The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Best knife for killing chickens?

what is the best type of knife for killing chickens?

We retired the last seven chickens of our broiler flock today.

I've experimented with a variety of blades for this task and think I've finally found the best knife for killing chickens.

The one I settled on has a 3-1/2-inch blade with a gut hook that should come in handy for this upcoming deer season.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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What do you guys use to scrape out the more difficult innards like the lungs? We cleaned our first chickens the other day, and that turned out to be the most tedious task. I've read where people mention "lung scrapers," but I was curious if you guys used a different method.

Comment by Roberta Thu Nov 21 18:45:49 2013
Roberta --- That is one of the tougher parts of the butchering process to get good at. But after a while, you learn to hook the lungs out with your index finger pretty adeptly.
Comment by anna Thu Nov 21 19:22:18 2013
Could you say a bit about how and when you sharpen your knives for slaughtering? I've raised a few batches of meat birds, and this is the aspect I'm least comfortable with. I'm not confident in sharpening the blades without ruining them, not sure how to tell if they're really sharp (is the paper test really the best way?), not sure how often I should be honing between birds... Here's another question, that seems silly, I guess- is the knife really sharp when I buy it? I read somewhere that I was supposed to be sharpening my hoes and shovels before their first use, and it got me wondering. I recall that you said once that you use a knife sharpener-are you happy with it? My knife sharpening anxiety stems not just from wanting an easy-to-use tool, but also from wanting to give my birds as humane a death as possible.
Comment by Heather Fri Nov 22 00:54:10 2013
Heather --- I'm sure we don't do it right by the standards of knife aficionados, but our method seems to work to maintain sharpness on already mostly-sharp knives. We sharpen right before each butchering day (and sometimes Mark sharpens again once in the middle). We have one of those cheap knife sharpeners you can find at the Dollar Store with two spots you slide a knife through, one for coarse and one for fine. And, yes, we just use the paper test when we're done. For me (cutting up the meat), it seems sufficient, but a quick search of the internet says it probably won't sharpen the knives, just maintain current sharpness. Probably why Mark was so happy to get an ultra-sharp knife --- his, at least, came sharp.
Comment by anna Fri Nov 22 07:41:07 2013

My friend Yasu who is a big knife enthusiast says that you should expect to ruin 2-3 blades before you learn to sharpen well. Of course, as a purist, his definition of "ruined" is a bit different than mine. Find someone who knows how to do it, bring them a nice little present, and have them teach you. It will save you many hours of frustration and give you a valuable skill to pass on when you become known as "the knife guy/lady."

(I am still busy ruining my first blade. But I hope to start ruining a second after Christmas...)

Comment by Eric in Japan Fri Nov 22 08:58:06 2013

@Eric- I definitely agree that the best way to learn a lot of things, probably including all kinds of knife knowledge, would be to ask someone to show me, hands-on. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who could do that for me. I asked a neighbor who is a lifelong hunter how to sharpen a knife, but his show and tell was pretty brief- maybe a present would have helped!

Thanks, Anna, for the tips. It's great to have you guys sharing your hands-on knowledge. Almost like having a neighbor who actually explains things... :)

Comment by Heather Sun Nov 24 00:25:05 2013

Hands down the best knives for butchering are Forcshner, most butcher shops use and what i did was ask my butcher if I could order some from him and he agreed, they are expensive, but they hold a good edge. I use mine for everything from throat slitting (on chickens) and as a cleaver for separating the neck and head.

I generally resharpen mine every few chickens just to ensure that I have a sharp sharp edge for a quick, clean kill.

Comment by Dan Sat Jan 25 23:33:24 2014

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