How to Butcher a Duck for the First Time

When we decided to embark on this wild journey, we both new that there would be life and death – that’s common sense. What we didn’t know is how much life and death there would be.
The hardest part at the beginning of The Green Acre Homestead was not being able to always decide when the death happened. We also later found that it was equally as hard to have to decide when death happens – like having to decide when a duck’s time is up.
Usually, part of becoming a homesteader is actually doing the deed of furthering your life towards self-sustainability and culling your livestock.
Kits

OUR ORIGINAL AGREEMENT

Now, at the beginning of this, we [Emerson and I] decided we would only ever cull the ducks, chickens, and rabbits as a team. That worked just fine until we agreed that I would be working full-time at the farm and he would be working full-time at River Ventures [visit them to swim with the Manatees!]

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS

The fact of the matter is that there are eventually going to be too many roosters for your hens, too many drakes for your hens, too many bucks for your does (we’re talking rabbits here, deer). The roosters will eventually take each other out. The drakes (a male duck) will eventually attack each other and also become very hostile to your hens (female duck). Your rabbits won’t be too much of a problem unless they somehow get into each other’s general area – recently our buck Mr.Man found his way into Flops cage and gave him a pretty bad beat down. Luckily, Flop is okay and got away with a little scarring.
We had three drakes that had singled out the fourth drake and would attack him – 3 : 1. They eventually singled out a hen and were plucking her feathers to the point of bloodshed. Our hens also stopped laying eggs so I separated the 3 drakes and just knew that eventually, they would have to be dinner.
Well, I got away with putting it off for months until finally, I realized I’m doing them a disservice by separating them – just longing to be with the ladies through the fence every day. Duck jail ain’t no fun, friends.

SO – I did it.

I mentally prepared myself for a few days, went and bought a hatchet, sharpened my poultry sheers, watched too many youtube videos and I did it. I culled the ducks two days ago and I did it all by myself.
Now, I will have to tell you, and I think most homesteaders would agree with me, the part where you have to actually take the life of an animal is the hardest part. After that, you just have to make sure you don’t poke any innards that might spoil your meat.
I won’t lie… I was scared and nervous and felt slightly guilty. But all in all, I did very well. I culled my first duck in 30 minutes from plucking to cleaning and I did not poke any innards. We now have two ducks in the freezer ready for the table and boy howdy that is a good feeling to know where that meat was and how it was raised!
I’ll explain the process I used to “do the deed” below so if you would rather not read about the culling of an animal, I’m giving you an out!

THE MAIN POINT

The main point of this little blog piece is that THIS IS WHAT IT IS. Homesteading is life, but it is also death. Life is death, so there shouldn’t be any surprise that there may be death involved while raising animals – for meat or not for meat.

Our animals live the happiest lives they can live before their time comes and that is our mission: to raise happy, humane, organic food for ourselves and our future children.  (this includes vegetables, fruit, herbs, and meat)

