How to Process Poultry

There are few greater satisfactions than raising poultry for meat. The quality, flavor, and freshness of home-raised poultry is superior to supermarket poultry. This article will cover how to process chickens at home; scalding, plucking, and processing of poultry. Depending on the kind of poultry, adjustments need to be made. Please note that processing poultry is not for everyone, while this article is sensitive to that fact, some of the images and content may be off-putting to some. Our processing cones are made of high quality material that is easy to sanitize. 

Scalding and Processing Hatching Time

Sanitation and Cleanliness

When dealing with food it's always important to maintain a high level of cleanliness to ensure food doesn't become contaminated. Wear gloves, clean all work surfaces and equipment thoroughly before and after a processing session. Always cook your meat to a safe internal temperature. Improper or poor sanitation practices can lead to people getting sick. Do not consume animals that have died of natural causes unless they passed minutes ago (bleed them out). If rigor mortis has set in do not consume.

Do not process or consume animals that have or had symptoms of illness, disease, open sores, or infection. If you encounter something that you are not familiar with contact the USDA or your extension office. Report birds with reportable disease symptoms to your agriculture extension office. Selling processed home raised poultry requires them to be processed at an FDA inspected facility or by a licensed mobile butcher. Check your local laws for specifics relevant to your state. I cannot stress this enough, proper cleanliness and cooking practices can be the difference between dinner and a trip to the emergency room. 

Scalding Plucker Hatching Time LLC


There are a few different ways to dispatch poultry, whichever method you use make sure that the bird is completely deceased and that you bleed the bird out. Make sure to select the correct sized processing cone. Once you have dispatched and bled your poultry, proceed to scalding. Scalding is the act of placing a recently butchered bird into 130-170F (54-76C) water for ten to fifteen seconds. Scalding at 140-150F (60-65C) is the temperature I scald poultry. Hold the bird by the legs ands dunk into the scalder, moving the bird back and forth and up and down to fully saturate the feathers. After ten seconds lift the bird out of the water and pull on the flight feathers on the wings. If the feathers come out easily the bird is ready for the plucker.

If there's some resistance, scald for another ten seconds, and then check the flight feathers again. Repeat until flight feathers come off easily. Signs of over-scalding include: leg skin peeling, skin tearing while plucking, and color change of meat. Make sure to keep the water temperature consistent throughout the scalding process. Inconsistent water temperature will result in your birds being scalded for differing lengths of time before going in the plucker. Pigeons should not be scalded as their feathers are powdery and don't get waterlogged. Adding a bit of dish soap to the water will weaken the oil on waterfowl feathers. 

Scalding and Plucking Hatching Time


Plucking can be done by hand or with an automatic plucker. Consider using an automatic plucker when processing multiple chickens, ducks, turkeys, quail, pheasants, or guineas. When processing pigeons, a plucker is not necessary as the pigeons' feathers are easily plucked dry. Using an automatic plucker especially i-pluckTM feather pluckers, is by far the easiest way to pluck poultry, taking 30-60 seconds per bird depending on size. Hand-plucking a scalded bird is the second best way to pluck a bird, taking 5-10 minutes depending on experience. Hand-plucking a dry bird is the hardest form of plucking, taking 10-30 minutes per bird depending on experience.

When plucking by hand be gentle and pluck small clumps of feathers at a time. Going too fast or pulling too roughly will result in torn skin. It should be noted that darker feathered birds will have dark pin feathers that are more visible than white pin feathers. Most chicken breeds will have thin hair-like feathers on the carcass after plucking, these can be removed by singeing them off over a stove top. Appropriate care must be taken when using fire to singe off these feathers. Now that your bird is plucked, it's time to process it. 

Feather Plucker Processing Poultry Hatching Time

Backyard Poultry Processing

Start by removing the oil gland on the tail, neglecting to remove the oil gland will give the meat an off-flavor. Next, remove the tips of the wings, the feet, and the head; save these parts for making soup stock. Locate the crop on the upper side of the breast and gently pull it out with the esophagus and windpipe; discard these. Make a cut above the vent between the pelvic bones, cut around the vent, and using a scooping motion-scoop out the innards of the bird. The vent and intestines are discarded. If you punctured or ripped the intestines don't panic, quickly remove them and thoroughly wash the carcass.

The gizzard, heart, and liver are the giblets, they can be eaten. Make a large incision in the gizzard, spread it open, remove and discard the inner lining with the grit, wash the gizzard and set aside. Attached to the liver will be a small green sack, this is the bile sack. It's better to cut off some liver with the bile sack than to risk rupturing the bile sack and having it taint the meat. The lungs, kidneys, and gonads can be cooked and fed to pets/livestock. Thoroughly wash the bird off in cold water, bag it up, and place in the fridge for 3 days to allow rigor mortis to pass. After 3 days resting in the fridge, the bird can be frozen or cooked. And there you have it; a home raised bird from yard to freezer! 

Read our blog post How to train your poultry to use poultry nipples


Written by: 

Aryeh Wiesel Headshot

Aryeh Wiesel

Poultry Enthusiast & Expert
Aryeh is a 2023 Rutgers University graduate and majored in Agriculture & Food Systems Science. He hopes to get a job as a production manager in agriculture evaluating animals and plants. Aryeh has almost a decade of experience working with chickens and other poultry. At Aryeh's family's house in Central New Jersey, Aryeh has a small flock of chickens and pigeons. Besides his passion for poultry, Aryeh is also an avid phalaenopsis orchid grower. Aryeh met Hatching Time at the end of 2020 when doing poultry research with a Rutgers professor.