How to Butcher a Duck
Knowing how to butcher a duck or other poultry is a handy skill to have. Being able to process your own poultry may not be fun or glamorous, but it allows you to save money and provide your own ethically raised meat. I raise my own poultry because I don’t like to support the inhumane conditions of factory farms. I also like to know where my food comes from. I’m sharing this post for those who would like to process their own ducks for meat.
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How to Butcher a Duck – Getting Started
To butcher a duck, you will follow the same process for Butchering a Chicken or a Turkey. I find that ducks are cuter than chickens, and it was harder to kill them. In this way I found the process to be similar to killing a turkey. If you would like to read more about how I prepare myself mentally for this process, check out my post How to Prepare for Fall Butchering.
What You Will Need to Butcher a Duck:
- sharp knives
- a container of bleach water for sanitizing
- hatchet or ax
- container for blood and offal
- scalding pot and electric or propane burner
- container for dressed duck
- ice or refrigerator for chilling the meat
Catch your ducks the night before and put them in a pen with plenty of clean water but no food. This will help clear out the digestive system so the butchering process is cleaner.
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How to Kill a Duck Humanely
There are several ways to kill a duck. I feel that the most humane method is to decapitate the bird with a hatchet or ax. It is fast, efficient, and humane. Some people feel that bleeding a bird to death drains more blood from their carcass. I have never had a problem with excessive amounts of blood in the carcass after decapitating a bird.
Here are the different ways that some people use. I don’t feel that these are all humane methods.
- Bleed out the duck by nicking arteries on each side of the neck
- Decapitate the duck quickly with a hatchet
- Brain the duck with a sharp knife
- Break the duck’s neck
- Shoot the duck in the head
I use an old feed bag with a hole cut in one corner to hold the duck still while I kill it. The duck’s head is poked through the hole, allowing me to gather up the bag and hold it around the feet. This prevents the animal from moving and messing up the decapitation.
The next best method, in my opinion, is to use a killing cone and nick the arteries. This allows the bird to bleed to death. I’ve noticed that after 2 or 3 minutes, the bird calms down.
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Cleaning the Carcass
Once the bird is dead, it isn’t that difficult to butcher a duck. You want to work quickly and keep your table and tools clean to prevent the growth of bacteria on the meat. I keep a hose with a shut-off valve at the ready to wash the carcass, table, and knife.
When the bird has bled out and stops flapping give it a good hosing down. Wash the feet and press down on the abdomen while rinsing with the hose to force any feces in the vent out and wash it away.
Plucking vs Skinning a Duck
At this point, you will either scald and pluck the bird or skin it. I chose to skin these ducks because they were about 5 months old and are very difficult to pluck at that age.
The best age to butcher your ducks, for ease of plucking, is at 7 to 8 weeks old. If you choose to pluck them, you will need to dunk the carcass into scalding hot water (145-150 degrees F) for about one minute.
Ducks are much harder to pluck than chickens. For the cleanest carcass, I recommend using Duck Wax to remove all of the downy feathers. For photos of the scalding process, check out my post How to Butcher a Chicken…I give a more detailed description there.
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If you choose to skin your ducks you won’t have the skin and fat on the carcass to keep the meat juicy when you cook it. Leaving the skin on also gives you the option of saving the duck fat for rendering. I decided I’d rather have leaner meat and spend less time on the processing.
To skin your bird, start at the neck and slip the knife under the skin where you removed the head. Lift the skin and slice through it along the belly, working your way toward the tail end. Pull the skin back and use the knife to separate the skin from the meat as you work your way around the whole bird.
I remove the end of the wings rather than mess around with trying to pull the feathers out. There’s no meat there anyway. The back, wings, and legs are the toughest parts to skin.
How to Disembowel a Duck
Once you have the carcass skinned or plucked, you’re ready to start disemboweling. Use your knife to cut around the vent, taking care not to puncture the intestines. Start on the belly side, between the rib cage and the vent and make a shallow incision into the flesh.
Use your fingers to pull this open, pulling the meat out and away from the intestines. This will allow you to slip the knife into the incision and slice around the vent without cutting into the innards.
Using your fingers, pinch the vent shut and pull the intestines out and away from the carcass to prevent spilling the contents on the meat.
The gizzard will be attached to the other end of the intestines. You’ll need to stuff your hand into the body cavity to pull it out. You will most likely pull out the gizzard, liver, and gall bladder in one big mess.
Do your best not to rupture the green gall bladder attached to the liver. You will want to cut this green sack of bile off along with a small portion of the liver to prevent getting bile on the liver.
