Raising Chickens/Printable version

Raising Chickens

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at

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Editing Instructions


Feel Free to edit any pages in this module. If there is a section that you feel is missing or need to be added then either mention it in the main Talk Page for this module, a link to it in the table of contents, or be bold and create it yourself.

New Page Instructions edit

After you have created a new page please add {{Raising Chickens}} to the top of the page. This adds a navigation template designed to make navigating the Raising Chickens module easier on the right side of the page (as seen on the right of this page).

After a page is started and has the navigation template added please add that page to the navigation template by clicking on the "Edit" link in the template.

New Discussion Page edit

When you create a new discussion page please add {{Raising Chickens Discussion}} to the top of the page. It is a navigation template designed to make navigating through the Raising Chickens Discussion easier, and looks like:

After a page is started and has the navigation template added please add that page to the navigation template by clicking on the "Edit" link in the template.

Disputes edit

If there is a fact that is oviously false then feel free to be bold and correct it. However, if you arn't sure then you can dispute a fact in that pages discussion. If there is a disupte section add your dispute with a title under it using three '=' e.g.

===chickens are not really birds===

If there isn't a Disputes section then feel free to add one.

After mentioning you dispute mark where your dispute is in the article by adding <sup>[[Talk:Raising Chickens/*Talk Page*#*dispute*|Disputed]]</sup>

replace *Talk Page* with the talk page name and *dispute* with the name of your dispute used in the page in the '=' signs e.g. say that you feel that chicks (in the chicks page) need dogfood. Your marker would look like

<sup>[[Talk:Raising Chickens/Chicks#dogfood|Disputed]]</sup>

This would look something like this

Chicks should NEVER get dogfoodDisputed.


One of the most important factors to properly raise chickens is having a suitable chicken house or better known as chicken coop. A chicken coop can be an old building or built from scratch. It is especially important that it is well ventilated, yet does not provide easy access for predatory animals such as dogs, foxes and wolves. Another thing to keep in mind is the climate in your area. In colder climates you would probably want to build a shelter that will hold in heat more. While in warmer climate the opposite effect is more desired. The primary goal is to reach a comfortable temperature.

Your coop should have some chicken wire under the floor if it is on the ground. If it is off the ground make sure it is high enough so that rodents don't nest under it. Also, make sure the ground absorbs moisture quick enough. To test this, dig a hole in the ground and pour a little water into it. Building a suitable coop is not an easy task. However, if you have some good guidance then it will be much easier.There are lots of plans available on the internet. Try searching for one which can explain to you the building process step by step.

Further Resources edit

Public domain instructions for constructing a small chicken house are available from the Institute for Appropriate Technology. Further guidelines on how to build a chicken coop are available at EasyBuildChickenCoop.com For a comprehensive guide on DIY Chicken Coop Plans and a lot of additional Chicken Care information visit BuildingaChickenCoop.com

Building a Pen

Building a pen can be easier than you think. You will need to know what type of chicken you are getting before you begin construction.

If your chickens are going to be larger, heavier, and less prone to flying away (like mine) then a simple post and wire design will work. However, most chickens are more airborne and you will need to design a pen with really high fences (if not with a wired roof) or get used to seeing your chickens on your roof.

No matter what design you choose, you will need to customize based on chicken type, local by-laws, and geography. Before proceeding, it is recommended that you check with your municipality to see how many chickens you may keep. In rural counties you will probably find that keeping livestock (including chickens) is OK. However, in more urban areas there may even be TOTAL restrictions on chickens. It should be noted that as recently as the 1960s people have been allowed to keep reasonable numbers of chickens in urban areas.

Choosing an Area edit

A very important factor in choosing an area to raise chickens should not be overlooked. There are many predators out there who want to get to the chickens as an easy meal. You might come out one morning and your chicken have been scavenged by night predators who enjoyed a big feast. This can be devastating. Therefore it is imperative that they are locked in at night. Predators also can come during the day. For example Hawks like to snatch chickens. And they can shoot down from the sky very fast. You need to make sure you have a tight mesh on top of the roaming area, where they are fenced in. I have seen large mirrors placed in the roaming area too, which serve to distract the predators very well.

