Today I woke up, rounded up three of my chickens, and went to a friend's house to butcher chickens. We did three of mine, and about a dozen of hers. The last chicken I butchered took hours for just one chicken, so I had no idea how long this was going to take. I did know that I wasn't going to pluck this many chickens. I do not pluck well.
My friend graciously does the actual killing, as that is one part that I am still too squeamish to do. One day I'll get there. We try to do it as humanely as possible, so that means sticking the chicken head down in a cone, and then slitting it's throat, so that it bleeds out very quickly. This is by far the worst part.
After the chicken is dead, I put it on the table and chop off its feet, and then the head. I have found that if you cut the neck close to the head, it will still be able to make a noise when air is pushed out through the voice box. This is creepy. It really startled me the first time it happened!
Cutting off the head is hard. I do not look at the actual head as I am doing it, but just concentrate on the neck. Once the head is gone, then the connection I felt towards the living breathing animal is less, and it is now a hunk of meat that I can process without feeling sorry for it. This particular chicken's name was Buttercup. She was a pretty chicken that gave us good eggs, but unfortunately she and the other two Wyandottes, were relentless bullies that made life for all of our hens unbearable. I felt that the responsible thing to do was to kill them and use their meat, so that their lives were not wasted.
Back to the processing... Since plucking takes so long, we decided to skip that step, and just skin them. This was so much easier! We also just got the breast and leg quarters, since nearly all the meat are in these two cuts and it is easier to store this way.
When you butcher a hen, there are going to be egg yolks of different sizes in her. This is really cool, and shows just how amazing the egg making process is. We even found a few hard shelled eggs.