Next, you should find the heart and possibly the crop and trachea. The crop usually pulls away from the gizzard and liver and may be removed from the neck area. The lungs are embedded in the rib cage and are a bit harder to pull out. You will need to sweep your fingers between the ribs and pull the tissue out.
Keeping the Gizzard?
If you don’t like eating the gizzard, heart, and liver, cook them up and feed them to your pets or your chickens. The gizzard will need to be cut open, cleaned out and the yellow lining peeled away before cooking. For photos of this process, check out my post How to Butcher a Chicken…I give a more detailed description there.
Remove the neck and feet by cutting through the ligaments that hold the bones together at the joints rather than trying to cut through bone. That will just dull your knife and put your fingers at risk.
Wash and Chill the Carcass
Wash the carcass thoroughly and chill as quickly as you can to prevent bacterial growth.
If you plan to cook your duck rather than preserve it, let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours so the muscle tissue will be tender. For the most tender meat, soak your duck in a brine solution. Keep in mind that cooking your poultry the same day will make them tough.
If you are freezing your ducks, you can wrap them and freeze immediately. Remove the bird from the freezer two or three days before you plan to cook it and allow it to thaw completely in the refrigerator before cooking. However, if you can soak the duck in a brine solution for 24 hours and then freeze it, you will have a much more tender bird.
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How to Butcher a Duck – Tips:
- Always sharpen your knives before you get started. A You should take a moment between each bird to sharpen your knife again.
- I keep a small bucket or container of bleach water on my table to clean my hands and knives in between birds, or in case feces spills on the meat. Rinse with the beach water then cold water from your hose.
- If you are butchering in warm weather, keep a cooler full of ice to put your dressed birds into for quick chilling.
- In the fall, try to pick a very cool day to process your birds. Warm fall days are prime hunting times for yellow jackets. They will swarm around the innards and carcasses.
- Have one or two helpers, if possible. You can set up an assembly line if you have several birds to process, making the job go much faster.
- The first time I butchered a chicken, it took me about 40 minutes. Now it takes about 20 minutes for each bird. Allow yourself plenty of time to set up and get everything you need ready to go.
- A big pot of water will take quite a while to reach 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Get the pot of water on the burner first, then go about your other preparations.
Can you keep Pasture-Raised Ducks for Eggs and Meat?
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I might be processing my first ducks (Muscovy) in a couple months. Can you use an automatic plucker for ducks? Just wondering if it may make plucking easier or be a total failure.
I have never used an automatic plucker because of the expense of purchasing one. But I have talked to people who have used one to pluck ducks and they felt it was much easier with the automatic plucker. If you try it, please stop back and let me know what you think!
Here’s a few ” tricks” from someone who has butchered many ducks, chickens, and turkeys. Get you scalding water as close to 150 degrees as possible, and a few drops of dish detergent to cut through the feathers protective oil so that the water can reach the ducks skin, buy some insulated long gauntlet rubber gloves. Hold the duck under the water and rub against the grain of the feathers vigorously to allow the hot water to reach the skin. You will find after following these steps, ducks will pluck almost as easily as a chicken. I usually scald them for almost 90 seconds.
Thanks for the tip, Steve!
if possible, crank up your hot water heater to high 1 hour before you plan on heating up your dunk tank. play bucket bigrade from the the bathtub or kitchen sink. this will save you money on propane.
If you mean cranking up your water heater in the house so you don’t have to heat up the scalding pot as much, I don’t think you would save any money in the long run. You have to pay to heat the water heater. Plus, you need to be really careful about having the water too hot if you have children in the house. I know someone who was scalded in the bath as a child because the water heater was set too high and she has permanent scars covering her legs. Just a safety precaution.
Thanks for the info! First timer here! I’m a little nervous, but I wanted to be more self sufficient with everything going on. I also wanted to know where my meat comes from (I don’t trust big name stores for meat had some bad experiences). Great article.
It isn’t easy, but I completely understand your feelings about being self-reliant! Best wishes!
I have Pekin ducks and have a hard time telling the Drake’s from the hens. Is there a easy way, I’d like to butcher drakes and keep hens for eggs.
The drakes will get a little curl in their tail feathers when they are mature, but this is not 100% reliable because sometimes the males will lose the curled feathers as they get older. If you can look at the vent you should be able to see the difference between the males and the females.
If you are against animal cruelty you should focus on animals that are mistreated their whole lives before they die.
I’M THINKING OF LAB ANIMALS, CIRCUS ANIMALS, STREET PERFORMERS, TOURISM RELATED ANIMALS.
