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Using Laying Hens for Meat

When your hen’s egg-producing days are done, send her off humanely with one last meal.

By Cynthia Amidon

Step 3: Skin Chickens

Soak chicken
Photo by Stephanie Staton
After skinning the chicken, soak it in ice water for 30 to 60 minutes.

An unusual aspect of Ken and Heidi’s processing method is that they don’t pluck their chickens. Because these are older, free-range hens with lots of muscle rather than tender young meat chickens, they are destined for the stew pot rather than the roasting rack. Hens intended for plucking are briefly submerged in 125- to 150-degree F water until the feathers can easily be removed. This process, typically the most painstaking aspect of home slaughtering, results in a more appealing carcass, suitable for certain cooking methods, such as roasting.

The Chesters, however, find it much quicker and easier to simply skin the birds, pulling off skin and feathers with one motion, once the feet have been chopped off and the wings severed at the last joint (where the “fingers” begin).

After skinning, the chickens are chilled in ice water for 30 minutes to an hour. According to Heidi, this makes the innards of the bird hold together in a contiguous mass, making them both easier to remove and less smelly.

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