Post and Wire Design edit

A post and wire design is the simplest way of building a pen. Just as the name suggests, all you need are some fence posts, the right kind of wire, fence staples, and appropriate tools (a regular hammer, sledgehammer, crowbar, and wire cutters will do). Do a simple survey of the area you want your chickens to live in, measuring the distance on all your fence lines. Anyone using a fence pounder should replace the next few steps with ones for a fence pounder as appropriate.

Once your survey is complete, it is time to buy your materials. Fence posts can be purchased from a variety of lumber stores. You may find that you can only order them in large bundles as the primary consumers of fence posts are farmers who need a lot of them. If this is the case, don't worry; you will find that fence posts are incredibly useful for many purposes including support beams for storage sheds and the chicken house.

Although you could use chicken wire for containing your chickens, I recommend stucco wire. Stucco wire is usually used for holding stucco to the sides of buildings. It is stronger and taller than chicken wire. You will also need fence staples for attaching the wire to the posts. These can be found at most hardware stores. If you can't find actual fencing staples, then staples used for attaching electrical wire to walls will do. I must stress that you shouldn't skimp on your staples. You will need a lot, even if you have a small pen. Not only do you need lots during construction, you will need a supply for emergency repairs.

Now that you have your fence materials, you will need tools for building the fence. You will need a regular hammer for the staples, a crowbar for making holes for the posts, and a sledgehammer for pounding the posts in.

When selecting a sledgehammer you should keep the weight in mind. It should be heavy enough so that you are doing less of the work for pounding the post in and more is done by the hammer. However, if it weighs too much, and you have trouble lifting it, then you might not be able to pound as efficiently as with a hammer that has a more comfortable weight. A crowbar is needed to dig a hole to start the post. You should select a pole that comes to a point at the end. Now we have all the materials and tools needed; let’s get to the actual construction.

Construction edit

Building the pen is very simple to do. There are, however, some tricks that aren’t obvious that are only learned from experience. Some hidden tricks that are specific to chickens (cattle don't need these on fences to contain them) will be covered here.

If the ground is dry or frozen you should bring a bucket of water along to soften the ground. Use the pointed end of your crowbar to pound a hole in the ground. When a hole starts to form, pour water into it occasionally to soften the soil. You should also leave your crowbar in the hole and use it to widen the hole by pulling you body weight against it. A 20 cm deep hole should be sufficient. The hole should be wide enough to hold a post. When you have finished making your hole, put your post, pointed end first, into the hole. Use your sledgehammer to pound the post into the ground until it is firm. On days when the soil is dry, having the post a little loose might work as the soil will slowly soften around it. To stabilize the post and allow the energy of your pounding to be used more effectively, it may be useful to have someone on the side opposite yours to hold the post while you pound. Be CAREFUL as, if you miss the post, you could injure your assistant. Space your posts about a meter apart. You should add two posts that are about a wheelbarrow width apart. This will be your gate later.

Once you have enough posts to put a fence around the area you choose to build your pen at, you can put wire up around it. To do this bring your stucco wire to a corner post. You should probably have more than one person do this as stuco wire is heavy. Hold the end of the wire to the post and hammer in with fence staples. Once your end is secured unroll your wire to the next post in line. Don't wrap your wire around this one. Instead unroll the wire a little beyond the post and staple what wire touches the post. Continue doing this until either the pen is complete or you run out of wire. If you run out of wire then you can continue on with another roll. If the first roll ran out just after a post then wrap it around the post as best you can and move on. Do not wrap the second wire around this post instead have it share the last post of the roll that ran out. Once that is done then continue in the same way as before.

If the wire runs out before reaching a post then you should probably pound a new post in so that the end of the wire can be attached. Then continue with the next roll sharing this new post.

To make a gate all you need is some particle board, hinges and a latch.

Cut the particle board to fit between the gate posts, and attach the hardware appropriately. Get a heavy-duty latch and lock for your gate. Animals are not the only predators that may helps themselves to your birds or their eggs.

