The Chicken Experiment, and Meat Chicken Processing Planning


The ruler of the roost – click to enlarge

Our roosters are now about 21 weeks old, we have had them for 10 weeks as of this past Saturday, September 3rd.  They are way beyond prime butchering age, but that has not been the only point of the experiment.  We will probably keep them a little bit longer, maybe a week or two, before butchering, for a couple of reasons: 1) we enjoy having them around, and 2) to further acclimate the dogs to their presence.  In recent weeks the dogs have been great with chickens.  A few weeks ago we did lose one of the original five birds to a predator, and we are not exactly sure whether the culprit was one or both of the dogs, or some other critter.  The dogs were caught with some evidence, basically the breast of the bird, in the yard, so they have that working against them.  Still, things have gone well since, and we have been free ranging the chickens all day every day for the past two or three weeks.  The chickens move around the yard and the nearby woods, no problems, and plenty of forage for small the omnivores that they are.

The chicken tractor that Anne Arthur designed and built for us has worked very well, we have had no issues.  The chickens return to the coop reliably at sundown.  For use in free ranging chickens, where they are only in the coop overnight, for the most part, it could accommodate 20 or more.  The chickens have not done any noticeable damage to flower beds, and we have fenced them out of the vegetable garden.  If we were keeping them, they would definitely be turned loose in the garden after we shut it down for the year.

All things taken into consideration, the experiment has been a grand success.  We are planning to raise somewhere between one and two dozen meat birds next year.

A Primal Woods Facebook subscriber asked if we were going to share a video of the chicken processing, and the answer is “yes,” that is in keeping with a major reason why this blog was started, and that was to give back something to the community that has given so much to us, by way of sharing knowledge and experience, among other things, since we landed on the property in July of 2013.  The balance of this post then, is about the preparations being made to process the chickens into food.  I will share some resources that I have tapped into, and the process that I will be using on the day of processing.

First though, my sincere thanks to Anne Arthur for helping us to get this far, with equipment, advice and counsel, and for reviewing my flow chart work twice, providing indispensable feedback on both occasions.  I could not ask for a more informed and generous mentor.

Before addressing he how-to, I did some research on humane animal treatment, management, and slaughter.  “Dr. Temple Grandin is widely considered to be the world’s leading expert on humane livestock handling,” according to the National Turkey Federation, and her life was celebrated in the Emmy Award-winning HBO film “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes.  She is also a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, and the author of more than a dozen books.

Humane Animal Management:

Turkey Farm & Processing Plant Tour: Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin – “Humane Animal Slaughter” – Part 1 (and Part 2 below, mostly have to do with cattle)

Dr. Temple Grandin – “Humane Animal Slaughter” – Part2

For more from Dr. Grandin, see her website:

As it turns out Temple Grandin is Autistic.  If you watch this video on YouTube, several others will come up under “Up Next.”

Temple Grandin On Mark Zuckerberg and Overcoming Autism

Now, let’s get to the “how-to” reference material.  The videos that spoke most effectively to me, were those by John Suscovich.

“How to Kill a Chicken Humanely (Graphic),” includes “pithing,” by John Suscovich

“How to Butcher a Chicken: Step by Step,” by John Suscovich

“Chicken Slaughter,” playlist, by John Suscovich (includes the two videos above)

I also watched:

“First time how to butcher slaughter free range chicken, Advice to a rookie by a rookie”

“Survival Skills with Russ – How to Butcher a Chicken pt 1 (kill, pluck, gut)”

“How to slaughter a chicken for food – Quickly and humanely using a chicken killing cone”

And finally, a blog post recommended to me by Anne Arthur; detailed images, very helpful:

“How to Process Chickens at Home”

20160905_Chicken_Processing_Flow_Rev 01

Process Flow – Chicken Slaughter and Processing – Revision 01 – click to enlarge.

All of what I learned is summarized in flow chart form for easy reference, and as a foundation for future process improvements.  I have also made a pdf of the process flow chart available by clicking HERE.

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All for now, and kind regards,