Home Chicken Processing – Patricia Foreman









Great Big Ideas & Takeaways:

Processing your own birds is a lost art in our culture. It’s time to bring back this old tradition and combine it with new techniques. So that poultry processing once again becomes common knowledge in homes and communities:

  • Discover the secrets to humanely, safely, sanitarily, and skillfully process your birds at home.
  • Why the old, traditional way of processing is the worst and how it ruins the meat.
  • How to get healthy, high-quality meat from your backyard flock.
  • The nutritional differences of commercial meats vs. heritage breeds.
  • The science & chemistry behind quality meat processing.
  • Processing equipment that you have—or can easily make.
  • Hand plucking made fun.
  • Super simple evisceration & educational anatomy lesson.
  • 2 ways to chill meat without affecting tenderness.
  • HOME TRICKS: freezer packaging for long-term storage.

About The Speaker:

Patricia Foreman is a sustainable agricultural author, local foods activist, and popular speaker.

She, and her co-presenter, chicken celebrity Oprah Hen-Free, have presented workshops at major festivals and conferences across the US, including Mother Earth Fairs, Monticello’s Heritage Harvest Festivals, Nourishing Traditions, and many others.

For over 4 years, Pat was the co-host of the daily Chicken Whisperer Talk Show. She is often interviewed on radio and TV shows, including NPR and CBS.

She has kept poultry for over 25 years, and has experience ranging from backyard flocks to owning and operating a small-scale farm with free range, organic layers, broilers and turkeys. The commercial operation included keeping breeder flocks, incubating eggs, pasturing poultry and finished processing.

She is the author of City Chicks, co-author of Chicken Tractor, Day Range Poultry, Backyard Market Gardening and A Tiny Home to Call Your Own.

Pat is also the developer of the Chickens and You Training Series leading to the Master Backyard Chicken Keeper Certification.


QUESTION: Do you raise chickens for meat, eggs, or both? Do you process your own birds?




  1. Sa

    great information but a video would have been helpful to see it played out vs just still pictures. Her slides tended to be several seconds ahead of her speaking, which was distracting and hard to take notes. Great great info, though!

    1. Carly Hill

      You could always use the pause button to stop and look at the slides and take notes 🙂

  2. Rebecca

    Loved your presentation! Easy to follow and understand. I can feel your passion for doing the “right thing” for both man and animal. God bless you!

  3. Michele

    Very informative. Too bad the slides were off with the talking for the first half, but thankfully that was fixed.

  4. Marjory WIldcraft

    My favorite saying I learned from Patricia is “may the flock be with you”.

  5. Lisa

    great information, but the timing being off on the slides was a big disadvantage. An unfortunate technical error that kept me from giving it a higher rating.

  6. Tanya Suter

    Thank you for providing such detailed instructions on processing chickens. I plan to start raising my own flock in the Spring and this helped give me a better idea on how to prepare for this adventure – what I need to get, how I need to set things up, etc.

  7. Kathy

    hmmm not sure I agree with the prejudice against the Cornish Cross . Fat is not the same as a high percent muscle mass. We selected from the heritage breeds and crossed them to produce more productive birds. I love the taste and tenderness of the young fast growing birds. Heritage birds have their place in the kitchen, but it is generally cooked down in the crock pot or as a great canned broth.

  8. Brian

    Processing or Slaughter? Semantics! The results are the same no matter which word you use. It makes no difference to the chicken. If it makes you feel better, so be it, but do not impose your standards upon others. Chickens do have the exact same right as a bolt. They are both property and have no rights. Common sense dictates you treat your animals (property) to prevent injury. But the ultimate purpose of the chicken is to be eaten. How humane is that exactly?

    Do you have the same standard for carrots? They are a living things also.

    1. MommaM

      Wolves and foxes slaughter them when they eat them. We don’t. We process them quickly and without stress. That’s what makes them “humane.” We don’t do it like the “animals” do.
      Be nice. These speakers are giving generously of their time for our benefit. Do not impose your bad attitude upon others.