It is also possible to raise free range chickens. If you do that, you might want to mix in with the regular birds several Guinea hens. They are not that large a bird and are not that good a meat producer or egg producer, but are good 'watch dogs' for the flock. The bugs and greens the free ranging birds get make very good eggs and meat. Guinea hens are good collectors of bugs. Free ranging birds also need protection at night.

Additional Resources edit

Urban chickens A great poultry web site

Additional Notes edit

Some excellent sources for supplies
Location Supplier
Canada Princess Auto
Alberta United Farmers of Alberta (UFA)

If you have any suppliers to add (even if they don't have a website) feel free to add them to the list or to the discussion page for this section. You can also suggest alternative methods of fence construction over there as well.

Building a Pen/Maintenance

Some people use old fish aquariums to house baby chicks, they are easy to clean and act as a wind breaker so the chicks don't get cold. In order to make cleaning the cage or pen easier, you can put some hardwear screen or window screen on the floor of the pen and newspaper under the screen. The screen will act as a good traction for baby chicks but also all you have to do is lift, rinse off, change newspaper, dry, and put back in for re-using over and over again. You'll want to clean the pen every day or two so that the chicken is comfortable and doesn't have to lay in its own waste.

Choosing a breed

Staring at an unsurmountable list of chicken breeds can be a dizzying experience, but not to worry. The intended use of the chicken can narrow the list considerably. Two basic categories are meat birds (bred to grow quickly to harvest weight) and egg layers (bred to lay lots of eggs). Deciding what will be expected from the chickens is half the battle, the other half is mostly preference. Breeds differ by appearence, general size, temperment, egg color for layers (white, cream, green, blue or brown), and quality of meat/eggs produced. Choosing the exact breed is up to the person raising the chickens.

More information can be found from any good hatchery. In the discussion page for this section you can find recommend breeds as well as problem breeds as found by other Wikibooks users.

Meat Breeds Many people buy hybrids that are bred to grow to slaughter weight by around 8 weeks of age. These are commonly marketed under the names of Cornish Cross and Ross Cobb. There are also many pure breeds that are classified as meat breeds, such as the Sussex and Jersey Giant.

Finding a Hatchery

There are many ways to find hatcheries

You could look in a local service directory or search the internet

----Some Hatcheries----
Region Hatchery
Canada Rochester
United States McMurray Hatchery

Cackle Hatchery

Green-Line Hatchery

If you would like to add a hatchery to the list feel free to do so or post it on the discussion page for this chapter.

Additional Notes edit

An alternative to finding a hatchery is to find already grown hens/roosters. Many small growers are ready to give them away (free/barter/cheap) at the end of the laying season. Obviously your selection is limited to what's available, but this method saves the expense and trouble of dealing with chicks. Keep an eye on the local paper or bargain sheet. You can also ask anyone with a flock if they'd be willing to part with a few birds. Depending on the purpose of your flock, someone else's culls might be just the right birds for you. Be careful that you pick up healthy birds.

When you introduce new birds to your established flock, it won't take long for new and old birds to integrate and establish their "pecking order." Not to worry, it looks nasty at first but they quickly work it out. If two of them insist on constantly fighting, they'll be so busy with each other that you can easily pick up and move one of the birds to another part of the pen. If you're adding a grown rooster to a flock that already has one, we recommend avoiding a new one that's been the only or head honcho at his old place. Pick the second or third in the pecking order if you have a choice so your current head rooster can get along with him.

www.welp.com==Comprehensive List Of Hatcheries==

Local Regulations

In the UK anyone can keep chickens in their backgarden or smallholding. Noise restrictions mean that cockerels may not be kept in urban areas, and there have been complaints about cockerels in the countryside. Flocks greater than 50 birds must be registered with DEFRA because of the possibility of bird flu. Smaller flocks can be registered, but this is not compulsory. It is generally a good idea to share surplus eggs with the neighbours, so they do not mind if a chicken escapes onto their land. In the US check your town's zoning laws. in Petaluma you can keep up to 6 chickens, no cockerels.


Basics of Caring for Baby Chickens edit

Hatcheries usually supply baby chickens in two varieties, the 'just hatched' sort and the 'grown-up' sort.

