Taking care of your Chickens:
Killing your Chickens Humanely by Dr. Hershel E. Grafton
Preparing the Chicken for Slaughter
Birds that are to be slaughtered should be taken off feed long enough before killing (about 12 hrs.) to allow the crop and intestinal tract time to empty. A full digestive system increases the chance of contamination of the carcass during removal of the viscera. Birds should be caught and placed in crates or coops during the night to avoid excitement and possible injury of the birds prior to slaughter.
In slaughtering birds are positioned with their heads down to facilitate bleeding. This can be accomplished through the use of killing cones, shackles, or a rope around the feet.
After the bird is properly positioned the killing and bleeding step follows. Several important factors must be kept in mind. The bird must be killed in such a way to allow most of the blood to drain from the body and at the same time limit struggling to prevent damage to the corpse.
A widely used method that accomplishes these objectives is making a cut just behind the jaw. The cut should sever the jugular vein without cutting the oesophagus or wind pipe. A weight can then be hung from the beak to limit the movement of the bird. This is a more 'humane' method of slaughter because the bird is unconscious due to loss of blood from the brain.
Any method which involves beheading or wringing the neck accomplishes the killing but fails to produce a properly bled carcass. The heart stops when the spinal cord is severed.
The best, most humane procedure is to "debrain" the chicken *before* beginning the bleeding. The procedure: 1) Put the bird into a "killing cone" - breast forward - to secure it so it won't panic; 2) locate the slit in the roof of the mouth and insert a small bladed knife (commercially available: called a "chicken killing sticking knife") at a slight angle; 3) Push the knife point toward the back of the brain, with the handle approximately parallel to the upper beak; 4) Once inserted, twist the knife to destroy as much brain tissue as possible. This procedure takes less than a second and once complete the bird is "brain dead" and unconscious but the heart is still beating. When you cut the jugular the heart will pump the blood out of the bird killing it.
Processing your dead chickens to be eaten
Scalding involves submerging the carcass in hot water to relax the muscles holding the feathers. For small groups of birds a large bucket can work well. For larger numbers of birds a thermostatically controlled heated tank may be best. For birds that are difficult to scald (waterfowl, in particular) a wetting agent or detergent may need to be added to the water.
Scalding temperatures should be determined by the type of poultry and the difficulty of picking. For waterfowl and mature birds a higher temperature and longer submersion time should be used. For younger birds a lower temperature and shorter time is recommended.
Semi-scald or slack scald is the name given to scalding for 30-60 seconds in 125-130 degrees F. water. By using this time and temperature the epidermal layer is left intact. Birds that are being slaughtered for an exhibit should be scalded in this way to improve the appearance of the carcass. Water that is too hot will cause the outer layer of skin to loosen and be lost. Loss of that skin also results in loss of some yellow pigment on the skin.
Sub-scald is the use of water at 138-140 degrees F. for 30-75 seconds. The epidermal layer is broken down by this time-temperature combination but the feathers are usually much easier to remove. For home processing this method of scalding is recommended.
Hard-scald or full scald requires a water temperature of 140-150 degrees F. This method is faster and eliminates pinfeathers, but the birds tend to dry out and have a less desirable appearance. Waterfowl may be scalded at this temperature.
Whatever method is used the birds must be properly bled. No scalding should be done before all movement has stopped.
Birds should be plucked immediately after scalding. If mechanical pickers are used they should be adjusted for the size birds being picked. Mechanical pickers make the job much faster. Birds that are to be exhibited should be plucked by hand being sure that all pinfeathers are removed, and that there is no damage to the skin. This procedure requires a good deal of time if done correctly. Rubbing the feathers from the skin is frequently more effective than a picking motion.
Evisceration involves the removal of the contents of the body cavity plus the feet and head. To remove the head, cut around the neck just behind the head, and twist. The neck skin should then be split down the back and a second cut made at the base of the neck. A twist will usually separate the neck from the body. Next the oesophagus, trachea and crop should be separated from the neck skin. They can be left attached and be pulled from the body with the viscera.
The body cavity can be opened by making a small cut near the vent, extending the cut around the vent, being careful not to cut the intestine or contaminate the carcass with faecal material.
The abdominal opening should be as small as possible to improve the appearance of the finished product. After the abdomen is open the viscera can be removed through the opening. It is very important to remove all the viscera, including the lungs which are attached to the back. After all the contents of the cavity are removed the bird should be thoroughly washed inside and out.
After the viscera have been removed, the heart, liver and gizzard should be separated and saved. The ends of any parts of the vascular system that may be attached to the heart should be removed by trimming off the top to expose the chambers. The heart should be washed and squeezed to force out any remaining blood. The green gall bladder should be carefully trimmed away from the liver. Next the gizzard should be split lengthwise and the contents washed away. The lining should then be peeled away from the rest of the gizzard.
After the evisceration procedure has been completed, the carcass should be cooled as soon as possible. Ice water or a refrigerator can be used, however, the ice water will do the job a little faster. If birds are to be frozen the gizzard, heart and liver can be wrapped in waxed paper and placed inside the body cavity. Many people also include a small packet of nutmeg to improve taste during storage. The birds can then be placed in a moisture‑vapor proof bag and frozen.
Cooking your Chickens
Preheat oven to. Pluck all feathers (because they taste bad). Place chicken and marinating sauce/condiments into an oven-safe container. Place oven-safe container into oven. Close oven. Wait about an hour or until golden-brown. Enjoy!
Go ahead and experiment. If you are looking for a method of preparing chicken for the table but can't find what you are looking for in Wikibooks there are lots of other websites on the Internet as well as traditional cookbooks.