There are many reasons you should consider butchering your own meat and once you’ve decided to take full control of your own meat production, you’re going to need to know what chicken butchering supplies are essential. This checklist is of supplies we have found to be necessary to get the job done and those that we believe make it much easier and efficient will help you get all set-up for your first big butchering day.
Essential Chicken Butchering Supplies Checklist
The Bare Necessities
• Sharp Knives
Regardless of how you intend to make the kill, you’ll need sharp knives We’ve tried decapitating and unless you like to watch your dinner run around the backyard headless, I would recommend bleeding them out. Either way, you’ll need a good set of knives. Victorinox are our favorites.
Or if you plan on ever butchering other livestock, you might want to consider one with a meat saw. (Note: Our meat saw that we purchased online from Cabela’s had a horrible blade and a new one needed to be purchased before it could even function.)
• Knife Sharpener and Sharpening Steel
Regardless of what knife you choose, you MUST have a good sharpener! Dull knives simply don’t get the job done well. And a merciful butcher must have sharp knives.
• Kill Cone
Purchase one on the internet if you choose, but you can get creative in fashioning one. While searching for an image, I saw people using bright orange road cones! One year we just used cardboard and threw it away when we were done. Now we have invested in a couple of steel killing cones. For the sake of efficiency, while the one bird bleeds out you can be working on the second bird. The birds seem to fit the nicest in a cone made for the purpose.
• Turkey fryer with thermometer
Or something similar. Basically you need the propane powered burner with a large- I mean HUGE- stockpot for boiling the water to dip the birds in to release their feathers for plucking. The thermometer allows you to monitor the temperature of the water. Too cold and the feathers stay firmly affixed in the bird. Too warm and you cook the meat.
I classify this among the necessities because while one could do this over their kitchen stove, I do not recommend dipping or plucking the bird in the house. The odor of the hot feathers is less than pleasant.
• Clean cold running water
A water source is easily achieved outside with a hose and is incredibly important while gutting the bird to keep the carcass and the work area cleaned.
• Trash Can and heavy duty bags
Necessary for the disposal of the innards.
• Large Cooler
Fill the cooler with mostly ice and a bit of water to rapidly begin cooling the chicken after plucking and eviscerating. We have known people to simply use their bathtub for this step. I would recommend cleaning it before and after of course. But don’t skip this step! Getting them cooled quickly will greatly improve your end product in terms of both texture and flavor!
• Packaging Supplies
We use and prefer using a food saver because we’ve had the best results that way. Butcher paper easily tears, plastic wrap is too thin and the meat freezer burns easily and quickly, and zip top bags allow too much air in. If you simply can’t have the additional expense of a food saver and the bags, then I’d at least double up and use both plastic wrap (the good stuff) and butcher paper. If you plan on eating the meat within a few months you should be fine with that.
Click HERE to learn to make your own chicken plucker.
We used and loved a fish filet tableas our work surface for eviscerating. It has a hole on one side for the juices to run off and a hole for waste on the other. Again, it’s not necessary, but it really streamlines the process and makes for an incredibly smooth and efficient clean up.
Meat lugs or totes sure made transporting multiple carcasses easy work. These have been a great investment and we’ve used them for all of our butchering.
A food scale would be important if you plan to record the dressed weight of your birds. If I were to buy a new food scale, this would be the one I would be interested in. It weighs up to 66 pounds and would be of the greatest benefit if you plan on butchering turkeys as well.
Use the SmartSteader homestead management app to record your yields. It’s the easiest way I’ve found to keep track of how much chicken we raise and how much it cost us to raise them. It can be really handy to use when you want to experiment with different management methods like ranging, pasturing, fermenting feed, etc…
• Cooler or Refrigerator
We like to chill our chickens at about 40 degrees for a day or two before freezing. We’ve have found that our most tender chickens sit at refrigerator temperature prior to freezing to allow the meat to relax first. We purchased for a floral cooler from a grocery store that was closing down for only $35 on Craigslist and it has already been worth every penny. First with the chickens, later with the hogs, and now with curing the hams.
There are some interesting new plucking supplies available I’ve seen but haven’t tried out since our set-up has been pretty well established for a few years and we haven’t been in the market to try anything since then. But perhaps you have, what do you think of these drill attached chicken pluckers?
Here is one available as a set with a knife & a killing cone. Not exactly a full starter kit, but you’d be well on your way if you had it.
While chicken butchering is one of my least favorite homesteading tasks, it helps tremendously to have a few good tools to make the job go more smoothly! And when it’s all said and done, I’m incredibly thankful for the provision and the freezer full of the best meat in the world!