Just Hatched Chicks edit

They need:

  1. Warmth
  2. Drink
  3. Food
  4. Comfort
  5. Home

1. If they are cold, baby chickens might freeze to death. We don't want that, so we need to keep them warm. Start with 95 degrees in the first week, and then decrease the temperature by 5 degrees every week after until 6 weeks. A good way to provide said warmth is to buy a special 'Hen' lamp. It's a very big light bulb that produces much heat, as well as light. Make sure they don't have a cold floor where they will sleep. Some cardboard will do fine for insulation, but make sure the surface isn't slippery if it should; it can lead to spraddled feet where the bones are bent to the side making the chick unable to walk.

2. It's pretty much obvious, but baby chickens need to drink. Under no circumstances give them un-boiled water. Their immune systems might not handle the germs just yet. Grain coffee (coffee made from oats or summat, as opposed to coffee made from beans) is quite suitable for them. Make sure it's not hot. A good way to serve drink is to pour it into a jug, put a dish on top of the jug upside down, then flip the whole thing, so that the jug is upside down, standing on the dish. It should leak just enough coffee onto the dish so that the baby chickens can have a drink, and leak more when they have drunk some.

3. Baby chickens won't eat just any old thing. Milled oats are a good thing to feed them, at least initially. Hard-boiled eggs (cut up into appropriate bite-sized pieces, of course) go with the milled oats quite well. You may want to ask around in agriculture stores about special feed for baby chickens. They can eat some bread, but if they eat too much, it will kill them. It's good to add cut-up lettuce to the baby chickens' diet. If you're not squeamish, they love small, flightless invertebrates, and go crazy for worms.

4. Chickens are flock birds, sure, but even they don't like to be cramped. Cannibalism and trampling may ensue if they don't have enough space. Baby chickens grow quickly, so make sure you have room for them. Scatter some hay under the big light bulb so they have something to scratch in. Remember to replace the cardboard once it becomes saturated with poop, no one likes to sleep in feces.

Grown But Still Baby Chicks edit

They're bigger and usually have feathers already.

They need:

  1. Drink
  2. Food
  3. Warmth
  4. Comfort

1. Now that they're grown up a bit, they can drink just about any water. But I'd recommend boiling it, nevertheless. Forget the trick with the jug, the chickens will tip them over frequently; use a pot or something of that kind. Also, they can’t be covered up they will be scared. And when they cheat, they need company and calm them down.

2. Remember those special foods for baby chickens? It's a kind of meal, only with vitamins, minerals and what not. It's good for them. Mashed potatoes mixed with that meal, are better. And the chickens like it VERY much. Cut-up lettuce, cabbage, the grass is fine at this point. Insects are always welcome and they can eat big bugs.

3. With feathers, warmth is less of a concern than before but tries to keep the temperature steady at about 20 degrees Celsius.

4. Basically the same tips as before. Make sure they have room to romp, a place to sleep, and that they have a reasonably clean environment. Oh, and you need to provide them a sandbox of sorts in which they can dust bathe.


Feeding chickens is almost as easy as watering them. In nature chickens are the garbage cleaners of the south east Asian jungle. For everyday food you can feed your chickens either chicken food (found at feed stores) or pig food. In Alberta the UFA Hog Grower is the same as the chick starter except the pellets are bigger, and the hog grower contains less antibiotics. If you have access to grain then you can feed that to them. Whenever you make food with lots of scraps (peelings and bits of vegetables that humans shouldn't eat) then feed those to them. Chickens can be trained so well if they see a small bucket (for carrying chicken scraps) they get excited because a treat is coming. You can feed your chickens in a trough, appropriate sized container, or by scattering the food on the ground. You can even give your chickens bones with scraps of meat on them. There is very little that they won't eat.

Information Specific to Laying Hens edit

Laying hens require calcium for egg shells. During the laying season, put a pile or box of crushed clam shells in their pen. Crushed clam shells are available at most local feed/farm stores. If you scatter the clam shells too much, you won't know when the hens need more until you see paper-thin shells. Egg shells also work for the calcium, but you run the risk of the birds learning to eat their own eggs. To avoid this you should crush the shells so that they don't look like eggs.