    2. Lawren

      @Brian: I would argue that for any creature with a nervous system, there are easier and harder ways to slip out of the world of the living. Factory farming is horrific, and animals are often in a great deal of pain for a significant amount of time before they die. I would define “slaughter” as the actual killing and “processing” as what happens to turn the carcass into a meat product. In factory farming, often the latter starts before the former is finished because of poor/uncaring/hurried slaughtering practices. As a person who believes that ethical behavior includes actions towards the world around us, not just towards our own species, I see a world of difference between methods like this one and factory farming.

      1. Nance

        We “harvest” our animals. We farm, and farmers harvest. Kids are fine with harvesting.

      2. Subduedjoy

        According to Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of “slaughter” is “the killing of animals for food,” and the definition of “processing” is “performing a series of mechanical or chemical operations on something in order to change or preserve it.”

      3. Kristian Krarup

        Yes, but EVEN in factory farming, the animals are stunned before bleeding. in the case of chickens, its common to use an electric water bath. The bath doesnt always work due to various factors, but if doing it by hand, we can make sure the animal is actually stunned before bleeding it.
        Without stun, the chicken is conscious while bleeding out 15 to 30 seconds. Quite frankly, it is unecessary, when we have the available and affordable technology to alleviate their suffering. (spring loaded poultry stun gun costs 60 USD)

    3. brunski

      As the superior creatures … we must be good stewards of the land and animals.

  9. MeanJean

    Great info,.– just a couple of parts were difficult to follow due to technical problems.
    Thanks Patricia–with your simple & straight forward coaching, I might “just go out there & do it”.

  10. Honest

    Keep to talking chickens, pleass leave the “science” to scientist. The propaganda is the reason I stopped participating in ANYTHING Mother Earth News. If you are not going to talk about flouride in our water, aluminum poisoning, and vaccines, STOP guessing.

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      huh? did I miss something?

  11. Janet

    Great presentation. The slides and talking were a bit off so it was a little distracting, outside of that is was very informative. Thank you!

  12. Galina

    If I need to separate only one bird and I’ll get it at night and put in some box with water, will bird suffer next day being alone and in a box if I want to process it next afternoon?

  13. Michaele

    Thank you for your presentation! My daughters and I want to start a small scale farm and this helped a lot. Secondly…People! People…a slide presentation can be difficult at best…again thank you for your insight and knowledge.

  14. Galina

    And one more question: how remove bird from box without stressing it?

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Hi Galina, Did you see Pats’ presentation on Chicken Whispering yesterday? She shows how to handle chickens in a calming way.

      1. Galina

        I saw that presentation, but it’s tricky to put hand in a box to pick chicken. I thought that Patricia can have some way to extract from the box

  15. Kristian Krarup


    I have a document here that you should perhaps read out of interests of animal welfare.

    It is worth noting that slaughtering (and yes, I said the “S” word, unapologetically.) without stunning is not carried out in most slaughterhouses.

    Please consider acquiring a captive bolt gun or electric stunner.

    Efficacy of the electric stunner is documented here:


    I dont really know how you can conclude that a slow death (bleeding out) can be considered less painful and stressful than a stun rendering it insenible in a fraction of a second.

    here is some info on the topic:

    Please consider that you are influencing people to “process” their chickens in this way, which has been demonstrated to be inhumane, by pretty much any and all animal welfare organisations. The fact that you can conclude what you are doing is humane based on intuition, when there is so much research out there detailing the technical aspects of stun efficacy, is of concern.

    1. Subduedjoy

      While I feel the cone is a great idea to calm the chicken down, I had a hard time watching this video because I too feel that it’s better to kill the chicken quickly than to let it bleed out slowly. In fact, bleeding the chicken reminded me of halal slaughter, which is known to be a very cruel way of slaughtering animals.

      1. Subduedjoy

        I do feel Patricia has good intentions though. She seems to really like her birds.

