Setting up a processing station for your meat chickens might seem like a daunting task, but fear not, because I’ve got your back. In this guide, we’ll walk through the whole process in a relaxed, easy-to-follow manner.
Whether you’re a seasoned farmer or just starting out, we’ll cover everything you need to know to ensure your feathered friends make the journey from field to freezer with the utmost care and efficiency.
First things first, start your day with a decent breakfast before heading out to the area you’ll be processing in. Even if you’re nervous, even if you don’t feel like it. This is one time I will advocate forcing yourself to eat. Processing can be stressful. It is bloody and can sometime just be gross. Your body may have natural reactions like gagging and adrenaline rushes causing you to lose your appetite. Having a good meal will not only fuel your body for the work ahead but it also means if you can’t stomach food for a few hours after while your adrenaline and cortisol level off, you won’t have gone the whole day without food!
This is also a great time to put dinner in the crock pot so by the time you’re showered at the end of the day dinner is at least mostly waiting. If you have friends or family helping you, its basically law that you feed them at the end of the day… just like moving houses.
Once you’ve eaten its officially time to roll up your sleeves, grab your apron, and get those chickens prepped and packed, all while keeping the process stress-free
- Dish Soap
- Large Pot
- Propane Burner
- Kill Cones*
- Buckets (one per kill cone and one for the gutting station)
- Black Garbage Bags – White garbage bags show what is inside. Black bags don’t. If you’re not adding your scraps to the compost bin or feeding them to your birds, save your garbage collectors the jump scare and use black bags.
- Chicken Plucker* – purchasing a plucker is an investment, lsearch your local area on facebook marketplace, craiglIst, and farmers markets to see if there are any rentals available. and start here. You will spend less
- Hose w/ sprayer attachment
- Boning Knife
- Bus Tubs
- Folding Table
- Coolers & Ice
- Vinyl Apron
- Nitryl Gloves
- Paper Towel
*Though it is possible to process birds without these, they significantly improve your ability to do so efficiently and sanitarily.
THE PROCESSING STATION
Having a solid plan for your processing set up can make or break your day! Pick a place that has easy access to a hose bib and great drainage. Then do a dry run through each station to ensure a good flow.
STEP 1 : Scalding Pot
I like to start with getting the water heating up – this takes the longest! Heat the water to 130-170 degrees. Adjust it as necessary throughout processing and lower it if you are noticing tearing or cooking of the meat!
Add 1-2 T dish soap to the water. This helps break the surface tension due to the oil on the feathers and allows them to slip out easily.
If its a windy day, a vehicle makes a great windblock in a pinch! I would not recommend putting this inside anywhere. Aside from the obvious fire hazard, you will be lifting dripping birds out of this and soaking the floor.
STEP 2: Gather the birds
Divide and Conquer to gather the birds whether this means moving them closer to the processing area or into a smaller enclosure. We keep most of them in the field and move about 10 -15 at a time into a smaller easier to reach enclosure.
STEP 3: Hang Kill Cones**
Secure your kill cones to a fence or a t post.
Below each kill cone, place a garbage bag lined bucket to catch any blood. Alternatively you can let it land on the ground if you’re not worried about predators!
**Our first processing we did not use official kill cones and it was extremely tedious. Though possible, we do not recommend processing birds without them.
STEP 4: Set Up the Chicken Plucker
Assemble the chicken plucker according to the directions. Make sure you are near a hose spigot or that your hose reaches the plucker. With our yardbird plucker, we need two hoses. One that connects right to the machine’s internal water system and one with a sprayer to spray from the top.
**Our first processing we did not use a plucker at first. It was not only extremely tedious, but damaging to the meat since we had to continue dunking to keep the feathers tender. Though possible, we do not recommend processing birds without one. Look locally for rentals if it is outside of your budget to buy outright!
THE GUTTING STATION
STEP 1: Folding Tables
2 Folding tables is easiest – one dirty, and one clean.
On the Clean table, lay out your bus tubs or tupperware. These will collect all of your parts like heads, feet, and the assorted organs. Keep a smaller cooler below this table to move collected parts onto ice as your dishes fill up.
This is also a great place for your water jug and water bottles to live so they don’t accidently get splashed with any bodily fluids. As well as, glove boxes and other supplies that you don’t want covered in chicken juice and guts.
The dirty table is where you’ll be gutting the chickens. I like to gut them into a bus tub and then finish breaking them down on the table. That way if any of the guts gets broken open the mess is contained and its not all over the meat. After I’m done gutting I rinse my tub and start again.
STEP 2: Personal Fashion
- Rubber aprons
- Comfortable, rubber boots or closed toed shoes.
- Comfy weather appropriate clothes
- Nitryl Gloves
Setting up a processing station for your meat chickens might seem like a big deal, but, whether you’re a seasoned farmer or just starting out, we’ve covered everything you need to know for a stress-free journey from field to freezer. Remember, kick off the day with a good breakfast to brace yourself for the sometimes intense process ahead. Your body might play tricks on you, so eating early ensures you won’t go hungry all day. Plus, throw dinner in the crockpot—it’ll be waiting for you after you’ve showered off the day’s work. And don’t forget the unwritten law: if friends or family help, treat them to a meal at the end. Now, roll up those sleeves, throw on the apron, and let’s get those chickens prepped and packed with ease.