External links edit

Other Information edit

If you have any questions about whether chickens should eat a particular food or not post your question on the Raising Chickens/Feeding discussion page.

Common food that chickens shouldn't/won't eat
Food Reason
Orange peels Too tough for chickens to chew on. Chickens will play with them if they are bored, though. The orange itself chickens will eat.
Watermelon rinds Too thick/tough for chickens to chew on but they do love the actual fruit part.
Rye kernels Chickens don't like them. Some chickens do enjoy Rye, just a little.
Chicken Because they are chickens. Although chickens will happily eat chicken and other meat products. After butchering a chicken you can leave the skeleton in the pen and they will pick the bones clean. If done on a large scale, making chicken feed from chickens (especially the brain and spinal cord) can lead to an outbreak of encephalopathy, similar to mad cow disease.
Carrots Chickens can't eat large hard chunks but they will eat carrot peels.
Curry They like it, but it has bad effects on their droppings.
Banana Some chickens like bananas while other do not. It really depends on the breed. Disputed
Potato Peel Chickens normally don't like very many root plants, so they will not usually eat potato peels but they do like leftover mashed potato.
Tomato Not a problem in small quantities. In excess reduces the droppings.
Apple It is fine to give one apple to four birds once every two weeks if given too regular it may give them a stomach upset. They absolutely love the peel too.
Baked beans They just don't like them- also disputed
Grapes Chickens really seem to love grapes - not mine! They didn´t notice nice white organic grapes for 2 days
Gooseberries A similar reaction to that of grapes.
Rice Chickens love rice but it must cooked completely
Pasta Same with rice, they especially love spaghetti (reminds them of worms). Cut it down in size though.
Fish skin They love fish and skin, has a lot of calcium for layers.
Mice Dead or alive they will fight over them and chase them.
Ham Chickens love ham

Lettuce, cauliflower and cabbage leaves Feel free to add items that you have found chickens shouldn't or won't eat though just like people they are individuals and all have their own likes and dislikes so it cannot be justly said that they WILL or WILL NOT eat a certain food.

Cheese: My chickens go mad for cheese. It is very fatty however and should not be given in abundance.

And finally, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER feed chickens (or any other bird) avocado. Avocados (their peelings, the fruit itself, and the seeds) are POISONOUS TO BIRDS.


Watering chickens is not a hard thing to do. It is said that 20 chickens drink about as much as a cow. Since chickens are small creatures you don't need a lot of water to keep them going. However, you do need to give them water several times a day when it is hot. Since watering chicks is covered in the chicks section this section will cover adult chickens.

To hold the chickens water there are a variety of devices you can use. Anything that can hold water will do. Halves of tires, tip-over pails, tubs, etc. A limiting factor is that it needs to be small enough for chickens to drink out of. A tip-over pail is a small pail that you fill with water. When you take it into your pen you tip it over and the chickens drink out of that.

For other devices all you have to do is fill them with water. Every once in a while you should dump out the water (if it is dirty) and rinse and refill. Chickens will often walk in their water and also kick stuff into it. So to keep your chickens healthy it is a good idea to keep their water clean.

For a small collection of chickens, a dog bowl can work nicely — and it is easy to clean. You can also buy electric dog bowls for the winter, which some of the contributors to this book have had a lot of success with.


In most parts of the world winters are not a big issue. However, once you go north/south of certain latitudes then keeping your chickens going through the winter is a big deal.

Winterizing your Shelter edit

If you are using an existing shed that has wall cavities(in between the outside siding, and the inside wall) you can fill those up with sawdust, and that helps.

Heat edit

Depending on the size and cold tolerance of your chickens heating can be very important or just a nice add on. If your shelter is small enough and insulated well the heat produced by your chickens might be enough to keep them warm. If this is not the case then it might be necessary to put heating in. A heat lamp can help add warmth to the chickens shelter. The cold tolerance of chickens varies. However, some chickens can be quite happy in -20 Celsius.

