Step 7
Open Up The Back End

Now we come to the really exciting part of butchering a chicken, or at least the start of it. Before you can reach into the chicken’s body cavity and pull out its insides, you need to cut an opening at the back end.

My approach to this is to cut a small opening with the knife, then reach into the opening and tear it wider. The less cutting you do, the less chance there is that you’ll cut into an intestine or some other internal organ that you shouldn’t cut into.

So here we are at the posterior of the bird, with the knife in position to make a slice:

Directly below my knife in the picture is the cloaca of the bird. The cloaca is also sometimes called the "vent." Frankly speaking, it is the bird's butt hole. That is as frank as I will get.

Notice that I am pinching and lifting the skin above the knife. And notice also that my knife blade is angled up a bit. That’s what you want to do: lift the skin and slice up into the lifted part. By doing it that way, you avoid cutting into any internal organs. Here’s another view of the cutting position:

Now, in this next picture you can see that I have made a horizontal slice. I have cut through the skin and underlying yellow fat just enough to make a small opening into the body cavity.

Please Note: When you cut into the bird’s body cavity, no liquid should come out. If liquid (i.e. yellow-colored water) does come pouring out of the opening, the bird is sick. Throw it away. I have had this happen on two birds in ten years.

Here is another photo angle, showing just how much of an opening cut I make...

That’s all you need. Then you work your finger tips into the opening and enlarge it enough to get a grip on the top and bottom of the cut, as shown here:

See how I have two fingers on one hand and two fingers on the other hand in the body cavity and I am pulling the opening to make it larger? That’s what you do.

Here is where I need to warn you of something important. If the chicken has had access to food prior to butchering, there will be fecal matter (a.k.a, FEMAT) in its intestine. That being the case, when you tear the opening larger, you are going to put pressure on the intestine, and FEMAT will be forced out the vent. 

FEMAT escape is disgusting but it is to be expected: FEMAT happens. When it does, stop what you are doing, position the bird’s back end under the faucet and thoroughly flush all FEMAT away, being very careful not to let it enter the body cavity. If you get FEMAT on your work surface, flush it away with lots of fresh water and a rinse of diluted bleach solution. Problem solved.

Here’s a picture of the body cavity opened up sufficiently:

Here’s another picture of the opened up chicken. My right hand is poised to plunge in. That’s the next step……