If you’ve raised some chicks and have a rooster or two beginning to find his voice, I’ll be running the workshop on Sunday 13 March 2011 at 10am at The Kitchen Garden for you to learn how to slaughter and prepare your birds for the table. You can also deal with older laying hens at the same time. I’ve currently got a waiting list for this workshop. If you would like to be added to the list, please let me know as I’ll repeat it if there is sufficient interest. $20 per person including rhubarb crumble slice for morning tea.
I usually cull my roosters at about 6 months but I’ve found them to be great eating anything up to a year. I close up the roosters the night before without access to food – either in the hen house or in a poultry crate. It makes gutting them much cleaner, as their crop and digestive tract are empty, without unduly stressing the birds.
• disposable vinyl gloves
• a solid, stable, chopping block – I use a round of firewood about 40cm high and the same diameter
• a sharp, meat cleaver
• a sharp, narrow-bladed boning knife
• a sharp, large kitchen knife
• a large bucket (Gubba tub trugs are ideal)
I do this outside, with access to a hose to wash everything down afterwards. Wear old clothes and gumboots. If you’re right handed grab the rooster firmly by the legs and hold him upside down and lay his head and neck on the block. They’ll often flap for a bit so hold them steady until they calm down. Take a well balanced stance, with the cleaver in your right hand and deliver a single sharp blow to the chicken’s neck. You may cut the head off or you may not. You just have to make sure you’ve been firm enough to break the bird’s neck. The bird will continue to flap after it is dead – keep hold of the legs firmly and hold him over the bucket to contain any blood until he stops flapping (sometimes a minute or two).
I skin rather than plucking my birds by cutting off the wings, tail, feet and head first with a kitchen knife. I cut around a joint, through the tendons, so there aren’t any shards of bone. With the neck towards me and starting from that end, I slit the skin down the breast bone and peel it off the shoulders, wings, back and legs, using a sharp knife to pull it away from the flesh if it’s needed. Generally it comes off quite easily in one piece. I then make an incision all around the vent, cutting down into the belly flap enough to get my hand it and pull out the contents of the cavity. If you can do this without puncturing the innards it’s much cleaner. Make sure you’ve removed the top end of the wind pipe too.
I keep the liver, heart and kidneys for pate – trimming off any membrane and sinew from them and the gall bladder (the little green bag attached to the liver). I keep a pot for giblets in the freezer to which I keep adding until I’ve got enough to make a decent batch of pate.
Rinse and dry the chicken, chill quickly and bag up to freeze. I don’t recommending eating on the day of culling – not that they won’t taste delicious, I just never fancy them the same day.