Whether you are trying out raising meat chickens or you just have a few birds from your laying flock that you’d like to stew, a chicken cone is a basic tool to have on hand and it can be made quite cheaply. Our first experience with harvesting chickens came when we had our first mean rooster. Choosing sex-link chickens can save you from this situation, as identifying males and females is much more certain.
Learning Experiences with Our Chicken Cone
Our first chicken harvest, we were a little scattered. Our chicken cone was made by cutting a hole in a piece of plywood to drop the traffic cone down into. It simply hung out over my husband’s workbench, anchored down on one end by something heavy. A bucket underneath caught some of what fell but really it was a mess. Because it was up so high, the bucket didn’t catch nearly everything. Then we brought the bird over by our house for the plucking and dressing. Here are some lessons we learned from our first experience.
- Your cone should sit down low, almost into the bucket so that everything that flows out of the chicken gets caught in it.
- It is really optimal to have everything you need in one contained workstation so you don’t have to travel around with the animal.
- It is nice to work outside, near access to clean water (i.e., a hose) so that you can simply spray everything down as needed. It’s also nice to mix up a bleach solution in a spray bottle for sanitation and keep it nearby.
We had one more incarnation of the chicken cone before our final design. It was created using an old cabinet the previous owners of our house left behind. This design was more of a contained workstation, where everything could be done in one spot. Our only issue with it was that it was bulky and took up a lot of room for something we use pretty infrequently. Eventually, we dismantled it and went back to the drawing board to think of a chicken cone design that could be stowed away when not in use.
Our Best Chicken Cone Design: Self-Contained and Storable When Not In Use
|Sawhorses (preferably plastic, fold-up)||2|
|Plywood Board (or scrap of countertop) – 24″ x 46″||1|
|2×4 Board – 30″ long||2|
|2×4 Board – 18.25″ long||1|
|Large Traffic Cone||1|
|3″ Coarse Thread Wood Screws||3|
|1″ Wood Screws||12|
|Triangle Gate Hinges||2|
|Plastic Cutting Board – 15″ x 20″||1|
|Sash Cord or Piece of Clothesline – 6 foot||1|
|Piece of twine – about 1 foot||1|
|Tools: drill, tape measure, knife, jigsaw, pencil, saws as needed for cutting boards to length|
Begin by setting up your sawhorses. We used old plastic ones we had stashed away that fold flat. Plastic is great because it is easily washed afterward. You’ll have to judge placement based on the size of your sawhorses. Ours worked perfectly if set side-by-side, touching in the middle. Choose a spot outdoors, near a clean water supply, where you can spray everything down with a hose.
Next, cut your piece of plywood or counter-top to size. We used a scrap of Premium Birch Plywood leftover from another project. It is nearly an inch thick and very sturdy. The downside to this is it won’t stand up to water forever. A few coats of polyurethane will help, but if you have access to a piece of counter top that may be a better choice. Simply make sure you have the tools to cut through it and it can be sanitized. The bonus to this is you don’t need a cutting board, just cut right on the countertop.
Cut your two-by-four boards for the overhead bar. This is where you will hang your chicken for the plucking. Connect the two 30-inch pieces across the top with the 18.25-inch board. Screw down from the top through the 18.25-inch piece into each 30-inch piece using three-inch coarse thread wood screws.
If you are using a cutting board, which I recommend if using wood, center it on one 24-inch end of the board. Measure eight inches from the edge on both sides of the cutting board and draw lines. Set your overhead in place on these marks, with the four-inch sides hugging the side of the cutting board.
Have an assistant hold the overhead in place while you attach the hinges. You will want to look for triangle gate hinges that are about one-inch wide at their widest point. Put them in place on the inside one-inch edge of the 30-inch two-by-four (so that when it folds down, it will fold toward the longest part of the board). Use 1-inch wood screws to screw them in place.
To ensure that the overhead bar doesn’t flop down when you’re using it, you’ll need to put gate latches on the other side to supply some tension.
First, screw in the hook eye near the base of the 30-inch upright; eyeball-ball how far up to screw in the other side of the latch and screw it in too. It’s easier to screw those hook eyes in if you pre-drill the holes.
You will need a piece of rope to hang the chicken from the upright while you pluck it. We have found a simple piece of clothesline or sash cord works well. It should be about six-feet long. Tie a slip knot on each end to go around the chicken’s feet.
Place a 3-inch screw about three-quarters of the way down one of the 30-inch uprights to hook your rope to.
Now you are ready to make the hole for the chicken cone on the other side of your plywood board. Measure the diameter of your cone. Ours is about 11 inches at the base. You need to cut a hole to match the diameter of the base of your cone (the widest part). You need to make a do-it-yourself version of a compass to draw your hole. First, find the center of your board left to right then measure in about eight inches from the edge, top to bottom; mark that spot. Drill a hole there and drop a nail into the spot. Make a slipknot in the end of a piece of small twine and slip it around the nail. Divide the diameter of your cone in half and measure out that far from your nail in any direction (since our cone is 11 inches wide, we measured out five-and-a-half inches). Wrap the twine around a pencil so that the tip rests on your mark. Carefully draw a circle by rotating the pencil around the nail.
Now use your jigsaw to cut it out.
Before you drop your chicken cone into the hole you made, trim the narrow end with a sharp knife so that the opening is about four-inches wide. This will allow room for the chicken’s head to come through this end with ease.
Drop your trimmed cone down into the hole and set your bucket just below. Your chicken cone station is complete!
Because of the design, when you’re not using the station, it can fold flat and hang, out of the way, up on your wall.
What Else Will You Need
When you are ready to harvest, you will need to drag your hose over to your chicken cone station and put a nice powerful sprayer on the end. Also, have on hand a spray bottle of sanitizer and some paper towels. You will need good sharp knives for cutting the chicken’s throat and dressing it. My husband has also used very sharp tin snips to finish removing the head.
To scald your chicken, you will need to have hot water on hand. This is the one part we still have to do inside. I usually bring a large stockpot of water to a boil on the stove and bring it out when we start so that by the time the bird is ready to go in it, it has cooled off slightly. If you are doing multiple birds, you may want to have some more water ready to add if it has cooled off too much by the time you are ready for your next. You’ll also need a clean bucket of cold water to dunk the bird in after the hot.
Ready, Set, Harvest!
Now that you have your chicken cone harvesting station prepared, what else do you have left to learn? Maybe you need to read up on how to harvest a bird or how to dress it or how to cut a whole chicken so you can prepare the bird to eat once it’s been harvested. Whatever your next step, happy harvesting! May this autumn bring your family abundance and fill you with gratitude.