Have you ever noticed how almost every farm is marked by a flock chickens? The busy clucking and scratching of hens, a rooster’s crowing in early morning, the farm fresh eggs that appear? It’s a charming reality! But everyone who keeps a flock knows the truth. At some point your hens will stop producing.
Responsible keepers are faced with a dilemma. Most of us can’t afford to feed 15-20 old hens who give nothing in return. But everyone knows old hens are tough and unpalatable. You don’t want give your dog the idea that old hens=dinner. And so?
Many of us wait for the old birds to die off.
Today, I want to offer you an alternative, to combat the idea that old hens are good for nothing! I’ve spent the last several years of my life supply palatable meat for the dinner table by learning how to clean and use old hens. The knowledge is too good to keep to myself.
3 Reasons You Should Learn How to Clean and Use Old Hens
- You’ve put time, money and energy into caring for these birds. Why forfeit one last opportunity to get a return for your labor?
- If you learn how to clean and use old hens, you’ll be able to cut back on grocery costs. Broth, stew meat, ground chicken and making your own schmaltz are some of the benefits!
- Birds raised on the land are healthier than anything you’ll find at the grocery store. If you care about feeding your family good food, old hens will help you reach that goal.
Last but not least, you should use your birds because I’m going to help you simplify the process. We’ll start by learning how to skin a chicken.
How to Skin a Chicken
When it comes to cleaning birds, plucking always takes the longest. Instead of removing feathers by hand, I’m going to teach you how to skin a chicken. It’s super quick, easy and clean.
- a sharp knife
- a solid overhead source 5 ft high that you can hang a chicken from (we use an old swing set frame)
- two pieces of twine or small rope
- a tarp
Kill the bird via whatever method suits you (the block, cone, or by piercing). Once the job is finished and your bird’s nerves have quieted down, hang it for skinning. This works best while the chicken is still very warm.
Hanging the fowl by it’s feet is important. Otherwise, skinning will take just long as plucking and is far less sanitary.
Remove 1 inch of feathers from around the top of each leg. Pinch the exposed skin with your fingertips and pull it away from the flesh. Take your knife and cut a 1/2 inch slice in the skin.
Hook your finger in the slice and, using your weight, rip the skin downward. If the bird has been freshly butchered, it should come off easily. The only exception we’d found is the occasional, very old rooster.
Once the bottom portion is skinned, you can start on the top. It’s not difficult! Grab hold and pull until the skin comes off. Cut the tail off with it’s feathers intact.
Here and there, you’ll have to use your knife. Wings can be cut off at the first or second joint and feet should be removed. They’ll can be save for making bone broth (see below).
Once you’ve torn all feathers and skin away from the flesh, you can gut your bird as normal.
I’ve put together a quick video for you that outlines the specifics of the entire process.
How to Use Old Hens
There are lots of ways you can make use of your old hens after they’ve been cleaned and butchered! And yes, all these options are delicious and palatable! These are my go-to resources. Click any of the links below for a full tutorial on the subject:
- Make and pressure can chicken broth
- Pressure canning old hens for ready meat
- Debone and grind meat for chicken burgers
- How to prepare and use chicken feet
- Learn how to pressure can chicken giblets
Now you know how to clean and use old hens. No more waste! Let’s use what we have to the best of our ability.