Cost To Butcher Meat Chickens (With Examples)


dressed cornish cross broiler, oven ready

Thinking about raising your own meat chickens this year? You’ll be glad you did! Broilers are a fast and easy way to put quite a bit of meat in your freezer.

If you don’t plan to butcher the birds yourself, you are going to need to find a processor and figure out pricing. How much will it cost to butcher your chickens?

The cost to butcher chickens is $3.50-7.50 per bird, varying with the processor’s listed costs and any extra cutting (split, quartered, etc.) you order.

Looking for the costs to raise your birds? Check out my article Is Raising Your Own Broilers Worth It?

Butchering cost per bird is $3.50-7.50

Chicken being processedCost
Broiler only$3.25-3.50
Non broiler chickens
(not commonly available)
$3.50 each
Cost of giblets or feet$0.25 per bird
Line fee$20-100 per batch
Bags and iceBring coolers with ice to use instead
or buy for additional charge
Batch of 25, total prices
($20 line fee)
$4.30 per bird
$107.50 per batch
Batch of 50, total prices
($20 line fee)
$3.90 per bird
$195.00 per batch
Batch of 25, total prices
($100 line fee)
$7.50 per bird
$187.50 per batch
Batch of 50, total prices
($100 line fee)
$ 5.90 per bird
$295 per batch
Prices figured are for a chilled whole carcass, no bags, ice or pieces.

The most common price I am finding for poultry processing is $3.50 per bird. This is for a whole bird, processed and chilled.

In the price per bird processing cost, some processors include bags and freezing in the $3.50, others do not.

The processor that I have been to, Pleasant Valley Poultry, priced processing per bird. This cost included getting back a dressed whole bird, frozen in the retail appropriate shrink wrapped bags.

I dropped the birds off on a Thursday and they were ready for pick up on Saturday, or early in the next week, if you couldn’t make it back on Saturday morning.

Here’s a look at the Red Rangers I raised, with their gosling buddy!

Some processors price per pound of chicken

Depending upon where you live, the processor closest to you may be charging a price per pound instead of a price per bird.

The price per pound processing examples are below.

Here is a link to Johnson Poultry Farms pricing list, note they are only processing whole birds. This means no cutting or bagging, those are your responsibility.

Bring coolers and ice to take your processed birds home

How do you get your birds home without bags? Easy, have a few nice big coolers and some ice that you bring with you and then you’ll bag the birds when you get home.

You will also need to have bags that can handle being in the freezer. We get our poultry bags, that are designed to be used in the freezer, from Meyer Hatchery.

Of course, you don’t need to use these bags, but you’ll want to have bags that are tough enough to keep your birds sealed in the deep freeze.

Thin bags made of wimpy plastic will tear, which equals freezer burn on your birds. Freezer appropriate bags are more money, but are the only way to go!

broilers eating feed in a chicken tractor
Some of our broilers, in a chicken tractor. There are Cornish Cross (white) and Red Rangers.

Poultry processors may charge per pound

There is another pricing structure that you may see when researching processing costs: prices determined per pound of processed bird.

Price per pound processing involves a line fee, any where from $25-100, and the price per pound of the butchering to yield a whole, chilled bird.

Some processors include bags and freezing, some do not.

Chicken processing Cost
Broiler$1.25 per bird + $0.20/pound
Line fee$100
Cutting (split, quartered, pieces)$0.20/pound
Packaging $1.00 per package
Batch of 25, total prices$7.05 per bird
$176.25 per batch
Batch of 50, total prices$5.05 per bird
$252.50 per batch
Batch of 50, total prices
(quartered)
$5.85 per bird
$292.50 per batch
At this processor, only larger orders can be cut. Smaller orders are whole birds only.

Pricing example using 25 broilers

Here is an example of what these costs would look like for your chickens. We’ll use a flock of 25 Cornish Cross broilers.

First up is the line fee of $100.

You’ll be getting the birds whole (cutting is for larger orders only) and packaged. Your birds will weigh 4 pounds each.

4 pounds x $0.20/pound per bird= $0.80

$0.80 + $1.25 each + $1.00 packaging=$3.05 processing fees per bird

25 birds x $3.05=$76.25 for the processing

Now we need to add in the line fee and figure out the total cost of processing per batch and per bird.

$76.25 + $100 line fee= $176.25 divided by 25 birds = $7.05 per bird

Pricing example using 50 broilers

If you were to take a batch of 50 broilers most of the costs would be similar, but the total cost per bird would be lower, since the line fee is being divided among twice as many birds.

50 broilers at $3.05 processing each= $152.50 + $100 line fee=$252.50

$252.50 divided by 50=$5.05 per bird to get them processed

If you wanted to get this batch of broilers split or quartered, you have enough chickens to meet the minimum.

This will cost an additional $0.20/pound which will be another $0.80/ per bird since we are using a 4 pound carcass.

$0.80 per bird x 50 birds = $40 for cutting

$40 + $252.50 = $292.50 divided by 50 = $5.85 per bird

You can see that the biggest cost in the processing is actually the line fee per bird, so if you can do bigger batches of birds, you’ll pay less per bird just because of the minimum line fee.

Cornish Cross vs Red Ranger Broilers will go over the differences I found with raising both breeds in the same batch.

Cutting and packaging of your chickens will cost more per pound

Having the bird split, cut into quarters, ground or packaged by the cut (if your processor has any or all of these options) will cost more than the original processing fee.

