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Bringing elements of the homestead to everyday life.

fermentation • cooking • herbalism • foraging • traditional crafts • cooking • community

Our Own Turkey

Women's Heritage

I am excited to share this post with you all.  I just want to be clear we are by no means pushing our views on others but we have chosen to eat meat and we are trying to raise our own animals for food to understand and be connected to the entire process of our choice.  Please be aware there are some photos that may disturb certain readers below. 


This was first time raising our own Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey for the Thanksgiving table.  We started with a chick and in May and ended with a big, fat turkey in November.  It ended up being the tastiest turkey I have ever eaten (my husband, Keith smoked it on the Santa Maria BBQ)  and we were proud  to share it with our extended family for our Thanksgiving meal. The kids were included in every step along the way, including the harvest, and knew the destiny of our bird when we brought it home. We always thank each animal for it’s life and the gift of food it is giving our family before the slaughter. I would also like to mention that feeling sad and uncomfortable or any other emotion during the harvest completely normal and part of the process!

I pictured raising our turkey by itself and only on turkey feed, but when it was the size of the chickens I ended up putting it on the chicken coop with our hens. I kept meaning to take it out and finish it on specific turkey feed but honestly I got too busy and it never happened. So though I didn't "finish" our turkey properly, I have to say I learned that you can have an incredible tasty turkey finishing it on Modesto Milling organic chicken layer and it was incredibly easy and convenient!

We are by no means expert butchers but my husband and I have had some experience and we worked together to harvest our very large turkey.  Here was our process:


  • Sharp Knives 
  • "Killing cone" that you will be place the bird in upside down ( we made our own in pic below)
  • Clean table
  • Clean cutting board
  • Buckets for blood, entrails and feathers
  • Clean towels
  • Scalding bucket big enough for turkey and water at 145’
  • Cooler with ice to put the finished bird in
  • A fresh water hose for rising bird

Before our harvest we make sure we have a clean table space to work on the bird after it is butchered. We have a large bucket (that the turkey will fit in) at 145’ ready for scalding it after butcher, this helps the plucking process.  Beforehand  we make sure our "killing cone" (see where to buy below) is all set up and secured and lastly we make sure our knives are sharp. We also, think about storage of the bird, we slaughtered Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving so we did not have to freeze it, we just kept it on ice before brining it the day before Thanksgiving.


1. First catch the turkey, carry by the feet and place in killing cone.  Pull the head firmly through the bottom.
2. Cut the throat and through the jugular vein, make sure head is all the way down in order to let it bleed out as quickly as possible. We usually hold the legs at this point too. This process can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes.
3. Once the turkey was dead we took the big tail feather out to save.  Then we placed it in the scalding  bucket for roughly 5 minutes swirling it around and checking to see when the feathers removed easily.
4. Once the feathers could be removed easily we brought it onto one side of the table and plucked the entire bird.
5. At that point my husband cut off the head at the base of the neck and at the feet.
6. This part is a little tough but you’ll need to make a big enough area at the base of the neck to be able to reach in and remove the intestines etc.  You’ll have to cut the muscle around the base of the neck to get it out.
7. At that point we were able to reach into the bird and take out the entrails and lungs.
8. We then rinsed the bird inside and out and then packed in ice

I look forward to learning more about raising poultry for food and perfecting our harvest techniques and hope to continue raising and appreciating our own Thanksgiving turkey!

Thanks for reading, Lauren


"Poultry Fattening for Meat" by Edward Brown

Link to purchase Killing Cones

Photos by Brittany Smith