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Our chickens are egg layers, and we can’t imagine butchering them. But, curious to determine whether we had the stomach to raise animals for meat, we offered to help when our friend Molly told us that she had to butcher some of her chickens.

Warning: If you are a vegetarian, you may not want to continue past this point.

Catching the chickens in question was a responsibility that fell to Adrian and Molly’s son Gabe. Once caught, the chickens were handed over to Molly’s father, Hal, who quickly and unceremoniously dispatched them. I think this was the hardest part for Adrian–not the killing, but the lack of some kind of ritual of gratitude.

Next came the plucking. For the feathers to come out easily, the carcasses needed to be scalded. Hal and I donned oven mitts and carried a canning kettle full of near-boiling water from his place next door over to Molly’s. Then we began dipping the carcasses.

Scalding the chickens

After that, plucking the chickens was easy.


The denuded chickens were plopped into buckets of water to cool.


Once all the chickens were plucked, we carried them over to Hal’s, because his kitchen was more conducive to the next phase of the project: gutting.

Molly with carcasses

Hal demonstrated the gutting process, and Molly and I took turns eviscerating the chickens. Here I am reaching waaaaaay up into the chicken’s body cavity trying to remove the lungs:

Petra gutting a chicken

Overall, I found that I didn’t have any problem plucking and gutting, but I just couldn’t bring myself to cut off their heads and feet. 

Chicken feet