Thanks for this. Great straightforward info. I have 2 drakes and one hen. It’s obviously too much for her. Greta (male) has some genetic balding too so he’s gonna be the one to go. They are about 6 months now. Not looking forward to it but delicious happily raised duck meat is a good consolation prize.
Best wishes with processing. I know it isn’t easy but I hope this really has helped!
Thanks for the refresher course on how to do this. I haven’t processed muscovy since last year and have 12 drakes to do. I had forgotten all the steps! I am way down in numbers from over 100 ducks because the plucking and processing are SO difficult. I put over 100 duck eggs in the freezer this past year, and have no idea how many we ate! LOTS! Although I do enjoy the meat, I was originally raising them (plus quail and rabbits) for one of my dogs that could not eat chicken or beef, but he has since passed, so the larger part of the necessity isn’t there anymore. My dog that guards the ducks gives me the side-eye when it’s “that time” and makes it all that much more difficult to do it lol. I might let a clutch hatch next spring, but I am happy to gather the delicious eggs and keep my numbers down. I do so love the skin on, but if he is hard to pluck, he gets skinned. I make that decision on a duck-by-duck basis. Some are easier to pluck than others, and I was never sure why that is. Someone else said some aging helps that, but in my experience, I have found the opposite to be true. I had gotten called away in the middle of processing or it never would have even happened. It seemed to me when that happened I thought the skin shrink-wrapped and made the feathers tighter. But, also, as I said, no two ducks ever seem to pluck the same for me. Some are just easier than others.
That’s really interesting to hear about the difference in individual ducks. I have noticed that unless they are quite young, those feathers just don’t want to come out. But I’ve only butchered Pekins. And even with the young ones, under 2 months, they are quite a bit harder to pluck than a chicken.
I can certainly understand why you would want to cut back on raising and butchering…it is a lot of work and as I get older I find that more than 5 or 6 birds in a day is more than my back can take!
Currently, I don’t have any ducks, just chickens. But I may be picking up a pair of Khaki Campbells from a friend. However, they would just be kept for the eggs until they are too old. 🙂
I’m glad that this post was helpful! Best wishes with your ducks!
Last year, five of us got together to do 7 ducks (not mine) and 7 chickens (mine). We did the ducks first, and we did pluck them. (The skin is GOOD, if made crispy. I’ll do the extra work to keep the skin.) Then we came to my place and did my chickens, which were 20 week broilers – a bit older than I’d have liked, but well – logistics on getting together to do this. Chickens, yes, a LOT easier for all of this.
A lot of the principles you talk about here work with chickens, too. I am faced with having to do in a rooster (from last year) who has gone mean – and is also now mean to his harem. Otherwise since I’m doing it alone this year, I’m doing chickens two or three at a time.
Yes, crispy roast duck is delicious! You can use duck wax to help get the down off the skin. I have a post for butchering chickens too. Like you say, it’s basically the same other than the difficulty in plucking a duck.
I hope you are able to get that rooster taken care of soon. He sounds like quite the handful! I usually do my chickens in small numbers too, because I’m usually doing it on my own. Best wishes with getting this unpleasant task accomplished!
But its ok for them to starve so you can eat vegan?….oookay!!
If the fertilizer hits the fan people like Becca will be begging us to feed them.
This makes me so sad …… I would think it’s more humane to slit the throat, imagine your head being completely chopped off, plus it gets rid of the blood. and don’t put the poor baby in a bag, it’ll make him even more scared… just sing and stroke him for a bit and after flapping around he should calm down and realize what’s happening, and then go peacefully, that’s what usually happens for me.
I’ve done it both ways and I think that severing the spinal column is the most humane way.
But I would not presume to tell you how to kill your poultry, that is up to you.
Is there a way to preserve the pelt with feathers still attached?
I know that Native Americans have done this, but I haven’t studied their methods. If you tan hides with the fur still attached it is probably quite similar.
Primitive ArcherThere is a discussion on this forum that may be helpful…
I’m going to dispatch a duck and use the dawn dish soap in the scalding water. We plan to smoke the duck it’s about 4.5 months old, is it going to be tough ?
It has been my experience that ducks over 2 months are somewhat tough unless I pressure cooked them. But the flavor should be amazing!
If they turn out tough, you could cook them in a pressure cooker with some broth and see if that helps.
Best wishes 🙂
So, I’m new to processing ducks. We’ve processed chickens, rabbits, & turkeys. We have peeking. Is there a preferred age to process @ or before? I would like tender cooking short time. With rabbits there are fryers, 3mths. They cook up tender & fast. Then there are culls. They are the older rabbits & are better used in stews or cooked several hours, they are tough. Is there any difference between the males & females?What is your reccom?
