end of the day I fried up a batch of fresh chicken. Yummy.
    MN Mona

  13. Cheryl LeMay says:

    Congratulations Suzanne! You are now well on your way to self sufficiency. It is a big job and good you had lots of help.My husband used to help me but it got to him after a while so now I have to do it alone. For me six in a day is enough – I’m not a fast plucker.The mental aspect of killing something is hard but I think that’s as it should be.It makes you appreciate all life more.

  14. cabynfevr says:

    You took pictures???? Call me a sissy but that’s one post I think I’ll skip! All the years being a vegetarian…. nope, no thank you! :bugeyed:

  15. kindigo27 says:

    Several of the more unusual memories from childhood are of “slaughter day” when my family would in assembly-line (disassembly-line?) fashion would do this to half our chicken population. I was probably 7-9 years old at that time. My oldest brother wielded the machete, another brother held the chickens upside after beheading, my mother dunked them, my other brother and I plucked them, and my mother cleaned them out. It always seemed to rain on slaughter day, which–given the mess–was generally a good thing. It’s amazing that I do actually look back that those experiences with humor and nostalgia. I learned a lot about life and death. I learned a little about the satisfaction of revenge. You see, there was a rooster that LOVED to chase little girls… 🙂

  16. mschrief says:

    People are SO removed from their food sources. They think chicken just comes in a plastic wrapped package at the local grocery store. I say post the photos, get folks in touch with where their food comes from.

  17. Hlhohnholz says:

    Well done, Suzanne. I echo what many others have said before me, but with one small addition: The great thing about being in touch with your food, raising your own & then slaughtering it yourself, is that you know, with absolute certainty, that your animal has led the best life possible, and had the cleanest, most honorable death you could give it. For me, that’s one of the parts of the global food system that has really failed. We don’t honor our living-then-dead food. Anyway, well done, can’t wait for the details!

  18. LisaAJB says:

    I am interested in the process, but very glad I’ll be given the chance to finish my coffee before seeing it. 8) 8)

  19. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:

    Butchering any animal is not a pretty sight but it most certainly does keep food origins front and center. Seen all kinds slaughtered growing up — big and small. Thankfully, I was somewhat removed from a lot of it, except the chickens. My job was to step and fetch and to cook a meal for the helpers once old enough.

  20. jan n tn says:

    I like knowing my food. I haven’t bought chicken or turkey from the store, since we started raising our own. That’s been nearly 6 years ago. The point is, we are farmers. Wheather on a large or small scale, the circle is the same. Grow it,Love it,Tend it,Feed it,Slaughter it,Eat it. We know what’s gone into it, and how it has been treated. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing. Especially after passing by a turned over, truck load of bagged chicken parts, from a processing plant (at 8am on a 90 degree day) apparently, headed for distribution. The same wreck at 5pm—nearly mortified me. The plant had sent another frigerator truck and crew to the site.I watched as the plant crew picked up the bags and put them into the new truck. First thought was: surely they aren’t going to continue to the stores with that…it’s been out here for nearly 9 hours in this temp!! The question is: WHO WOULD KNOW ANY BETTER? I for one, ain’t goin’ there. Yes, I love my animals (chickens,turkeys,sheep,rabbits,goats) and they all end up getting names and getting spoiled -just ask the DH who said he wished he could become one, so I would pamper him too! Then I reminded him of how cold that freezer was going to be. Suzanne,you have peeked my interest about the home made plucker..and I hope you got plenty of pics of the whole days events.

  21. grammyscraps says:

    We did 97 Cornish Cross chickens one day years ago….Never again.
    They were delicious and loved having a dinner where everything on the table was homegrown, including the goat milk. But, we could never do that many by ourselves and the help we had that day were really more a hindrance. We’ve moved into town now and I do miss our laying hens and beef cattle.

  22. Lierin says:

    This is the first year we are putting only meat that we’ve raised in the freezer, with the exception of possibly adding a portion of our neighbor’s cow. We’ve done a pig (I absolutely don’t recommend waiting until the pig is 565 pounds, although 412 pounds of meat and fat for lard is impressive), chickens (26 Buff, RIR, Araucanas), and rabbit (which will now be a year round activity). I’d like to add venison to the list … we’ll see. Our neighbors are Mennonites and they have had two bumper year with calves.

    I froze a good bit of the meat, but I’m also canning more as time goes by. We’ve started making sausage, scrapple, and I have most of my frig taken up with brining hams and bacon.

    When we began this it was something we’d wanted to do for years, but we (DH and I) wondered how we’d do with meat that actually had a face we knew. I doubt that I will ever look forward to ‘the day’, but I am ok with it. Our animals are spoiled, well fed, happy, and handled daily. Our pigs (as huge as they were) considered themselves to be large bald dogs ~ and expected anyone who wandered their way to scratch them and pet them right up until the end. We’ve kept the gilt to breed … she’s incredibly good natured. We have no electric holding her in (or the two boys ~ one of which we traded for help/teaching us to do it right), only standard hog panels.

    My chickens came from chicks that hatched out and produced extra roos. My bunnies live in colony pens and I stagger the breeding so they only do two litters a year.

    They are happy and live well, safe from predators in appropriate ‘housing’. It’s a trade off that I AM comfortable with. I’m glad to have healthy meat in return for a healthy and happy life.

    Kudos Suzanne for taking that first step. It should never be easy or fun … just done right and with respect for the animal and what it gives you.

  23. JOJO says:

    I had to help my Stepfather do this when I was a child, that was 50 plus years ago–never again!

  24. Miz Carmen says:

    Aren’t those chicken pluckers GREAT? Did he get the plans from Herrick Kimball at the Deliberate Agrarian? We made our plucker based on his plans, and did 120 broilers in one day back in July, with a crew of about ten. We would never have had the courage to do it had it not been for his photo blog; I’ll bet yours provides others with the same inspiration.

    What a great feeling of self-sufficiency, when you know that what you’re feeding your family is home grown. Quality-controlled from chick to plate!

    As for our own naysayers that inquired about the “cruelty to animals” angle, we simply quoted Joel Salatin and told them, “Our birds have had a wonderful life… and just one really bad day.”

    Way to go! Can’t wait to see your process and hopefully pick up a pointer or two!

  25. thistlewoodmanor says:

    Yep, we did that with the neighbors last week. Turkeys, ducks, chicken, it was a hoot. Did you kill all the chickens? Didn’t sound like you left any for eggs.

  26. joykenn says:

    Skip certainly seems to be an invaluable neighbor and so kind to help with this laborious, messy process. Maybe rather than wring necks when you try to butcher on your own, you might try using a lighter ax or hatchet. It takes a certain knack and really strong forearms to break a neck swiftly and efficiently to avoid extra pain for the bird.

    Get a good smaller ax, a hatchet or, even as was suggested, a machete. They’re useful for trimming tree limbs, chopping down bushes and a good investment for a good tool. The ax they were using is probably too big for your size.

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