How to Butcher a Chicken, Part 2: Gutting Chickens, Cutting Chickens into Parts

Begin at the Beginning of Butchering

This is the second part of a three-part series on butchering chickens.

For Part 1, see Preparing Your Work Space; Scalding and Plucking Chickens

Caution: I skipped nothing in these hubs. All guts and gore are shown as they naturally occur. All that is missing are the smells! (Be thankful.)

Cutting Off the Yellow Feet and Legs

The first step in cutting up or gutting a chicken is to remove the yellow-skinned legs and feet. Find the "break" in the joint between the yellow and white/pink portions of leg, and slice right through. You may have to cut from both the front and back of the joint to do a clean job.

If your knife does not go through fairly easily, reassess where the joint really is, and try again.

Cutting Off the Yellow Feet and Legs

Find the "break" in the joint between the yellow and white/pink portions of leg, and slice hrough. Cut from both the front and back to do a clean job.      If your knife does not go through fairly easily, reassess where the joint really is, and try a
Find the "break" in the joint between the yellow and white/pink portions of leg, and slice hrough. Cut from both the front and back to do a clean job. If your knife does not go through fairly easily, reassess where the joint really is, and try a

The Neck and Crop

Begin by making a slit in the skin of the neck near the breast.
Begin by making a slit in the skin of the neck near the breast.
Continue cutting up toward the head, until the neck skin is completely split.
Continue cutting up toward the head, until the neck skin is completely split.
Cut loose the excess skin...
Cut loose the excess skin...
...and push it up toward the head.
...and push it up toward the head.
Feel for the crop (aka "craw"). If you can't find it, slit carefully to one side of the neck, and search visually.
Feel for the crop (aka "craw"). If you can't find it, slit carefully to one side of the neck, and search visually.
Carefully cut around the crop. Pull it out if you can. If not, wait for the gutting process.
Carefully cut around the crop. Pull it out if you can. If not, wait for the gutting process.
This is what it looks like if you mess up, and cut *into* the crop.
This is what it looks like if you mess up, and cut *into* the crop.
Next, pull the head and neck skin off.
Next, pull the head and neck skin off.
The head should detach fairly easily. Remember, the neck is mostly cut.
The head should detach fairly easily. Remember, the neck is mostly cut.
This part is done.
This part is done.

Cutting Off the Tail

This little bump is an oil gland, with which the chickens care for their feathers. If you keep the tail, you will want to remove this gland.
This little bump is an oil gland, with which the chickens care for their feathers. If you keep the tail, you will want to remove this gland.
If you don't wish to keep the tail, cut off the whole thing. Cut first from the top...
If you don't wish to keep the tail, cut off the whole thing. Cut first from the top...
...then on each side, then from underneath, being careful not to nick the intestines.
...then on each side, then from underneath, being careful not to nick the intestines.
You may also wait until the chicken is gutted to remove the tail.
You may also wait until the chicken is gutted to remove the tail.
This is what happens when you cut into the intestines - chicken poop all over your food. Rinse well, immediately.
This is what happens when you cut into the intestines - chicken poop all over your food. Rinse well, immediately.

Removing the Guts

First, slit above the tail area, on the belly side. (Dad got in a hurry and didn't yet remove the yellow legs, or tail.)
First, slit above the tail area, on the belly side. (Dad got in a hurry and didn't yet remove the yellow legs, or tail.)
Expand it until you have a triangular opening, large enough to force your hand through.
Expand it until you have a triangular opening, large enough to force your hand through.
Insert hand, grab a fistful of warm guts...
Insert hand, grab a fistful of warm guts...
...and pull. Repeat. Most of the intestines should come out with one scoop, but certain organs, such as the heart, may stick tighter.
...and pull. Repeat. Most of the intestines should come out with one scoop, but certain organs, such as the heart, may stick tighter.
Here is the crop, which often comes out easily with the guts. Don't worry about the lungs, which stick tight at this stage.
Here is the crop, which often comes out easily with the guts. Don't worry about the lungs, which stick tight at this stage.
Spraying the body cavity clean is a good idea, from the back...
Spraying the body cavity clean is a good idea, from the back...
...and front.
...and front.
A "finished" chicken. this is about as clean as you can expect chickens to be when you buy them from a store.
A "finished" chicken. this is about as clean as you can expect chickens to be when you buy them from a store.
Place gutted chickens in your hauling tubs, ready for their final cleaning.
Place gutted chickens in your hauling tubs, ready for their final cleaning.
The crop and attached parts. You can see why it is sometimes a problem to remove all at once.
The crop and attached parts. You can see why it is sometimes a problem to remove all at once.
This is the gall bladder. If you burst it, you will have lovely green juice all over, so be careful!
This is the gall bladder. If you burst it, you will have lovely green juice all over, so be careful!
Here are all the major guts and organs. Be sure you remove them all. Save the heart, gizzard, and liver, if you wish. Discard the rest. (See below for how to detach the giblets.)
Here are all the major guts and organs. Be sure you remove them all. Save the heart, gizzard, and liver, if you wish. Discard the rest. (See below for how to detach the giblets.)