The extra cost is due to additional work being done by to get the chicken processed to your specifications. Having to pay more makes sense, since it is more work for the butcher!

Here’s a price list for King and Sons Poultry Services, a custom poultry processor here in Ohio, to give you some idea of the pricing structure.

You may pay a line fee for processing your chickens

A line fee is the cost that the processor assigns to you in order to make up for the open space on the processing line that is needed to separate batches of birds being processed.

The separation is so that you get your birds back. The only way to tell one batch of birds from the next is to keep them spaced apart on the processing line.

Why are you being charged a line fee? Easy, any hook (where they hang your bird to go through the processing line) that is empty is costing the processor money.

In order to operate at a profit, that open space (which there will be a lot of open space with multiple small batches) has to be made up for in the pricing.

Processing costs are for Cornish Broilers only

The prices listed are for Cornish Cross broilers only, these are the commercial type white broilers.

If you have the newer type broilers, like the Red Rangers, you’ll need to ask the processor if they handle this type of bird.

Also, if you are interested in getting a traditional breed of chicken processed, like older laying hens or roosters, you’ll need to ask.

Some processors are listing out any non broilers as a different price per pound and other processors are listing out that they only process broilers, meaning they do not process traditional type chickens, at all.

Difference in the final chicken processing pricing is the line fee

If you look through the above examples carefully, you’ll notice the prices are very similar, for most part. So why is the total price so different?

It’s the line fee that makes or breaks the price per bird. If you go through the examples you’ll see the figures are really close, until that line fee is added in at the end.

The best way to deal with a high line fee is to have larger batches of chickens to spread out the cost per bird. Or decide to butcher your smaller batches yourself!

To resell processed chicken, the processor must be inspected

If you are just having the birds processed for yourself, don’t worry about this section.

If you are planning on reselling these chickens, your birds must be labeled for resale.

Not all poultry processors have the required inspector to get your birds the labeling needed for resale.

You’ll need to check this out with your processor. Some processors are only inspected by the state, meaning that you are able to sell these birds within the state only.

Other processors are set up for direct customers only (this is common around my area) not farmers needing birds processed for retail.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the processors will have some sort of inspection. But not all processors are set up for you to resell the birds, which is an additional level of inspection as required by the USDA.

Make your appointment before you order chicks!

To avoid a ton of stress later, have your butchering appointment set up before you get chicks. Seriously.

Your broilers will grow astonishingly fast, 8 weeks is plenty of time for those chicks to grow. They will be ready to butcher before you know it!

The way I would do this is to look on the hatchery’s website and see what is available and for what dates.

Remember you’ll need a processing appointment 6-8 weeks after you get your chicks.

6 weeks is doable, but will get you a smaller bird, aim for 8 weeks.

Be sure to note multiple hatch dates that you think will work for you and don’t hesitate to go later into the fall. I would have a mega list, processors are busy!

Once you have an idea of when you can get chicks and the amount available, now call the processor and ask what they have available in the coming season.

Getting processing appointments is challenging, plan to be flexible and be ready to work with the processor’s schedule.

Once you have a processing date set up, then order those chicks ASAP.

Processing date availableGet your chicks between these dates
July 15May 13-20
September 20July 20-26
October 27August 25-September 1
November 18September 16-23
These dates are picked by taking the processing date and counting backwards 8 weeks.

It’s worth saying again, processing dates later in the fall work great. If your chosen processor is booked until September, no problem!

Processing appointments later in the season work great, too! We prefer to raise broilers that finish in the cooler weather, it’s easier on the birds and us!

Plus, when the broilers finish later in the year, we can raise them to a higher weight without the problems of heat stress.

You should know, raising broilers longer than 9 weeks is a risk, but we like bigger broilers so we are willing to chance it.

Get your chickens ready for the processor

24 hours before processing your birds should not have feed.

Your birds need water at all times! The 24 hour fasting is for food only, they still need plenty of water.

A chicken that is chock full of feed is messier to process, you want their digestive system to be emptied out.

If your set up does not allow for 24 hour fasting of the birds, at least keep them off of feed for the night.

This means you need to contain the birds overnight and pick up the feeders, but keep the waterers available and full.

You can process your own chickens

Of course, you can process your own chickens! It’s actually pretty easy, as far as the plucking goes.

I have an article all about Plucking Chickens Without A Plucker check it out if you want to give it a shot.

Actually, I just plucked a stewing hen by hand last week. It’s February as I’m writing this and the temps outside were in the 20’s when I hand plucked the chicken.

It went well and is very low tech, a 5 gallon bucket of hot water and a place to set the bird while plucking. We use an overturned wire cage, but all you really need is something table height that you don’t mind getting feathers on.

A tailgate works well here too, or an outside table, just something to free up both hands for plucking.

As long as you have the scald right, plucking a few birds by hand is easy.

Evisceration is not complicated but it is awkward for the first 20 birds or so. Meaning your first few attempts will be challenging.

It’s not hard, it’s just a small space to work in and you can’t see in the body cavity when your hand is in there!

Keep after it, you’ll get the idea pretty quickly. All you need is a place to wash the birds in cool water, maybe a dunk tank of cool water, and bags.

Just so you know, broilers are the easiest birds to process. Once you get the swing of things, you’ll be fast and make your birds look great every time!

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