The chickens we buy in supermarkets (this obviously doesn't apply to vegetarians) betray no real sign of their journey, from the coop to the refrigerator. Some argue that meat eaters would be inclined to respect the beasts they eat, if they were not so clinically removed from the whole process of tending, killing and preparing animals for food.
Catching the Chicken
First, you've got to catch the chicken. This is not as trivial as it sounds if you go out to the chicken coop in broad daylight. Chickens can run, flap, and squeeze by you with the greatest of ease. The chicken books will lead you to believe that you can hook a coat hanger over one foot and then pull the chicken towards you. Don't believe it. Cornering the chicken in one corner of the building and then sort of pouncing on it is the best method of catching them.
Killing the Chicken
Don't kill the chicken in the coop; this will disturb all the others (unless, of course, it's the last survivor of the lot). Tuck its body under one arm and hold the feet with the other hand as you take it out of the barn. For some reason carrying the chicken this way causes it to settle right down. Little does it know what's coming next.
Hang the chicken upside-down from the side of the barn by putting a noose of cord around its feet. Here again we must deviate from most of what's been written on the subject that says 'a noose of twine'. A flapping chicken will break twine quite easily, and then you'll have to catch it all over again.
By the way, you should be wearing old clothes for this. Trust us.
Once the chicken is hanging upside down, put a bucket underneath it. Hold the beak with one hand and stretch its neck. Then, with a sharp knife, either cut its throat or cut its head off, depending on how sharp the knife is. You don't have to be too finicky about how close to the skull you cut unless you like eating chicken necks. Just make sure you cut high enough to avoid the crop*.
Quickly raise the bucket to contain the now-flapping chicken. The idea is to get the maximum amount of blood into the bucket and the minimum amount scattered around the barnyard. Don't raise it so far that the chicken soaks in his own blood, as that makes it more difficult to remove the feathers. Another thing the books don't tell you is that the chicken will, at this point, evacuate its bowels, so try to scrape the chicken poop off the chicken and into the bucket as well.
Preparing the Chicken
Wait until the chicken stops flapping and place the bucket on the ground below to let the rest of the blood run out. There won't be a whole lot left. Meanwhile, go and heat a big pot of water on the stove. It has to be big enough to hold the chicken, feathers and all. Heat it to about 150°F. Get the chicken, hold it by the feet and dunk it for 30 seconds in the hot water. This loosens the feathers.
Now pull the feathers out and toss them in the trash. This is chicken-plucking. The world record is 4.4 seconds but don't be surprised if you spend 15 minutes or more pulling out increasingly small feathers. You can dunk it in the water again if any parts are especially hard to pluck, just try not to cook the darned thing. When the feathers are plucked, you need to singe the chicken over with an open flame, perhaps with a propane torch, gas stove, or burning paper, to get rid of the tiny feathers and hairs.
Toss the chicken in a bucket of cold water until it's reasonably cool. Then take it out and place it on the cutting board. Cut the feet off and toss them out. Cut a slit up the back of the neck so you can peel the neck skin off, then cut below the crop and remove the crop and the windpipe. Cut the neck off at the shoulders and either feed it to the cat, save it for stock, or discard it.
Remove the oil gland from the back of the tail. Try not to cut this thing because it will make the surrounding meat bitter.
Cut a slit from the base of the keel* to the anus, then around the anus and back to the tail. Now reach in and pull out all the guts. Keep scraping with your fingers until you get them all. Pay special attention to getting the testes (white oval things) out of the bird if it's a cockerel.
From the guts, you can keep the gizzard, heart and liver if you like such things. If you keep the liver, locate and remove the small greenish gall bladder. If you cook that, you'll be sorry.
Rinse the chicken well in cold water (it should now appear pretty much like a store-bought bird) and put it in the fridge for at least a few hours before cooking. Overnight is probably better.
If you think this all sounds too gross to consider, you might contemplate that the same process has been carried out on any chicken you've ever eaten.