Raising chickens yourself in the back yard, or buying them direct and intact from the farmer, is one way to guarantee you're getting an immaculately fresh bird. Unfortunately, it also means you'll need to pluck and clean the chicken before you cook it. This isn't especially difficult but it is a messy process, best performed outdoors. If you're doing several birds at once an outdoor cooker is helpful, but a pot of hot water from your stove is sufficient for one or two.
Select a pot large enough to hold a chicken and a gallon or two of water, as well. Heat the water on the stovetop, or on an outdoor cooker, until it reaches a temperature of 125 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring the pot outdoors, if you've heated it on the stovetop.
Pull on a pair of thick rubber gloves. Lift the chicken by its feet, and immerse it in the hot water.
Hold the chicken underneath the surface of the hot water with a stick, or a long wooden spoon. Swirl it a few times around the pot, to make sure the hot water penetrates the feathers and reaches the bird's entire skin.
Remove the chicken from the water after 30 to 60 seconds, and lay it on a clean tarpaulin or plastic bag. Pull away feathers by the handful, starting at the wings where they're harder to pluck and will come away more easily when warm. Hold the bird so its feathers are pointing in your direction and then pluck away from your body, so you're pulling the feathers at a sharp angle to their natural direction.
Continue until you've removed all the feathers. You might opt to simply cut away the bird's wingtips with shears or a sharp knife, rather than trying to pluck them. Some birds will have a number of small, quill-like pinfeathers. Remove these with a pair of pliers, or scorch them off with a torch.