Everyone who keeps layers comes to the same fork in the road. The reality of our world is that all our animals, male and female, will stop producing as they grow older. The productive lifespan of a laying hen is particularly short unless given a break each winter. We all know the truth unfortunate truth: “when production ceases, fat increases!”
Responsible owners are faced with a dilemma: to make the birds pay off you can’t keep 10-20 old hens around who eat a-lot and give nothing in return. Everyone knows you can’t fry them up for eating. They are tough as rubber! Dog food would be a worthy cause except…you wouldn’t want your dog getting the idea that a chicken=dinner.
Even if you found a suitable way use these birds, all the time and effort spent plucking and cleaning them causes you to wonder: is it really worthwhile?
3 Reasons to Butcher Old Hens
I’d love to give you 3 reasons you should keep those tough old hens, recipes and a faster way to clean them!
REASON #1: you’ve put $ and energy into feeding and caring for these birds. They produced eggs when they could and those days are over. They can serve you and your family one last time or you can throw away the end results of your labor and money.
REASON #2: old hens will help you cut back on the monthly food budget by offering stew meat, bone broth and schmaltz. So before you write off old hens as a hindrance and another to-do item on the homestead, look at the benefits! Your old hens can help you financially!
REASON #3: Birds raised on your land are more nutritious than a prepared, store-bought fowl. I would even dare to argue that these hens are better for you than your home-raised broilers! If you want to feed your family good food, old hens are just that! Don’t let the thought of cooking up an old bird intimidate you. I’ve got some simple and super-duper easy recipes for you today!
BONUS: I’m going to show you a method that will significantly speed up the butchering process! Forget plucking; let’s learn a new technique!
How to Skin a Chicken
The plucking. It always takes eons of time (unless you own an electric plucker) and is usually the biggest turn off for most folks. Don’t like plucking? Then don’t do it! Skinning is much faster and most recipes for old hens require that you toss the skin anyway. Let’s begin!
Kill the bird with the method best suits you: the block, the cone, or by piercing. Once the job is finished and nerves have quieted down, hang the bird for skinning. This works best while the bird is still very warm.
“Always hang the bird by its feet with a tough string or rope that is securely attached to a strong overhead source.”
This is always the key to speed. Otherwise, skinning will take almost as long as plucking and is far less sanitary (a bird hanging by its feet won’t release manure). We prefer use the old frame of a mini swing set. It works like a charm! An old tree branch, a 2×4 spanning a short distance of space, any solid horizontal surface that is at least 5ft tall will do. Ropes can be adjusted to cover extra height!
Why the height? You’ll need to put your weight into this job and having the bird at the proper height will help speed the process.
Remove 1 inch of feathers from around the top of each leg. Pinch the exposed skin with fingertips and pull toward you (away from the flesh) and, taking a knife, cut a 1/2-1 inch slice in it. Work your pointer finger into skin and hook it. Using your weight, rip the skin downward…shucks, I think I’ve got a video of this on my facebook page that explains and shows it all! Click the link and it’ll take you to the featured video, which is the one you want to see!
Recipes for these birds after you’ve skinned and cleaned them include:
Meat Broth aka bone broth (freeze or pressure can)
Pressure Canned Chicken (bone in) -sealed and ready for use, you’ll love having cooked meat on hand!
Spicy Pulled Chicken -its another recipe for the pressure canner and this one tops ’em all in my mind!