Poultry Evisceration How-To Guide

Step-By-Step Chicken Processing Guide With Pictures

Our Cornish Cross meat chickens just turned 7-8 weeks old so we've been busy processing them all week. This can seem like a daunting task if you don't have anyone to show you in person, so I've decided to create a step-by-step guide for anyone that might be interested in DIY meat chicken processing. If that's you, You Go Glen Coco! The most important thing is to be very well prepared, and don't skip ANY steps. Trust me. But if you stick to this guide, everything will be gravy!

Warning, viewer discretion is advised. Graphic images below. Be sure to withhold food from the chickens for 12 hours before processing.

Supply List:

  1. Chicken Plucking Machine. I definitely recommend getting something to help you pluck. You could probably do a few by hand but it's pretty tedious and time-consuming.
  2. Poultry Evisceration Knife or Boning Knife. I found a great one online for about $10 at Blain's Farm & Fleet.
  3. Heavy Duty Shears.
  4. Turkey Deep Fryer or Chicken Scalder.
  5. Poultry Restraining Cone or Clothesline.
  6. Three 5-Gallon Buckets.
  7. Portable Plastic Folding Table.
  8. A Washing Station. We hook up a hose to a small utility sink.
  9. Poultry Shrink Wrap Freezer Bags & Ties
  10. A Pellet Gun for a more humane initial dispatch. Ideally, 750 FPS or more.
  11. A Large Old Towel & Small Rag.
  12. Dish Soap & an All-Purpose Cleaning Spray.
  13. Digital Thermometer.
  14. Two Water Hoses. You may need a hose splitter.
  15. Extension Cord.
  16. Propane Tank.
  17. Cooler or Large Tray with Lid Filled with Ice.
  18. Bowl or Pot.
  19. Gallon Freezer Bags.
  20. Old Oven Mits.
  21. Matches.
  22. For You - Bug Spray, Old Boots, Sun or Safely Glasses and Something to Deter Flies (Candle Maybe).
It's a good idea to read through this guide a week or two before you plan on processing the chickens so you have time to get all your supplies in order. An hour before you plan to start processing your chickens, you're going to want to get everything set up. I highly recommend you start heating the water in the turkey deep fryer first, see station 2 for details!

Station 1 Dispatching & Draining The Chickens - You'll need to have a pellet gun, pellets, a clothesline with individual ties for all your chickens or a restraining cone, heavy-duty shears, your boning knife, and a 5-gallon bucket filled with about 6 inches of water for blood to drain into.

  • Put your pellet gun on safety, load it, and calmly grab a chicken. Place the chicken on the ground and restrain gently. Carefully dispatch the chicken with a direct hit to the back of the head and hold it down until the spasms stop. 
  • Hang the chicken on the clothesline or place in the cone. Slice on the side of the neck just below the cheek with your boning knife and allow the chicken to drain into the bucket for 3 minutes.
  • Use the shears to remove the head from where you cut. Toss the head into the trash.

Station 2 Scalding - You'll need to have a turkey deep fryer on its stand and hooked up to a propane tank, matches to start the flame, a digital thermometer, and maybe some old oven mitts to protect your hands if needed. Start the water about an hour before processing. It is absolutely imperative that the water is not too hot or cold. Use the thermometer to make sure the temperature is at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit. If its colder than this then your plucker will have a hard time removing the feathers. If its hotter than this, even by a little bit, your plucker will tear all the skin off of the chicken, your chicken will be partially cooked, and it will fall apart. Trust me, take the time to regularly check it and adjust the flame as needed.

  • Double-check the temperature of your water. It must be between 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Dip the chicken into the hot water up to where the feet start for 5 seconds. You'll want to have some kind of movement going like pulsing up and down or swirling the chicken in the water to ensure the water soaks into all the feathers. Lift completely out of the water for a moment then repeat 2 more times. Do not over dunk it. 
  • Once you've finished dunking the chicken three times, check to see if it is done by trying to remove some of the feathers. If they come off easily, you're ready to move on.

