Butchering Chickens

Nearly every year we butcher chickens. It’s one of my mom’s hobbies, and that should scare you even though it doesn’t scare me. I just figure that she saves up all her anger and frustration, and gets it all out of her system once a year by viciously slaughtering a few helpless chickens. Better them than me.

This once a year event includes the whole family. By that I mean that anyone in the family who wasn’t fortunate enough to find a good excuse or escape route and be gone by the time things get rolling gets roped into helping mom butcher whatever amount of chickens she feels she needs to murder that year.

With this last batch of chickens we did, I wasn’t able to get out of the house quickly enough, and therefore got roped into helping. I did try to get out of it, but you don’t want to argue with my mom when she’s getting ready to kill something. She just might make a quick change of plans about what (or should I say who) exactly it is that she’s killing. So the operation included mom, me and all the children younger than me. Luke was running the plucker, John was slitting throats (literally), Naomi was trying to scald the chickens without having to look at or touch them (she wore a pair of big rubber gloves, and every time she touched or looked at a chicken, or any part thereof she immediately had to go wash her gloves off). Abe was helping John, and Anna and David were there for odd jobs and the inevitable science class (Mom: “Anna, David, come here. Now, can you point out the heart to me? Good. Now how about the lungs? No, here are the lungs, that’s the liver. These are the intestines. Do you know what they are for? No, David, not for us to eat”…).

Mom and I were gutting. Gutting is more than just removing the guts from the now (hopefully) dead bird. To gut a chicken, you are supposed to grab its head and pull it off – yes, pull it off, then loosen the windpipe and esophagus. Now turn the chicken around and cut this little sack of oil off of the tail – very hard to do using only the knife. It always gets stuck by one little strand of skin, and you’re there shaking the dead bird, and trying to cut this one little strand of skin with a butcher knife, because you don’t want to grab the disgusting little blob of oil and pull it off. Once you’re done with that, you cut the bird open, stick your hand in, and pull. Just make sure that you get the lungs – they have a tendency to stick to the ribs, and you’d better hope that in the process of pulling the insides out, you don’t squeeze the intestines too hard and end up squirting crap all over your hand. And that is what there is to gutting a chicken.

The worst part of the whole process is pulling the head off. It just looks so much like a head that it’s really disgusting to just grab it and pull it off. I really hate that part, and when we were butchering this last batch of chickens, I kept whining about how much I hated that part of the process.

Luke caught on surprisingly quickly to the fact that grabbing a chickens head and pulling it off disgusted me, and for the remainder of the day, he pulled the head off of every chicken that I had to gut before he gave them to me after they had been plucked. I thought it was a really sweet thing for him to do. Then I did a double take and realized just what I was thinking was a sweet thing for a guy to be doing for me.

You know you come from a redneck family when pulling the head off a dead chicken is the most gentlemanly thing your brother has ever done for you.


3 thoughts on “Butchering Chickens

  1. My Dad and Brothers butchered thirty 15-20lb chickens and thirty 25-45lb turkeys the year before last and the way you worded the description in your post really cracked me up the entire time.

    LOL, about the end. That was sweet of your brother to pull the heads of before it got to your assembly line.

    That’s great ya’ll did team work like that. Everyone having their own job for each step of the butchering process. Makes it a lot easier. I’m really glad my Dad doesn’t make me help with the butchering. But if I had to do it I would.


    1. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it is a skill I’m glad I have, and I like knowing where my food came from. 30 is about the amount we usually end up doing as well. My mom tried raising turkeys one year, but most of them died the first few weeks when they were chicks, so she hasn’t tried doing it again.


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