I chose the no plucking method when I finally butchered my first chickens… I love live chickens. I think they are one of the most beautiful animals on the planet.
I also like eating eggs, so it’s natural that I have laying hens and look forward to harvesting eggs for my household every day. The process of killing and butchering a chicken is not something I like to think about.
One of my favorite breeds is the Phoenix for the rooster’s amazing feathers. Several years ago I was very fortunate to rescue a small bantam flock and make them my own.
Twelve of their eggs aren’t big enough to fill an egg carton, so I preferred to let the hens set and hatch as many of these beautiful chickens as they could. My chickens were healthy and happy and beautiful, so I had no desire to eat them.
As life would have it, things change. One day I read about a no plucking method of processing chickens. I had also been studying more and more about human health and the foods we eat. It took me decades of keeping chickens to seriously consider raising some for meat.
Plucking and gutting was something I haven’t done and really didn’t want to do, so when I found out about this method I was intrigued. To get started I had to buy some young chickens specifically for the purpose of meat. Apparently, the way my mind works best, is to never get attached to chickens I will butcher. Plucking chickens(the other way) has been done for ages. I’ve heard about boiling a chicken once killed, making the plucking easier. I’ve heard that there is a way to take a chicken’s life, where it is so relaxed, that the feathers can be brushed off with the hand. And there are plucking machines, which I don’t have, so the no plucking method was just right for me.
When I take an animal’s life I want it to be quick and painless, for both of us. It’s important to drain the blood. It’s important not to nick or tear the crop or any of the digestive tract to prevent bacteria from contaminating the meat.
But if you don’t plan on eating the skin, there is no reason to pluck a chicken. Often the skin is connected to a layer of fat; so many people avoid the skin anyway. The method described consists of skinning and removing the chicken parts you want to harvest and leaving the rest. I believe the no plucking method will always be my choice.
I used a good sharp skinning knife like we use for deer. I hung the chicken by the feet tied to a fence and cut both jugulars. It bled out quickly. Once lifeless, I cut the skin around the legs about where the feathers start, leaving the joints intact.
Next, with the breast facing me, I cut down the mid line and used the skinning knife to release the skin with feathers from muscle working towards the chicken’s back. With a sharp knife and a little practice this is easy.
Once the skin was off the parts I wanted, I set the body on a butcher block table and used the same knife to gently separate muscle from bone and release the drumsticks from the main body. This no plucking method went smoothly even though I felt ridiculously unskilled.
I kept a hose handy to rinse any feather fibers that got on the meat and had a large stainless steel bowl with ice water to cool and rinse the meat.
When done with the no pluck method I ended up with two boneless, skinless breasts, the drumettes and two skinless thigh/drumsticks. I removed as much large muscle as possible leaving the main carcass intact.
Really, the only part of the chicken you can’t use with this method is the skin.
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