A detailed guide to butchering a duck for the first time ever and alone on the farm.
I’m here to tell you how to butcher a duck for the first time alone on the farm. When we decided to embark on this wild journey, we both knew that there would be life and death, we just didn’t know how much. The hardest part, in the beginning, wasn’t 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.
In this guide:
My agreement with my husband on butchering animals
At the beginning of this, we decided we would only ever anything as a team. That worked just fine until I started working full-time at the farm. Eventually, I realized it was time to send some of the ducks to freezer camp and I, too, started to Google “How to Butcher a Duck for the First Time ALONE”. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to do this all by myself, but I was dedicated.
We had three drakes that singled out the fourth drake and would attack him. 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. Duck jail ain’t no fun, friends.
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 think most homesteaders would agree with me that the part where you 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!
Our animals live the happiest lives they can live before their time comes. That is our mission: to raise happy, humane food for ourselves and our future children, including vegetables, fruit, herbs, and meat.
- First I boiled a pot of water. This is optional, but if you didn’t already know, you can dunk your bird after you kill it to loosen the feathers for plucking. Be sure the water is around 153˚ and don’t leave the bird in the pot for too long or you’ll start scorching the fat. We don’t want that.
- Prepare your station. I got 3 bowls: One for the innards I fed my dog, one for the parts I didn’t feed to my dog, and one for a water/bleach mixture. I use the water/bleach mixture to dunk my hands if they were nasty or needed to be disinfected, along with my knives/sheers.
- BE SURE TO SHARPEN ALL UTENSILS BEING USED! This is SO EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! Take it from someone who has not properly sharpened their tools first – it will change EVERYTHING.
- Have two buckets nearby. One to drain the bird after decapitation (we’re talking blood) and another to throw feathers, head, etc. in. If you’re doing multiple birds, you’ll also want a cooler of ice to place the finished birds as you move on to the next.
- Get an empty feed bag and cut a hole in one of the corners, just large enough for your duck head and neck to be in. 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)
- OPTIONAL: Turn on music. It’s 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.
- CATCH YOUR BIRD – BE SURE YOU DO SO IN THE NICEST WAY POSSIBLE! That is what the animal deserves and you can bruise the meat.
- Slide your bird into the bag as gently as you can, guiding their head through the hole. I suggest holding your bird for a moment, giving him/her the chance to calm down. After all, how would you like being shoved into a bag?
- 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. I LIGHTLY place the tie over the neck so that I can properly aim.)
- Hold the body of your bagged bird and swing your hatchet/ax down as hard and accurately as you can.
- Quickly discard the head and flip the bird upside down into the bucket to bleed out. If you miss, or don’t get a clean cut, quickly swing again. Don’t wait or wonder why you’ve decided to do this alone. The duck needs you now more than ever. Don’t let the duck suffer.
- OKAY. NOW THAT THE HARD PART IS DONE. Bring your bird to the pot of hot water and bunk it just for a minute. Older birds may need slightly longer, but be careful not to cook your bird before you’ve even plucked it. Plucking the bird is a pain in the rear but do the best you can.
- Place feathers in discard bucket, rinse your duck and transfer the bird to the butcher table. Start by cutting the wings and legs at the joints. and place them in the discard bucket
- Place the duck on the stomach and make a cut right above the tail. Carefully cut around to the belly of the bird, being sure not to slice too deep and cute open the intestines and what not. Do not ever poke with your knife. Pinch the skin and GENTLY slice. OR you can carefully use your poultry sheers
- When you’ve 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, make a small cut up the belly (maybe an inch), 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. All innards need to be
now. Pull or cut out the neck and throat, pull out any feathers you missed, outwards one last time and place your bird in the cooler of ice rinse Transferthe innards you choosing to discard to your discard bucket and start on your next if there is one. If not, start cleaning up! bird,
Then you’re done. Great job! You did it! We did it! We’re becoming homesteaders! One day we’ll
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