Cutting Up A Chicken Into Parts - Removing the Thighs and Legs

Pull leg away from body...
Pull leg away from body...
...and cut where connection is thinnest. Break the joint over, until it is exposed.
...and cut where connection is thinnest. Break the joint over, until it is exposed.
Cut straight into the hip joint, frist from the front, and then from the back.
Cut straight into the hip joint, frist from the front, and then from the back.
It should look like this when you are finished.
It should look like this when you are finished.
Find the joint between the lower leg and thigh with your thumb. Cut down toward it. Cut half-way through the joint from the top. This may take more than one try, especially on big birds.
Find the joint between the lower leg and thigh with your thumb. Cut down toward it. Cut half-way through the joint from the top. This may take more than one try, especially on big birds.
Finish the cut from the bottom.
Finish the cut from the bottom.
This is a well-separated joint.
This is a well-separated joint.

Cutting Off the Wings

Pull wing away from body. Cut into joint from the bottom, where connection is thinnest.
Pull wing away from body. Cut into joint from the bottom, where connection is thinnest.
Finish cutting through the joint cleanly, from the top.
Finish cutting through the joint cleanly, from the top.

Taking Off the Neck; Separating Breast and Back

Hold chicken upright by neck. Cut along shoulder bone (not a completely straight cut).
Hold chicken upright by neck. Cut along shoulder bone (not a completely straight cut).
Make a deep cut on both sides.
Make a deep cut on both sides.
Forcefully separate neck from back. (Pull hard!) On small birds, you may leave the neck attached.
Forcefully separate neck from back. (Pull hard!) On small birds, you may leave the neck attached.
The birds should split right down the sides, into the upper back area. But they don't always. This one separated correctly.
The birds should split right down the sides, into the upper back area. But they don't always. This one separated correctly.
Have a strong person help with this next step. Position bird on back, and take a firm grip with both hands - one on the back, and one on the breast.
Have a strong person help with this next step. Position bird on back, and take a firm grip with both hands - one on the back, and one on the breast.
Grunt loudly, and pull with all your might. (Sorry, I was 1/2 a second behind on this photo. When the pieces separate, they usually come fast.)
Grunt loudly, and pull with all your might. (Sorry, I was 1/2 a second behind on this photo. When the pieces separate, they usually come fast.)
You now have two halves.
You now have two halves.
Cut below breast bone, first from the top...
Cut below breast bone, first from the top...
...then the bottom.
...then the bottom.

Cutting the Breast into Three Portions

Cut into the center breast cartilage.
Cut into the center breast cartilage.
Force sections open somewhat.
Force sections open somewhat.
Cut between ribs and breast bone, from ribs on down, on both sides. Break side pieces away from center breast bone section.
Cut between ribs and breast bone, from ribs on down, on both sides. Break side pieces away from center breast bone section.
Finish cutting into three portions.
Finish cutting into three portions.
This shows a finished side piece and breast piece.
This shows a finished side piece and breast piece.

Preparing the Giblets (Heart, Liver, and Gizzard)

Here is a selection of all the internal organs worth saving - the gizzard, heart, and liver.
Here is a selection of all the internal organs worth saving - the gizzard, heart, and liver.
Cut the heart off as close to the "tubes" as possible. The fat is okay.
Cut the heart off as close to the "tubes" as possible. The fat is okay.
Here is a liver, with gall bladder attached. Cut off gall bladder, gently.
Here is a liver, with gall bladder attached. Cut off gall bladder, gently.
Cut gizzard away from intestines. (Gizzards are slippery, be careful.)
Cut gizzard away from intestines. (Gizzards are slippery, be careful.)
Cut open the gizzard on the side with the widest "hump". Try not to cut into the inner sac, as was done here.
Cut open the gizzard on the side with the widest "hump". Try not to cut into the inner sac, as was done here.
Peel away inner sac gently, while standing over the gut bucket, in case the sac breaks and spills the grain and rocks inside.
Peel away inner sac gently, while standing over the gut bucket, in case the sac breaks and spills the grain and rocks inside.
Two finished gizzards. The gizzards from these birds were extremely fatty. They are not always this way.
Two finished gizzards. The gizzards from these birds were extremely fatty. They are not always this way.

Besides Stuffing, What are Giblets Good For?

Livers - fishing bait; liver mousse; pates.

Hearts - Snacks, or side dish (coat with flour and pan-fry in oil).

Gizzards - Snacks (stew until tender).

Feet - While not a giblet, some people enjoy chicken foot soup.

I haven't yet found a use for chicken lips.

