How to Clean & Use Old Hens

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 hens=dinner. And so?

Many of us wait for the old birds to die off.

How to Clean and Use Old Hens

Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way. What if you could supply palatable meat for the dinner table by learning how to process your old hens? That it is a worthwhile endeavor?


3 Reasons You Should Learn How to Clean and Use Old Hens

  1. You’ve put time, money and energy into caring for these birds. Why forfeit one last opportunity to get a return for your labor?
  2. 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!
  3. 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.

You’ll need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a solid overhead source 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.

How to Clean and Use Old Hens

For both speed and sanitary purposes, it’s important to hang the fowl by it’s feet!

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.

Here and there, you’ll have to use your knife, particularly on the wings and tail.

I’ve put together a quick video for you that outlines the specifics of the entire skinning process.



Once you’ve successfully skinned your bird, proceed to remove the innards as usual. And I recommend doing it sooner rather than later!


How to Use Old Hens

There are lots of ways you can use your old hens after they’ve been skinned and innards have been removed! These are my go-to resources. Click any of the links below for a full tutorial on the subject:

  1. Make and pressure can chicken broth
  2. Pressure canning old hens for ready meat
  3. Debone and grind meat for chicken burgers
  4. How to prepare and use chicken feet
  5. Learn how to pressure can chicken giblets

That’s how we clean and use old hens. Give it a try and see if you think its worth your time and energy!


Wondering what to do with your old laying hens? Here's a full on tutorial that will help you decide!









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