Station 3 Plucking - You'll need to follow the directions on your machine for a proper setup but you'll likely need a plucking machine, water hose, extension cord, your boning knife, and a 5-gallon bucket.

  • Use the knife to remove the feet at the joint, this will prevent the feet from jamming the machine. The chicken may still be hot from the dip so use caution. 
  • Make sure your hair is pulled back and you're not wearing any loose clothing.
  • Turn the water on, then turn the plucker on, then drop the chicken into the spinning plucker. My machine totes a 30 second plucking time so I usually count until then unless I see the chicken stops being plucked well. If you need to turn the chicken or fix a jam, DO NOT grab the chicken while the machine is on, turn the plucker off, then adjust. Remove the chicken and turn the machine and water back on before you put it back in or you may burn out the electrical components. Some machines can pluck two chickens simultaneously but make sure you remove the feet or it won't do the job well.

Station 4 The Washing Station - You'll need a small utility or DIY outdoor sink, dish soap, and a water hose.

  • Wash the chickens with water (no soap) and pluck any remaining feathers by hand.

Station 5 The Cooler - You'll need a large cooler or tray with a lid filled with some ice.

  • Place the freshly washed chickens in the cooler and cover them to keep them cool and to keep flies away when processing large batches of meat chickens.

Station 6 Evisceration Table - You'll need a freshly cleaned large folding table (use the spray and rag) with a large bath towel covering the majority of it. On top you'll need a bowl or pot to hold the innards, your boning knife, freezer bags, and shrink wrap freezer bags and their accessories/directions. Under it, you'll need to put the final 5-gallon bucket for trash.

  • Place a chicken neck toward you and breast side down on the towel (so it doesn't roll). Cut a small slit on the skin just past where the neck becomes the spine and grab the neck through the hole and pull it through so all the skin is hanging down. Grab all the skin, tubes, and the craw or "sack" (don't pierce it) and pull it to one side and then the other as you cut it all out simultaneously as close to the breast and as far back near the spine as possible. Toss the skin, tubes, and craw into the trash. It's not a big deal if you pierce the craw but if you do, just rinse it out.
  • Grab the neck and cut it off as far back as you can and place it in the bowl for later.
  • Rotate the chicken so that it is still spine up & breast down but now the tail is facing you. Very gently cut just above where the tail meets the body until you cut through the spine. DO NOT cut past the spine, you'll cut into the intestines and taint the meat (wash thoroughly after if you do). Also, cut small slits on either side of the tail taking care not to cut any intestines.

  • Flip the chicken over so that its tail is facing you but now the breast side is up. Pinch just under where the breasts end and make a small horizontal slit. Use your fingers to widen the slit so you don't cut any innards. Grab the bottom of the breast just above where you cut and hold down the legs and give it a good stretch so you can get your hand in the cavity.

  • Insert your whole hand deep into the cavity palm side down and use a scraping or scooping motion to gently pull all the innards out. Don't pull too far or un-attach them, they should be attached but just outside of the cavity.
  • Use the boning knife to carefully cut through the fat on either side of the tail/intestines cutting about an inch into the spine so the tail and intestines are completely removed and unable to taint the meat. Use extra care to not puncture the intestines or the bright green sack (gallbladder).
  • Save the heart, liver, gizzard, and anything else you wish and place in a bowl. If you're keeping the gizzard, you'll need to gently cut everything else off and cut into the side of it just enough until you reach a white area, don't cut too far. Then use your fingers to peel the white sack out of the gizzard and place the gizzard into the bowl and the inside filling into the trash.

  • Take your innards, neck, feet, and chicken back to Station 4 The Washing Station and rinse them thoroughly. Return to the table and place innards, neck, and feet into the gallon freezer bag and follow the directions on your shrink wrap bags for your chicken.
  • Thoroughly clean all your work stations with soap and water and follow the directions on your plucker for cleaning and maintenance. 

Once the chickens are processed to your liking, I highly recommend that you refrigerate them immediately for 48 hours before freezing. This will allow the meat to relax and become more tender before freezing. 

Let me know in the comments if you found the confidence to process your meat chickens after reading this article.

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