"Finished" Birds

This bird is as finished as most processing plants get them.
This bird is as finished as most processing plants get them.
But if you look closely, you will see there is still some cleaning to be done. Pin feathers, lung bits, blood, and dirty yellow skin still remain.
But if you look closely, you will see there is still some cleaning to be done. Pin feathers, lung bits, blood, and dirty yellow skin still remain.

A Tub of Guts

There is really very little waste on these birds. If you have a dog, save the feet for it to gnaw; bones are good for a dog's digestion.
There is really very little waste on these birds. If you have a dog, save the feet for it to gnaw; bones are good for a dog's digestion.

If You Prefer a Video Demonstration of Evisceration (Gutting)

© 2009 Joy At Home

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Comments 16 comments

Jarn profile image

Jarn 6 years ago from Sebastian, Fl

Thanks for the warning on this one. I made sure not to be eating chicken when I read it, unlike the last one. *urp!*

Remind me not to tick you off, you're pretty good with a knife. Very involved, great pictures. I don't think I could find a better explanation of the process anywhere else... I'm sensing that you enjoyed showing us all the gritty details quite a bit though? *grins*


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

Jarn, perhaps I'm a bit sadistic. I blame it on growing up on a farm and considering blood and guts a normal part of life. A girl's gotta eat, right? and one can only go so far on salad greens. But mostly, I just want people to know what to expect, and what to look for. Trust me, the first time you put your hand in a chicken and come up with a fistful of whatever, it leaves you wondering, "Huh, what's *this* for? Ooh - that's an interesting little jobber. Do I have one, and does it look like this?" Now you know.


dad 6 years ago

diskasting


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

It sure can be. :-)


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

I am now your slave! Thank you for this!!! You have solved a question that has been bothering me about the whole process. I rememeber my mother doing it, but when I phoned her to ask her how to gut a chicken safely, she thought I was insane. She almost 90.

I shall now thank you in kind, with information that you do not appear to have: If you want to chop off a chicken's head, you can get her to keep absolutely still, as follows:

- Take the chicken by the back of the head

- Place the chicken on a block of wood

- Push teh head down, until the beak is on teh wood.

- Drew a straight line from the beak to about 6 inches away

- Let go of teh chicken

You will see taht the chicken will keep looking at the straight chalk line and will not move.

NOW call your brother to come over with teh hachet and just chop off the head. This is not a joke :-)


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

De Greek,

Wow, that is an interesting trick. I'll have to try that next time I get a chance.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

You will notice that I am dyslexic and I always jumble up the and taht .. :-)

And by teh way you must draw teh ine using white chalk!

It works, I have tried it


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

De Greek,

I am very familiar with dyslexia. My Dad has a pretty noticeable case, my brother had trouble reading or writing at all until after highschool, and I myself show occassional signs of the trouble. So no problem. I give you kudos for putting your work out here at all.

Thanks for the tip about the white chalk.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Not a pleasant job I know. Having been a city girl and until I was a young bride I not even once considered how the chicken went from 'feathers to stew pot'. Until I was given live chickens and expected to create Chicken Paprikas for my in-laws. And not again until I got this brain storm of moving my children to a farm and living off the land in my late twenties did I have to brave the butchering again. It never got any easier but I did eventually get the hang of it. And I must admit that there really is nothing nicer then being able to serve the freshest of fresh chicken to a hungry bunch of hollow legged teenagers.

I sure wish I would have had these easy to follow instructions before.

kindest regards Zsuzsy


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

Zsuzsy, you make me laugh! I can't imagine what I would have done under your circumstances, being expected to make Chicken Paprikas (which I've never done) starting with live chickens.

I'm so glad you find these instructions palatable.

So how did your living-off-the-land experiment go? Have you written about that already?


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada

I have the hub in the works. It's no secret though that my experience at self containment failed miserably. With the exception of the meat chickens every animal that came to the farm became a pet. From the sheep, goats, rabbits, to the cows etc... I just couldn't send them off to the market. When I gave up on the farm the animals all went to live out their lives in a petting zoo.

What can I say...I love animals


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

Zsuzsy,

I look forward to your in-the-works hub.

You and my dad would probably get along nicely. He has such trouble getting rid of his animals, and will let the same cow fail to raise a live calf for three to five years before culling her..."maybe she'll do better next year. She used to have really good calves ever year." :-)


Scott 5 years ago

Dude. You scalded the chicken too long or too hot. The skin is yellow, cooked, and torn because of the scald. Better luck next time!


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

Scott,

That happens. This was, unfortunately, one of the few out of nearly 100 chickens which looked that way. :-D But it was the one I happened to get pictures of.


Daisy 4 years ago

I gutted my first chicken today and used your site for some pointers. Thank you


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 4 years ago from United States Author

Daisy,

So glad to be of help! I hope the process went well for you.

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