SCROLL DOWN IF YOU ARE TRYING TO PREPARE YOURSELF TO CULL A DUCK FOR THE FIRST TIME.
(THERE ARE NO PICTURES INVOLVED)
FIRST I BOILED A POT OF WATER. THIS IS OPTIONAL, BUT IF YOU DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW, YOU CAN DUNK YOUR BIRD (AFTER IT IS CULLED! THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL!!) IN THE POT OF WATER (AROUND 153°) AND IT WILL MAKE THE PLUCKING PROCESS MUCH EASIER.
***IF YOU’RE HEATING YOUR POT ON A GRILL OR WOOD STOVE THIS WILL TAKE A LITTLE BIT SO PUT THE POT OF WATER ON FIRST AND THEN PREPARE YOUR STATION.***
ABOUT A YEAR AGO I BUILT A CLEANING STATION WITH A LARGE UTILITY SINK, HOOKS TO HANG THINGS ON (SUCH AS RAGS, GLOVES, TOOLS, ETC), A SHELF TO THE LEFT TO PLACE MY BOWLS (WILL EXPLAIN IN A MINUTE), A SPACE TO THE RIGHT OF THE SINK TO ACTUALLY CLEAN THE BIRD AND AN AREA TO THE RIGHT OF THAT ABOUT A FOOT AND A HALF LOWER TO CULL THE BIRD.
[I WILL EVENTUALLY TAKE A PICTURE OF MY CLEANING STATION AND ADD IT TO THIS BLOG POST]
NEXT I PREPARED MY STATION.  
I GOT 3 BOWLS:
1. FOR THE INNARDS I FED TO MY DOG.
2. FOR THE PARTS I DID NOT FEED TO MY DOG (THEY WERE BURIED IN THE YARD)
3.  FOR A WATER/BLEACH MIXTURE. This I used to dunk my hands if they were nasty and to place my sheers or knife when I wasn’t using them.
AFTER SETTING UP MY THREE BOWLS I SHARPENED MY KNIFE, MY HATCHET, AND MY POULTRY SHEERS.
*NOTE: This is SO EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! Take it from someone who has not properly sharpened their tools first – it will change EVERYTHING*
I HAD TWO BUCKETS – ONE TO DRAIN THE BIRD AFTER DECAPITATION AND ANOTHER TO THROW THE HEAD, FEATHERS, AND DISPOSABLE INNARDS INTO (the content of this bucket is what gets buried).
I HAD A COOLER FILLED WITH ICE AND SOME WATER TO PLACE MY BIRD WHEN I WAS DONE (I did two birds and it is bad news bears if you let that first bird just sit out. Food  comes aknockin’.)poisoning
LAST, I GOT AN EMPTY FEED BAG AND CUT A HOLE INTO ONE OF THE CORNERS JUST BIG ENOUGH FOR A HEAD TO FIT THROUGH. I read about this way somewhere because it makes it easier to contain the bird. It also seems to help calm the bird and gives you some promise for a clean cut. (which is good for first the bird and also for you)
***TIP FROM ME – OPTIONAL – I TURN ON MUSIC. It is my personal way of staying calm so that I don’t give negative, scared, uptight energy to my already mad-at-me-for-touching-it bird.***
Now, HERE WE GO.
CATCH YOUR BIRD – BE SURE YOU DO SO IN THE NICEST WAY POSSIBLE!
1. Because that is what the animal deserves.
2. You can bruise the meat – hurting the animal and changing the meat you’ll be eating.
SLIDE YOUR BIRD INTO THE BAG AS GENTLY AS YOU CAN AND GUIDE THEIR HEAD THROUGH THE HOLE.
I SUGGEST HOLDING THE BIRD FOR A MINUTE OR TWO TO GIVE IT A CHANCE TO CALM DOWN A BIT…WOULD YOU LIKE BEING SHOVED INTO A BAG? ALSO, MY BIRDS ALREADY DON’T LIKE BEING TOUCHED SO IT BEGINS WITH THEM BEING PRETTY UNHAPPY WITH ME.
SO NOW IS THE HARD PART:
LAY YOUR BIRD DOWN ON ITS STOMACH. (I have a setup where I have two nails with a tie on one end. The ducks head goes in-between those two nails and I LIGHTLY place the tie over it’s neck so that I can properly aim.)
HOLD THE BODY OF THE BIRD (IN THE BAG) AND SWING YOUR HATCHET (OR AXE) DOWN AS HARD AND AS SURE AS YOU CAN.
QUICKLY FLIP THE BIRD UPSIDE DOWN AND LET IT BLEED OUT INTO A BUCKET.
