Chicken processing is an age-old and simple task if you harvest your own livestock for the table. In recent times an increase in interest in raising animals, even in semi urban areas, has raised the need to learn basic farming techniques. Preparing a chicken to eat it after it is harvested can be done with no special tools or expertise but the proper method is required to result in a safe meal. It can be a somewhat messy and smelly process but the result is fresh meat for your table.
Prepare a work surface for the butchering of the bird. This can be a clean sanitized table top, or you can hang the bird to work on it, which is preferable for less chance of contamination. If you use a table top it is not recommended that you use the same table where you eat meals due to the chance of contamination.
Tie the feet together with strong twine and leave a length to hang the bird from a pole, clothesline or other location to process the bird. This area does not have to be sterile, but should be somewhere that if blood splatters on the ground or surfaces it won't cause a problem.
Hang the chicken upside down to let the blood drain from the body once it has been slaughtered. If the slaughter method was a cut to the jugular, do not remove the head as less blood will drain from the body. If the method was to break the neck a cut across the throat is necessary to open the vein and let the blood drain.
Place a funnel over the head of the chicken to direct the blood and collect it. You can drain the blood into a disposable container such as an old milk jug, or allow it to drain onto the ground in a pile of sawdust to be disposed of later.
Let the chicken hang and drain for five minutes or less. When the blood flow slows down you can remove the bird and begin the plucking process.
Pour enough heated water into a bucket to immerse the entire chicken. The water should be at least 60 degrees, but not so hot you begin to cook the chicken before you process it. The main goal of scalding the chicken is to open the follicula holding the feathers so they can be removed easily.
Dip the chicken into the bucket for 60 seconds, then remove.
Pluck the feathers by hand, pulling them out and discarding them until you have removed all the feathers including the tiny pin feathers or any remaining shaft portions. Rinse your fingers to remove feather debris when they stick to make the job easier. Don't worry about collecting the feathers for disposal at this point as speed is more important than neatness.
Begin eviscerating the bird, or removing its internals and the parts that won't be eaten. Make a cut around the neck to remove the head, then twist and cut through the neck bone to remove it. Split the neck skin down the back then make a cut at the base of the neck. Twist to separate the neck but don't remove it from the body yet. Cut away the esophagus, trachea and crop, by removing them or cutting them apart from the neck but leaving them attached to the body.
Cut from the vent, taking care not to cut into the intestines, up the body making a hole large enough to insert a hand. If the intestines are compromised the body can be contaminated with fecal matter, so take your time.
Remove the viscera from the body cavity by hand, making sure to collect all the organs. The lungs are attached to the back and may require a sharp tug to pull them away. Place the organs on the work surface and separate the heart, liver and gizzard if you choose to save them. These are commonly known as the giblets.
Clean the giblets if you are keeping them for consumption. Trim the heart of any extruded pieces of the vascular system by trimming off the top to expose the chambers. Wash the heart in clear clean water, squeezing during washing to remove any remaining blood inside. Trim the gall bladder carefully away from the liver so the green liquid bile does not contaminate the organ and wash it. Split the gizzard down the center, peel the lining away and wash away the contents to clean it. Place the giblets in a plastic storage bag. These can be frozen inside the body cavity of the bird if it is not to be eaten immediately.
Wash the bird thoroughly and be sure all the parts of the viscera are removed. Use ice water to begin the cooling process as soon as possible. Trim off any excess fat or skin parts you don't want, and rinse the bird again. Place the bag of giblets in the body cavity and place in a moisture proof vacuum seal or freezer storage bag if you plan to store the bird for later use.
Collect all the viscera, feathers and other debris in plastic garbage bags and dispose of it with your regular trash. A sealed container is best so roaming animals don't have access to the refuse and the smell is reduced. Clean the work area with a mixture of bleach and water to remove any contamination.
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