Butchering all your chickens in the fall edit

One option of getting your chickens through the winter is to not do it. If you are raising chickens for meat purposes then this is an option worth considering. For instructions on doing this look in the Butchering section of this book.

Keeping your chickens happy

Keeping your chickens happy is very easy to do. If you have a big enough pen then you will already have very happy chickens. There are also many things to can do to keep them even happier.

Build Roosts edit

A photo of a hen sitting on a roost

Building roosts is easy to do. All you need are some thin poles and wire. Wooden poles work best as they are most like what a chicken would find naturally. One method that works is the use of poplar trees as poles. If you are using poplar (or similar tree) then use young saplings. Trees that are around 5 years old are best. When selection used trees that are about the thickness of a broom handle. In the case of poplar don't worry if you are killing the tree. Poplar Trees reproduce by sending up shoots from their roots as well as seed. Even if you do end up killing a poplar tree in a couple of years more will grow to replace it. When you have your poles, make sure that they are the right size to fit in your shelter. Adjust size as needed then use your wire to tie that together so that they form a ladder that covers the width of the shelter. Your roosts should be fairly tall and strong. From experience, some of our contributors have found that chickens prefer to sleep in their roosts

Scatter food (for them to find) edit

To do this all you have to do is scatter your chickens' food around and let them follow their natural instincts. In the jungle, where chickens originally came from, wild chickens spent their day looking around for things to eat. Scattering their food around their pen allows them to do this in a safe (no predators and guaranteed food) setting.

If you have hay down to keep the mud away try scattering some corn in the hay. This results in the chickens spreading the hay around while being entertained (IF you do not let them out).

Give them scraps you normally wouldn't edit

This method requires that you give your chickens scraps that aren’t unhealthy for your chickens but they still won't eat. These are scraps that, for whatever reason, your chickens would rather (or can only) play with instead of eat. A good example is Orange peels. Chickens find it difficult to eat these because they are too tough. However, if your chickens are bored then giving these to them will give them something to play with. Orange peels won't cause harm to your chickens and as such are safe. For a complete list of foods that Chickens normally don't eat see Feeding.

Also, if your chickens don't have the ability to free range for their nutritional needs, you must provide them with grit (ground stone) to aid them with digestion. Birds lack the ability to chew their food so must crush it in the gizzard, a strong muscle that uses grit to break apart the grain they consume.

Other methods edit

For a list of methods that have worked for other people (or to post your own) go to the discussion page for this chapter. Keep a small pail under your kitchen sink and add tasty bits to feed later to your chickens. You can save carrots, bits of celery and lettuce, etc. If you just throw them on the ground inside their pen, they will rush over to investigate and enjoy a treat that is more interesting than their regular chicken food, but make sure the food isn't rotten or spoiled.


Sudden Death from Heart Attack edit

This is uncommon for chickens, but if it does happen, there is nothing you can do. it will not "spread through the flock". There are a few rumors about it. But try to pull yourself together and move on.

Predation edit

In the UK, and many other countries, foxes pose a major threat to chicken stocks. Also, many of the larger birds of prey have been known to attack live chickens.

Known Chicken/Egg Eaters

  • Skunks (also eat eggs)
  • Weasels and mink (can go into killing frenzy and devastate a flock in a single night)
  • Hedgehogs
  • Bobcats
  • Coyotes
  • Foxes (can take one bird at a time over a long period of time)
  • Dogs
  • Cats (usually small chicks only)
  • Hawks
  • Peregrine Falcons
  • Owls
  • Magpies and crows (mostly eggs and young chicks)
  • Humans
  • In South America there is a type of spider that will prey on chickens
  • Opossum (will eat the head and guts)
  • Raccoons

Disposal of Bodies (legally) when your chickens die from "unusual" causes edit

In the UK, there is a legal requirement that you have your birds incinerated by DEFRA. However, this law is usually ignored by small poultry producers. Birds may be buried, incinerated or thrown out with the rubbish. However, if your chicken died of disease then it is imperative that you do not feed it to any other animal, due to the risk of a disease being passed on.

