Great tools make difficult jobs a lot easier. My chicken processing set-up is extremely simple and uses basic household items plus a Yardbird plucker.
Simple tools make the job go faster
I use a few basic tools to make euthanizing the birds as quick as possible. These include:
A killing cone: I use a Miller Little Giant medium cone which so far has been fine for my chickens and ducks.
Buck Knife: I use an AccuSharp Folding Sport Knife. Mine actually came with a sharpener when I bought it. But any good quality Buck knife will do.Search for Buck Knife
Electric Cooktop: I use a Salton Single Stainless Steel Coil Portable Electric Cooktop as the basis for my scalding set up. Make sure whatever cooktop you choose has variable control and can support a large kettle of water.
Large enamel canning pot: I use a 33-quart enamel kettle, but there are stainless steel versions if you prefer. This is really the smallest I think you can use unless you are only dealing with small breeds of birds. I have Barred rocks, Marans, and Silver Appleyard ducks. I could not use anything smaller for these breeds.
A portable table with a sink is awesome for doing plucking preparations, finishing off the last few feathers, or even for outdoor butchering. There are a lot of styles to choose from.Search for Portable Tables
Extra large stainless steel mixing bowls (I have a 20-quart version) are a great way to chill the birds and transport them. Stainless steel is easy to disinfect and keep cleaning, ensuring that you are not exposing your birds to a build up of harmful bacteria trapped in plastic.
Yardbird Plucker: I don’t currently have a link to suggest for a Yardbird plucker (pictured above), but I do highly recommend this machine as being capable of doing a moderate amount of birds. I think if you are processing a lot of birds (50 or more), especially in large batches, then you probably need a more substantial plucker. But for my personal needs, the machine does the job.Search for Chicken Pluckers
For more details on ways to improve your plucking results see: Problems with Plucking and Pin Feathers
Handy Butchering Tools
I keep a few key tools at the ready for processing the birds once they are plucked.
Pruning shears: Sound crazy? Pruning shears are the perfect tool for taking off the head and neck. They can easily cut through the meat and bones and make the job fast and simple.
Needle nose pliers: Are great for pulling out tricky pin feathers or helping to remove the claws or skin on the feet.
Freezer paper: Good old fashioned freezer paper, like the kind a butcher would use, still works just fine for wrapping up whole chickens and chicken parts, although the latest trend is the shrink-bags. I don’t like the idea of going to all the work to quickly process and chill the bird only to then dip it in hot water. Although I understand that for sales, this is the norm, for my own birds, I get excellent results using freezer paper, painters tape and a plastic bag.
Freezer paper comes in a wide variety of roll sizes so you can choose what works best for you. Or go to the more modern shrink bags.Search for Freezer paper Search for Shrink bags
Check out the Best Cookbooks page for great ideas on how to prepare your chicken.