Part A Chicken

Cut-Whole Chicken

While attending the intensive seminars at Polyface Farm a few years ago, one of the sessions was on cutting up a whole chicken into parts.  It’s amazing how many people don’t even know how to cut up a chicken.  Today we will go over the process of this seemingly lost skill.


David Proctor

 Urban Farmer/Rancher

How To Butcher A Whole Chicken

by David Proctor

May 11, 2023

Urban Farm Lifestyle Magazine    Published Weekly 

When you shop at the grocery store you will see whole chickens, legs and thighs, breast meat, and chicken quarters. 

Not a bad selection, but money can be saved by buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself. 

At Polyface, they resisted for many years, selling cut birds. 

They only sold whole birds. 

They finally gave in to customer demands, but they charge extra for this convenience. 

Broiler Shelter With Cornish Cross Chickens

The next step is to remove the chickens from the shelter by grabbing them one at a time, then placing them in the kill cone.

The throats are slit so they can bleed out.

Kill Cone

Next, the chickens are placed in the scalder.

Chicken Scalder

This allows the feathers to be removed.

Then the chickens go into the plucker.

Feather Plucker

From the plucker, the chickens are now ready to be packaged or cut up into parts on the processing table.

Chicken Processing Table

Daniel Salatin gave a demonstration on cutting up a whole bird into packaging-size quantities.

Daniel’s concern was not the mass production of cutting many birds up into serving sizes but just one bird for your meal.

Butcher Process Demonstration

The principles are the same.

Step 1.
Lay the bird on its back.  Wiggle or pull the wing to determine where the joint attaches to the breast.  To separate the wing from the breast, use a sharp knife to cut through the ball joint where it meets the breast.  Repeat with the other wing.

Step 2.
Pull a leg away from the body to see where it attaches. To remove the whole leg, first cut through the skin between the thigh and the breast.

Step 3.
Continue to pull on the leg and wiggle it a bit to determine where the thigh meets the socket in the back.  Use a boning knife to cut through that joint.  Repeat with the other leg.

Step 4.
Place each leg skin-side down.  Flex to see where the ball joint between the drumstick and thigh is located.  Look for the thin line of fat that was perpendicular to the body.  Cut through the line of fat to separate the thigh and drumstick, wiggling or put tension to find where the joint is.  Repeat with the other leg.

Step 5.
To remove the backbone, start at the head end of the bird and cut through the rib cage on the one side of the backbone with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.  Repeat on the other side of the backbone to remove it completely.

Step 6.
To cut the breast into 2 halves, place it skin-side down, exposing the breastbone.  Use a lot of pressure to cut through the breast bone, right down the center of the breast. Now you have two breast halves.

Chicken Parts

You now have eight pieces of chicken. 

You can use the parts for stock, stews, frying, grilling, or baking. 

Plus you have saved money and have the desired cuts of meat that you want.

Check It Out!

Gordon Ramsay: How to Part a Chicken 3:28

Quick Tip

A boning knife or pairing knife will give more mobility than a chef’s knife or cleaver.

Gordon Ramsay uses both Wüsthof and Henckels branded knives; his list of essential knives is; Chef’s knife for chopping. 

Paring knife for peeling cutting small vegetables and fruit. 

Boning knife with a somewhat flexible blade to cut around meat and bone.



Roszmann Updated February 21, Rachel, and Rachel Roszmann. “How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken.” EatingWell, 11 May 2023,

Siracusa, John. “Gordon Ramsay Knife – What Knives Does He Use? (2020).” Hell’s Kitchen, Hell’s Kitchen, 11 May 2023,

Posted in Animal Husbandry, Chickens, Homesteading, Magazine Issues Tagged with: , ,

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