Other edit

If you want to butcher your own chickens then go to the Butchering Chickens section.


Killing your Chickens Humanely by Dr. Hershel E. Grafton edit

Preparing the Chicken for Slaughter edit

Birds that are to be slaughtered should be taken off feed long enough before killing (about 12 hrs.) to allow the crop and intestinal tract time to empty. A full digestive system increases the chance of contamination of the carcass during removal of the viscera. Birds should be caught and placed in crates or coops during the night to avoid excitement and possible injury of the birds prior to slaughter.

Slaughter Procedure edit

In slaughtering, birds are positioned with their heads down to facilitate bleeding. This can be accomplished through the use of killing cones, shackles, or a rope around the feet.

After the bird is properly positioned the killing and bleeding step follows. Several important factors must be kept in mind; the bird must be killed in such a way to allow most of the blood to drain from the body and at the same time limit struggling to prevent damage to the corpse.

A widely used method that accomplishes these objectives is making a cut just behind the jaw. The cut should sever the jugular vein without cutting the esophagus or wind pipe. A weight can then be hung from the beak to limit the movement of the bird. This is a more 'humane' method of slaughter because the bird is unconscious due to loss of blood from the brain.

Any method which involves beheading or wringing the neck accomplishes the killing but fails to produce a properly bled carcass. The heart stops when the spinal cord is severed.

The optimal, most humane procedure is to "debrain" the chicken *before* beginning the bleeding. The procedure: 1) Put the bird into a "killing cone" - breast forward - to secure it so it won't panic; 2) locate the slit in the roof of the mouth and insert a small bladed knife (commercially available: called a "chicken killing sticking knife") at a slight angle; 3) Push the knife point toward the back of the brain, with the handle approximately parallel to the upper beak; 4) Once inserted, twist the knife to destroy as much brain tissue as possible. This procedure takes less than a second and once complete the bird is "brain dead" and unconscious but the heart is still beating. When you cut the jugular the heart will pump the blood out of the bird killing it.

Processing your dead chickens to be eaten edit

Plucking feathers edit

Scalding edit

Scalding involves submerging the carcass in hot water to relax the muscles holding the feathers. For small groups of birds a large bucket can work well. For larger numbers of birds a thermostatically controlled heated tank may be best. For birds that are difficult to scald (waterfowl, in particular) a wetting agent or detergent may need to be added to the water.

Scalding temperatures should be determined by the type of poultry and the difficulty of picking. For waterfowl and mature birds a higher temperature and longer submersion time should be used. For younger birds a lower temperature and shorter time is recommended.

Semi-scald or slack scald is the name given to scalding for 30-60 seconds in 125-130 degrees F. water. By using this time and temperature the epidermal layer is left intact. Birds that are being slaughtered for an exhibit should be scalded in this way to improve the appearance of the carcass. Water that is too hot will cause the outer layer of skin to loosen and be lost. Loss of that skin also results in loss of some yellow pigment on the skin.

Sub-scald is the use of water at 138-140 degrees F. for 30-75 seconds. The epidermal layer is broken down by this time-temperature combination but the feathers are usually much easier to remove. For home processing this method of scalding is recommended.

Hard-scald or full scald requires a water temperature of 140-150 degrees F. This method is faster and eliminates pinfeathers, but the birds tend to dry out and have a less desirable appearance. Waterfowl may be scalded at this temperature.

Whatever method is used the birds must be properly bled. No scalding should be done before all movement has stopped.

Feather Removal edit

Birds should be plucked immediately after scalding. If mechanical pickers are used they should be adjusted for the size birds being picked. Mechanical pickers make the job much faster. Birds that are to be exhibited should be plucked by hand being sure that all pinfeathers are removed, and that there is no damage to the skin. This procedure requires a good deal of time if done correctly. Rubbing the feathers from the skin is frequently more effective than a picking motion.

Evisceration edit

USDA poultry cuts.

Evisceration involves the removal of the contents of the body cavity plus the feet and head. To remove the head, cut around the neck just behind the head, and twist. The neck skin should then be split down the back and a second cut made at the base of the neck. A twist will usually separate the neck from the body. Next the oesophagus, trachea and crop should be separated from the neck skin. They can be left attached and be pulled from the body with the viscera.