        1. Carly Hill

          Good intentions do not mitigate animal suffering. I have done a permaculture design course and also care about animals welfare. People must update their mindsets and skills based on the available science. The science is very clear that bleeding an animal out in this way does cause suffering. I agree with Kristian.
          Do yourself a favour people and read the article.
          Do not just follow blindly, do your own research. The permaculture principles are a guideline, it does not mean you should follow someone blindly on it though just because they seem nice.

    2. brunski

      I agree with Patricia. Less trauma and pain, when you consider all the elements she instructed.

      1. Kristian Krarup

        you mention less trauma and pain, what do you base this on?

  16. TRISH

    Words do have meaning. I grew up in a neighborhood not a community. Community = commune, common, common core, communism etc. etc.

  17. M

    Enjoyed this a lot. Well, maybe I should say I learned a lot. I do not enjoy the day we have to slaughter all the little roosters that have hatched in the flock!

    An observation- the freezer bags mentioned, the price is off by a decimal point. According to the price you gave, they are 30 cents each, not 3 cents. Not saying it’s not worth it to store them, but that’s a really big difference.

  18. Jean

    Thank you for the presentation. Though I’ve processed our own chickens for meat and taught a few friends, I too learned something new. Slitting down the back of the neck makes a much more presentable whole bird for roasting than the cut in the front which numerous books show.

    Processing takes time to learn. My first processing experience was with a friend, three book spread out on a table (we both had read them several times), and one rooster. We dispatched the rooster quickly and properly and then took two hours to get him ready for cooking. It was a great help when a neighbor allowed me to watch as she processed three birds in less than 30 minuets.

    Children, as well as adults, react in varying ways. When I asked an older neighbor for suggestions for ways to handle the killing of our meat birds and our three year old son, his first suggestion was to do it while the child was taking his nap. But the child came outside just as the first bird had bled out. “What have you done to our pretty chickie!?” was his somewhat horrified question. Following the second suggestion from the wise and experienced neighbor I asked, “What is your favorite food?” “Fried chicken!”, he answered. “Well, this is how we get it,” I told him to which he responded, “Which one do you want me to catch next?”
    On the other hand a friend’s daughter followed a total vegan diet for years after they processed their first batch of chickens. Yes, she knew the birds were being raised for food but the reality of that entailing the death of the birds had not dawned on her until she saw it happen. I suspect a lot of people would agree with her if they had to process their own birds.

  19. Catherine

    Great presentation. I ended up being
    a bit confused over rapid refigeration and less tender meat. What is rapid refrigeraion? Is that the air chilling method?

    1. mildred

      I too watched this presentation trying to clarify and figure out why the meat stiffens and toughens after bleed out. Mine almost always do, and must then be pressure cooked or boiled forever to be edible. Although when I harvest, it is usually an old hen, so i expect them to be tough anyway. I learned to chill fast in cold water…i guess years ago from the pastured poultry book. Sometimes a bird comes out soft, but usually, even a young one, comes out totally rigid, and never softens again…like, its difficult to get it Into the pressure cooker 🙁
      I’m starting to think I’d be better off looking into the old method and reason behind Hanging meat…maybe chilling is the mistake. Let them cool down slowly to ambient temperature and Then cook or freeze. Does anyone know better, care to explain? much Thanks!

  20. Terry Babb

    I kill a batch or two of Chickens a year. I made my kill cone out of a plastic bleach bottle. Great presentation.

  21. Carly Hill

    The moderator has removed my comment in which I was critical to the method of slaughter.
    Are we just here to congratulate one another on how awesome we are?

    1. Subduedjoy

      I hope that wasn’t the case. We should be able to read all points of view.

      1. Carly Hill

        It has been reposted.
        At first it said it was awaiting moderation, then it was gone. After I pointed out it had been removed, it came back up.
        It is the post by Kristian Krarup (the one containing links to articles). We are two people in the household, and I used my account to point out it had been removed, in case he too had been blocked, and not just his post.

