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How to Clean a Dove, Quail or Squab by Removing Breast Meat

Updated on March 21, 2014
Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.

Quail are Small Game Birds that are Easy to Breast

Quail in the grass
Quail in the grass | Source

Cleaning Small Game Birds

With small birds like doves, quail, and squabs (baby pigeons) it usually not worth plucking the entire bird like it is with a chicken, duck or turkey. The reason is the amount of meat on wings and legs is very small. We don't like to be wasteful, but on small birds the breast meat is the significant portion of meat. So the process we use to clean small birds is called breasting. Breasting leaves you with the majority of the meat. Cleaning small birds this way is fast and easy!

Things Needed to Remove Breast from Small Game Birds

Items Needed to Clean Small Game Birds like Doves, Quail and Squabs

You will need a few tools to get started.

  • Small sharp knife
  • Kitchen shears
  • A paper bag for waste
  • Running water to wash off birds
  • Plastic Freezer bags if you're going to freeze the birds once cleaned

Remove the Wings with Kitchen Shears

Removing the Wings

Take the kitchen shears and cut the wings off the bird. Put the wings in the paper bag. (Note: It's good to clean up as you go, otherwise feathers can get everywhere and make quite a mess that takes much longer to clean up at the end).

If you don't have kitchen shears, the wings can be twisted off with your hands by holding the bird in your hand and ringing the wing off close to the body

Removing the Head

Optionally, Cut off the Head

Remove the head by either pulling it off with your hands, which involves putting the head between your index and forefinger and while holding the body of the bird in your other hand, twist and pull. Alternatively, you can use the kitchen shears and cut the head off at the base of the neck.

To breast the bird, this is optional, but I find it the breast pulls out more easily with the head of the bird removed.

Pluck All the Feathers from the Breast

Pluck the Feathers from the Breast

Flip the bird over so that the breast or underside of the bird is facing you. With your thumb and index finger pluck the feathers from the breast. Make sure your hands are dry, otherwise the feathers will stick to your hands.

The breast feathers pull out easily and this step takes just a handful of seconds.

Inserting Thumbs at Breast Bone

Insert Thumbs into the Cavity of the Birds Body at Breast Bone

Where the breast bone meets the back it forms a point. Put both of your thumbs on the point and press to break the skin.

Remove the Breast by Inserting Thumbs and Pulling it Up and Out

Remove the Breast

Insert your thumbs about one inch into the cavity of the body and pull the breast up and out toward the head. This will separate the breast from the back.

Remove the innards of the bird and place them in the waist bag. The large red organ is the heart. Some people save and cook these as a delicacy.

Rinse the Breast Under Cold Water

Rinsing the Breast

Clean out the guts, pellets (if it was shot) and wash with cold water. Place the cleaned bird in the pot and do the next one. If you're not going to eat them right away, place the breasts in a plastic freezer bag and freeze them for up to four months.

This process of dressing birds is called breasting. It's a quick process for cleaning lots of small birds to eat.


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    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      6 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I just updated this hub on cleaning small birds. I haven't been bird hunting in some time, but this is the first hub ever made. Almost 30,000 views.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 

      8 years ago from Manhattan

      Now if I could just get over the killing part! Useful information especially in Manhattan...I'll never starve!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks I will use this next time i kill a bird

    • profile image

      Brett Lomax 

      8 years ago


    • profile image

      Adam Pacholka 

      8 years ago

      I will try this because my brother just shot a dove in the backyard. My sister cried...

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Lolz i just twist the wings and stick my finger up the butthole and pull it apart

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I just cooked up a batch of doves, and I was looking for nutritional info on them.. Any knowledge on that end?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Well, I totally appreciate this advice. My brother raises serama chickens (very tiny) and he's picky about the stock he keeps. So, I would like to reap the benefits and consume his little cast offs. That's the plan. Oh do you blanch them before freezing? Thanks for the info.

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      9 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I think this is the first one that is still published.

    • Haunty profile image


      9 years ago from Hungary

      Hi Paul! Which was the first hub ever? Is this it? :)

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I'm not cleaning any doves right now LOL but I just found out this is the first hub ever! :-)


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