The body cavity can be opened by making a small cut near the vent, extending the cut around the vent, being careful not to cut the intestine or contaminate the carcass with faecal material.

The abdominal opening should be as small as possible to improve the appearance of the finished product. After the abdomen is open the viscera can be removed through the opening. It is very important to remove all the viscera, including the lungs which are attached to the back. After all the contents of the cavity are removed the bird should be thoroughly washed inside and out.

After the viscera have been removed, the heart, liver and gizzard should be separated and saved. The ends of any parts of the vascular system that may be attached to the heart should be removed by trimming off the top to expose the chambers. The heart should be washed and squeezed to force out any remaining blood. The green gall bladder should be carefully trimmed away from the liver. Next the gizzard should be split lengthwise and the contents washed away. The lining should then be peeled away from the rest of the gizzard.

After the evisceration procedure has been completed, the carcass should be cooled as soon as possible. Ice water or a refrigerator can be used, however, the ice water will do the job a little faster. If birds are to be frozen the gizzard, heart and liver can be wrapped in waxed paper and placed inside the body cavity. Many people also include a small packet of nutmeg to improve taste during storage. The birds can then be placed in a moisture‑vapor proof bag and frozen.

Cooking your Chickens edit

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pluck all feathers (because they taste bad). Place chicken and marinating sauce/condiments into an oven-safe container. Place oven-safe container into oven. Close oven. Wait about an hour or until golden-brown. Enjoy!

There are also lots of recipes for cooking chickens. There are also chicken recipes in the Wikibooks Cookbook .

Go ahead and experiment. If you are looking for a method of preparing chicken for the table but can't find what you are looking for in Wikibooks there are lots of other websites on the Internet as well as traditional cookbooks.

Other information

In this section you will find information that doesn't fit anywhere else. Feel free to add your own information here or in the Discussion Page for this section. If you have any questions post them in the discussion page.

Rooster Crow Distance edit

A fully grown rooster's crow can be heard miles away.

How to Hypnotize a Chicken edit

You can easily put most chickens into a trance. This strange animal behavior is officially called 'tonic immobility', a natural state of semi-paralysis that many animals exhibit when under threat. There are two main chicken hypnotizing techniques:

  1. pet the chicken to calm it, then lightly restrain it and gently lower its head down to the ground, holding its beak on a coin or a rock that contrasts with the surrounding ground; hold the chicken's head in place for about 30 seconds, then slowly remove your hand.
  2. pick the chicken up and lay it on the ground on its back, stretching out its neck. With your finger, slowly draw a line in the dirt straight out from the chicken's beak about 1 to 2 feet, then slowly remove your other hand from the chicken. Once hypnotized, the chicken will typically remain physically frozen until it is touched or startled.

It may seem cruel to toy with a chicken's brain this way. However, if you need the chicken out of your way for some reason (while you service its pen, for instance) and you don't have anywhere else to put it, this is a useful technique.

"Note: When I was little I remember my brother and I would use a technique similar to those described above in order to 'hypnotize' our chickens. It was very entertaining for us as children, and was fun to show to our friends, but I seem to recall our father (who was a farmer) being irritated at us for bothering the chickens in this way. If I remember correctly, he claimed it made the chickens uneasy and negatively affected their egg production. However, I have no idea whether or not this is true. In any case, I would guess that if you have to chase your chickens all over the place and pin them down before you can hypnotize them, it probably is more cruel than anything. On the other hand, if they are 'pets' and trust you (if they are handled easily), it may not have any adverse effect. This is, of course, only in theory."

Random Facts edit

Chickens know an item still exists even when it is out of sight.

When a chicken softly chirps/clucks around you it is happy

When chickens run away from your hand they think they are more superior than you and therefore do not want to be petted (you can easily force pet them of course) ...vice versa if the chicken lets you pet them

Good Entertainment edit

Keep wild bird feed outside your house and watch your chicken befriend the birds... or chase away the poor bird visitors!

External links edit