***NOTE: IF YOU MISS or  IF YOU DO NOT GET A CLEAN CUT QUICKLY SWING AGAIN. DO NOT WAIT OR WONDER WHY YOU HAVE DECIDED TO SPEND YOUR TUESDAY MORNING CULLING ANIMALS OR WHY YOU HAD A BURGER FOR DINNER INSTEAD OF A SALAD. THE DUCK NEEDS YOU NOW MORE THAN YOU NEED IT SO DON’T LET IT SUFFER BECAUSE YOU UNFORTUNATELY MADE A BAD CUT AND ARE QUESTIONING THE DECISIONS THAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS POINT IN YOUR LIFE.***
PLACE HEAD IN DISCARD BUCKET.
OKAY.
NOW THAT THE HARD PART IS DONE.
BRING YOUR BIRD TO THE POT OF WATER AND DUNK IT IN FOR JUST A MINUTE OR TWO.
(OLDER BIRDS WILL NEED SLIGHTLY LONGER BUT BE CAREFUL NOT TO COOK YOUR BIRD BEFORE YOU’VE EVEN PLUCKED IT)
NOW WE WILL PLUCK OUR BIRD.
I use gloves throughout this whole process because that is my preference. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.
PLUCKING THE BIRD IS A PAIN IN THE REAR BUT DO THE BEST THAT YOU CAN.
PLACE FEATHERS IN DISCARD BUCKET.
RINSE YOUR DUCK.
TRANSFER TO BUTCHER TABLE.
START BY CUTTING OFF THE WINGS AND LEGS AT THE JOINTS.
PLACE IN DISCARD BUCKET.
PLACE THE BIRD ON ITS STOMACH AND MAKE A CUT ABOVE THE TAIL.
CAREFULLY CUT AROUND TO THE BELLY OF THE BIRD, BEING SURE NOT TO SLICE TOO DEEP AND CUT OPEN THE INTESTINES AND WHAT NOT.
**NOTE: Do not ever poke with your knife. Pinch the skin and GENTLY slice. OR you can carefully use your poultry sheers***
WHEN YOU HAVE CUT THROUGH THE FAT/SKIN OF THE BIRD, SLIGHTLY SLIP YOUR FINGERS IN AND OPEN THE BIRD UP. THEN, ONCE YOU CAN SEE THE INSIDES, YOU CAN MAKE A SMALL CUT UP THE BELLY (maybe an inch) AND TIP THE BIRD OVER YOUR BOWL AND PULL OUT THE INNARDS.
This is really weird and gross the first (and second, and third…) time you do it but you’ve come this far so don’t stop now.
YOU CAN KEEP THE lungs, kidneys, heart, spleen, liver, small intestine, large intestine, and bladder to feed to your pup or your chickens.
NOW THAT THAT IS DONE WITH.
MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS OUT OF YOUR BIRD.
RINSE, CHECK, REPEAT.
PULL OR CUT OUT THE NECK/THROAT AND PULL OUT ANY FEATHERS YOU MISSED.
RINSE ONE LAST TIME AND PLACE YOUR BIRD IN YOUR COOLER OF ICE.
TRANSFER THE BUCKET OF INNARDS YOU DON’T WANT TO KEPP TO YOUR DISCARD BUCKET AND START ON YOUR SECOND BIRD.
Or just start to clean everything up!
Then you’re done. Great job! You did it! We did it! We are becoming homesteaders. One day we will feed our families the most delicious food from our own yards and life will be as life should be and death will be there, too.
But life is always the bigger picture, y’all!
Now I know I will get better at this process, as will you. If you have any suggestions for me, I’ll take them gratefully!

 

2 Responses

  • We too killed two of our birds (chickens) in our own backyard. We happened to be living in a subdivision at the time…if only the neighbors knew what was going on that day. Yikes! It was definitely a learning experience but I’m so glad that we did it. It feels good to know where your food is coming from. I’m not sure I could have (mentally) done it all by myself the first time, though. GOOD FOR YOU! Glad I found your blog. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • thegreenacrehomestead

      I recently culled a rooster and it didn’t go as well. Culling is definitely the hardest part of homesteading for me, especially since I didn’t grow up around it. I had to take about 4 days to mentally prepare! And, I agree! It really does feel great to know where your food is coming from. If you subscribe to my mailing list, I send two emails a month and I include more of the personal, real-time things that are happening here on my homestead. I’m glad you found my blog, too, and I look forward to hearing from you again!

      Reply

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