How to Slaughter a Turkey: A Comprehensive Guide for Homesteaders

**WARNING: This post contains graphic photos of the turkey butchering process. If learning how to butcher a turkey isn’t your thing, feel free to skip this post. I honor your decision to abstain from meat, and it won’t be against my will if you use this link to learn how to substitute some delectable mashed potatoes for your meat. However, my family and I have made the deliberate decision to raise and eat meat, and I respectfully request that you respect our choices as well.

I told myself I wouldn’t let our turkeys get to 89 pounds before we butchered them this year.

Butchering turkeys isn’t a whole lot different that butchering chickens. They’re just bigger and stronger and hurt more when they beat you with their wings… Yay.

Thankfully Christian was willing to do the hard parts so I could document the process for ya’ll.

I enjoy raising turkeys because I think their personalities are funny and it’s a relatively easy task. Even though they aren’t the smartest birds, they do have a quirky side, which was made abundantly evident the year we were able to forgive a very big Tom. He lived for several years afterwards and ended up being a watchdog of sorts. (He had no idea what personal space was; he would stalk anyone new who set foot on the property, even if they weren’t attacked.) ) This is quite frightening. ).

And of course, turkeys taste really good too. And if you haven’t had a brined, pastured turkey, you are missing out. Big time.

This time when turkey butchering day rolled around, I had my camera fired up and ready to go. You can follow along on our turkey butchering adventures on YouTube, or keep reading for step-by-step instructions.

You can follow this tutorial to learn how to kill a turkey, including how to take out the bird and how to pluck, clean, and refrigerate the meat. This guide will provide you the information and assurance you need to properly butcher a turkey, regardless of your experience level.

Preparation: Setting the Stage for a Successful Slaughter

Gathering Supplies:

  • Killing cone: This humane tool helps to restrain the turkey and minimize stress during dispatching.
  • Buckets: For collecting blood and innards.
  • Hose or sprayer: For rinsing the bird and workspace.
  • Sharp knives: For dispatching and eviscerating.
  • Poultry shears: For removing the head and legs.
  • Turkey fryer and thermometer: Optional, but makes scalding the bird for easier plucking a breeze.
  • Stainless steel table: Provides a clean and easy-to-sanitize surface for processing.
  • Large cooler filled with ice: For chilling the turkey after processing.
  • Heat shrink bags or freezer wrap: For storing the turkey.

Preparing the Turkey:

  • Withhold food the night before: This ensures an empty crop, making the cleaning process easier.
  • Set up two tables: One for plucking and one for eviscerating.
  • Fill the turkey fryer with water and begin heating: Aim for a temperature of 150 degrees F for scalding.

Dispatching the Turkey: A Humane Approach


  • Killing cone: The most humane option, as it restrains the bird and minimizes stress.
  • Sharp knife: A quick and efficient method, but requires skill and accuracy.
  • Feed bag: Cut a small hole in the bottom for the turkey’s head, then pull the bag over the head. This method is less humane than the cone, but can be effective.

Regardless of the method used, ensure a quick and clean kill to minimize suffering.

Scalding the Turkey: Making Plucking a Breeze


  1. Plunge the turkey into the hot water (145-155 degrees F) for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Swirl the turkey around to ensure the water permeates all surfaces and feathers.
  3. Check for readiness by pulling on the tail feathers; they should come off easily when the turkey is sufficiently scalded.

Scalding makes plucking significantly easier and faster.

Plucking the Turkey: Removing the Feathers


  1. Use your hands to pull the feathers in the direction of growth.
  2. Rubber gloves can help grip the tiny feathers more easily.
  3. Be thorough, ensuring all feathers are removed.

Tip: Start with the tail feathers and work your way up the body.

Cleaning and Eviscerating the Turkey: Removing the Innards


  1. Rinse the turkey with cool water.
  2. Cut off the head and legs with poultry shears or a knife.
  3. Remove the oil gland on the back end to prevent an unpleasant taste.
  4. Make a slice in the skin above the breastbone at the base of the neck.
  5. Tear down with your thumb to find the crop, windpipe, and esophagus.
  6. Pull the esophagus and windpipe out of the neck cavity and break the connective tissue around the crop.
  7. Cut right above the vent and tear open the carcass with both hands.
  8. Remove the fat off the gizzard and pull the esophagus and windpipe out.
  9. Cut down either side of the vent and underneath to remove all the guts in one pull.
  10. Go back in to remove the lungs and windpipe, or anything else that didn’t come out the first time.

Be careful not to puncture the intestines, as this can contaminate the meat.

Chilling the Turkey: Maintaining Freshness


  1. Place the cleaned turkey into a cooler filled with ice water.
  2. Leave the turkey in the ice water for at least 6 hours, or up to 2 days.
  3. Once chilled, use heat shrink bags or freezer wrap to cover the turkey.
  4. Freeze the turkey for long-term storage.

Chilling the turkey quickly is crucial for maintaining freshness and preventing spoilage.

Slaughtering a turkey can be a rewarding experience for homesteaders, providing fresh, delicious meat for your family. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure a humane and efficient process, from dispatching to chilling. Remember to prioritize animal welfare, hygiene, and proper handling techniques throughout the process.

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Butchering Turkeys For the First Time ||How to Process a Turkey & Supplies Needed||


What is the process of killing a turkey?

You put the bird in upside down, pull its head through a hole cut in the bottom, and then cut through the arteries in its neck. After a few (admittedly, long) seconds, the turkey stops struggling, bleeds out, and is ready to be processed.

How are turkeys humanely slaughtered?

Many turkeys are slaughtered without being stunned at all. In the processing plant, turkeys are shackled by their legs and hung upside-down. The turkeys’ throats are slit on a circular blade before being placed in a scalding tank meant to loosen feathers. If turkeys are not properly stunned, they often miss the blade.

What is the most humane way to cull a turkey?

Humane isn’t always easy One way is to hang the turkey upside down, which pacifies the bird and makes it easier to drain its blood; the other method is to straddle the bird, slit its throat (sometimes clean off), and then hold it down as it flaps around.

How long should you hang a turkey after killing?

This will ensure the crop and bowels are empty and will be much easier and cleaner to process as a result. i hang my turkeys for 5-6 days in a cold room intact, dry plucked make sure to dislocate neck properly to drain all blood from the meat.

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