Last weekend I came home to discover that something has been getting into our chicken run. In the last week we’ve lost 11 out of 25 chickens. That’s almost half our flock! The price of raising these meat birds just doubled. Ouch.
We were oblivious until my little girl was outside playing and noticed one of the chickens laying on its side in the chicken run. She hurried inside to tell me that something was wrong. When I went out to see what was the matter I found the chicken still alive, but with a big gash in its side. The wound was fresh. Something had just been in the run trying to kill my bird. I glanced around at the flock and discovered another chicken laying a little further in the woods. It was dead, but the body was still warm.
Dang it. My guess is it was a fox.
I called my husband to come and finish off the suffering bird. Although we had plenty else we’d planned on getting done that day, butchering became top priority. (Homesteading is like that. You never can really plan your days. Nature will always throw a curve ball.) The birds aren’t quite fully grown, but at eight weeks old they were big enough to get a meal off of. We decided that since the kill was fresh it would be safe to eat the chickens, we just cut around the damaged meat on each bird.
So, we set to work plucking. Plucking chickens stinks, by the way. Literally. Like smelly, wet dog. We really need to get a mechanical plucker.
Wanting to salvage as much as possible, the feet were processed with the rest of the good meat. Chicken feet make the best stock, and are an excellent source of rich gelatin.
As you’d imagine, the feet are the dirtiest part of the bird. You don’t even want to know what’s on them.
Cleaning well is crucial.
I like to hold the feet under hot running water to wash most of the gunk off. Then I use a scrub brush to get them as clean as possible. I don’t use soap or bleach, or anything like that. Just lots of hot water and scrubbing.
I’m not gonna lie. This picture totally creeps me out. The texture of the feet is even weirder than they look. Try not to think about it too much as you work with them.
Once the feet are super clean, toss them into a pot of simmering water for between 10-20 seconds. Don’t boil them. A hot simmer just on the verge of a boil is perfect.
Use tongs to transfer them to a bowl of ice cold water.
Let them sit in the cold water for a few seconds before taking them out one by one to peel.
The skin should peel right off. If it isn’t peeling easily, pop it back into the simmering water for another 10 seconds. That should do the trick. Peel as much as you can by hand.
Next I like to use a stiff brush to finish scrubbing off what remains of the skin. The feet will be nice and white.
Are you sufficiently creeped out yet?
We’re almost done. I promise.
Most people prefer to chop off the tips to remove the nails before cooking. They probably don’t taste very good.
Now the chicken feet are ready to be cooked however you see fit.
Whenever I have chicken feet I like to use them to make a rich bone stock. I just toss them into the pot with all of the other bone and veggie scraps I’m cooking. Some people make stock out of chicken feet alone. You can read how I use kitchen waste to make From Scratch Chicken Stock for a nutritious soup base.
You can store the feet in the fridge for a few days until you’re ready to use them, or put them in a freezer bag for longer storage.
Ready to give it a try?