        I agree, all points of view should be accessible. Im glad its back up.

        1. Amanda

          I’m glad your post is back up, I do not agree with that type of moderation. If the post contains information and a different point of view, but is not profane or abusive it should not be removed

          1. Jimerson (Post author)

            Hello! Comments with certain spam-qualities (such as multiple links) are auto-held for approval. The only comments I remove are ones that contain verbally abusive language. Enjoy the Summit!

            1. Kristian Krarup

              Hi Jimmerson,
              My post did indeed contain multiple links, and would explain why it was marked for moderation/review. However, soon after that it was simply gone, and reappeared after I commented it had been removed, hours later.
              Were the links (articles) considered spam, or was my confrontational tone considered verbally abusive?

  22. TRISH

    Excellent presentation. Very informative. Thank you

  23. Kerry

    I found this hard to watch (because of my own issues) but incredibly helpful. I don’t know that I could ever bring myself to process birds, but it’s great to know the proper way to do it. It took me a long time to get through the presentation because I had to keep stopping it to take notes from the slides–I feel it was time well spent even if I don’t end up processing birds myself.

  24. Birgitte

    We have chickens for eggs but are wanting to get into meat chickens. This video was very informative and helped me to understand the process. While I am a hands on learner and will need someone to physically show me how to process the birds, I at least have a basic understanding!

    We will be raising meat birds for ourselves, possibly extended family. For a small family, how many birds do you recommend raising for how long of a storage period (storage after bird has been processed)? Also, approximately how many chickens do you recommend to process on any given single day?

    Thank you!!!!

  25. Phyllis White

    Can’t get the video to even come up to watch. Any chance of being able to watch it in the future, and if so how? Thanks.

  26. Yolanda

    WOW…Reality!! Learned a lot on what NOT to do!

  27. Charlotte

    Great presentation! We are considering raising chickens for eggs…and I see that that will evolve into processing for meat. It is good to see how this should be done respectfully. My husband still remembers his trauma as a child witnessing a granddad doing it the wrong way…for the effects.

  28. Andie

    Great presentation!!! I’ve had chickens off and on my whole life. As a kid I remember my father stunning them with a piece of kindling and then cutting their throat. No drama, quick, no mess. We used the same method years later when my husband and I processed some ducks. We will give the cones a try next time. Thanks for the great info!!

    1. Kristian Krarup

      Good on you for using a stun.

  29. Heidi

    Wow, GREAT presentation! So much good information. Thank you very much.

  30. Subduedjoy

    I loved the video on communicating with one’s chickens. I will be moving to Tennessee and getting my own egg-laying chickens. I like only dark chicken meat, and I noticed the size of the legs and wings of the Heritage birds aren’t that different from those of the Cornish Cross. But I could never kill my chickens. So I guess I’ll have to get my processed Heritage chickens from a local backyard farm. Would it be possible to exchange them for some live chicks?

    1. Subduedjoy

      *live baby chicks.

  31. Betty

    Thank you so much. Very educational. Great pictures to help.

  32. Jessica

    Good presentation. FYI the American Veterinary Medical Association says exanguination is a humane euthanasia technique only if it is combined with another technique to render the animal insensible, such as pithing or stunning.

    1. Kristian Krarup

      @Jessica Indeed. Id just like to point out that pithing (damaging the brain stem with a metal rod) is considered a secondary kill step, and must only be done AFTER a stun. The stun, electric or high velocity blunt force trauma is the primary kill step. bleeding and pithing are done afterwards, when the animal is alredy insensible. im not even sure piting is used anymore actually?

  33. Kristian Krarup

    On a practical note: a smaller and affordable spring loaded boltgun designed for small poultry and rabbits is available for about 60 USD.
    Its called “The Ballista”.

    I am in no way associated with that company, and gain nothing by advertising for them, but merely suggesting an appropriate tool for the job.

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