Today I had to kill one of the eating chickens. It hadn’t been eating and spent most of its time hiding beneath the feeder which meant that it would be attacked whenever one of the other chickens came for food. I bought the chicks on the 8th May 2013 and when I asked the shopkeeper how old they were at the time, he said 2 or 3 weeks. By my calculation, therefore, they were born on about 24th April 2013
Last year, we killed the chickens when they were 12 weeks old and they were quite big by then. The chicken I killed today was about 8 weeks old. It was pathetically puny but I didn’t want to wait for it to die like last year when we lost two.
Most people recommend killing eating chickens at around 10-12 weeks. Any longer than that and they are really getting too heavy and spend most of their day eating.
I’ve found the best way to slaughter a chicken is to use a chicken cone and a poultry dispatcher (which is a cross between a clamp and a pair of scissors and which I bought from Ascott Dairy Supplies). The cone is mounted on the wall above a table where you can put a bowl to catch the blood. If you want to use the blood, put a pinch of salt in the container to stop it congealing.
The best time is early in the morning when the chickens are calmer and before they have been able to eat or drink too much. Catch the chicken and hold it upside down by its feet. Put them head first into the cone so that the head comes out through the hole. Still holding the feet, clamp the neck with the dispatcher so that you cut off the blood supply to the brain (you may need to use two hands). Wait until the chicken stops moving and then bleed it by cutting its neck – just below its ear on the side, avoiding the throat. Leave the chicken in place until it has stopped bleeding. Cut the bird’s head off completely.
PLUCKING THE BIRD:
The next step is to pluck the chicken. Heat some water in a saucepan which is large enough so that you can completely submerge the bird. The temperature should be about 68-70ºC. Dunk the bird 3 or 4 times and you’ll then find that the feathers come out really easily.
PREPARING AND GUTTING THE BIRD:
1. Cut off the feet
Lay the bird on its back. Using a sharp knife, cut off the feet off by cutting between the joint and through the tendons.
2. Remove and loosen the crop
Unlike mammals whose food goes directly into the stomach, chickens first store their food in the crop which is a sack just above their right breast. From the neck end, using your fingers, find and hook out the crop, pulling it slowly away from the bird.
3. Remove the oil gland
The oil gland is just above the parson’s nose and looks like a lump of fatty tissue. You will need to cut down into the flesh and then follow the line of the parson’s nose. It is quite small.
4. Open up the back end of the chicken
The idea is to make as small a hole as possible and not cut through any of the intestines. Pinch and lift the skin directly above the parson’s nose and carefully cut round the rectum to detach it from the rest of the body. Insert your fingers into the hole and hook them round the intestines. Pull away carefully to remove all the innards and intestines. Feel inside to check that everything has been removed and then rinse out.