Ducks are most tender when butchered at about 7 to 8 weeks of age. They are pretty much full size, but still young and they are easier to pluck at this point also. Best wishes!
Thank you for the information! My wife, mother-in-law, and I successfully killed and cleaned two of our ducks. Your instructions made it very straightforward and it wasn’t nearly as messy as anticipated. Thank you for presenting this with simplicity and precision, and in spite of the naysayers.
I’m so glad that this post helped, Marcus! Thank you for stopping by and letting me know. 🙂
Question…do you need to add anything to the scalding water to break thru the water repelling nature of duck feathers? I haven’t butchered duck for many years. I have over 20 Rouan’s to do this fall.
I usually add a drop or 2 of grease cutting dishsoap to the scalding water.
I don’t have ducks now, but if I do raise them again, I’d like to try the hunter’s duck wax for plucking. It sounds promising.
Best wishes with your butchering project!
so many haters and trolls like Becca in this world…Becca you are the problem here, but you probably do not even know it. Of course like most trolls she is probably on to the next hateful comment, so for the rest of you…keep eating meat. God didn’t give us ducks just to look at. If he didn’t want us to eat them, they wouldn’t be so delicious.
Hi Dr. Dan…I think that there are quite a few people who believe that their perspective is the only correct way to view the world. This belief is very misguided.
To be honest, I have no problem with anyone being vegetarian or vegan. I do, however, have a problem with people telling me I’m a horrible person for raising my own animals for meat and then processing them as humanely as I am able. And I have a problem with the ‘holier than thou’ attitude that militant vegans sometimes have.
I have had to delete comments and block several militant vegans who told me that I should be killed the way that I kill my poultry. So Becca’s comment is actually pretty mild in comparison and I decided to leave it because I do feel that she has a right to voice her opinion in a socially acceptable way. Hopefully she read the article that I linked to, because it explains how animals are killed in the process of raising vegetarian foods.
Thanks for your support. 🙂
Go back to your humus.
I’m not really sure how to take your comment, Joe.
It wasn’t for you Lisa. I was trying to reply to Becca b. I can be a little salty sometimes. I do appreciate very much the knowledge and experience you are sharing here. I have some ducks I’m going to butcher soon and needed to take a gander at your wisdom… sorry about the pun. I do have one situation that maybe you could speak to as well. I have 6 ducks, 3 males 3 females and a small pond the size of a little kiddie pool that I built. The ducks are terrified of it and they won’t go in it. There’s nothing wrong with it. Have you ever seen anything like that?
No worries 🙂 I figured out what you meant.
I haven’t had ducks that were afraid of water. Have you tried giving them smaller tubs of water and work your way up to the pond? You might also try putting a hose with running water so that it trickles into the pond to pique their interest. Hope this helps!
Thanks for stopping by!
I use dawn dish soap in the boiling water dunk the ducks in for one minute the dish soap breaker through the build up on their feathers making it easier to pluck. Have been doing it for a long time with no issues
How much Dawn?
I have used a few drops up to maybe a teaspoon…you don’t want to go crazy with it. 🙂
Please accept my thanks for your article. Tonight was the first bird that I’ve processed, after a drake became impaired and then bullied by my flock.
The steps that you wrote were very clear, yet concise, and allowed me not to have to refer to my phone after each part. I also can see your meaning on the loss of fat, from skinning, and will take on plucking at another time.
It gave me a deeper appreciation for the entirety, which you also addressed well in your comments.
Now I just need to look up good skinless recipes, to better honor the sacrifice. As you state, it’s one thing to pull a trigger, quite another to be that close.
Again. Thank you :).
You are very welcome, Peter. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am glad that this post helped.
If the duck was older (more than a couple of months old) you may find it to be a bit chewy. I have had very good results grinding the meat for sausage…
Pressure cooking is another method to make the meat more tender.
I did not want a ‘snack’…I was feeding my family a meal (actually 2 or 3 meals). If you feel that living a vegetarian lifestyle means that you are not responsible for the deaths of any animals, please read the following article…
This is a complicated issue. I do not judge others for their lifestyle choices. My family eats much less meat than the average American. We eat many meat free meals and I understand what factory farming is doing to our environment and the suffering that it causes. I do this because I don’t want to support that industry.
Thank-you soo much for this info. I have 7 ducks, 4 of them are drakes. I have been putting off butchering my males for a long time dispite how aggressive they have been to my females. I raise ducks for the eggs not for meat. Since I have invest so much into my males it is worth having a duck dinner from my home than buying a processed duck from the grocery store. I hope I can get up the nerve to do what I need to do. Thanks again. Great article!
Thank you, Linda. It certainly isn’t an easy thing to do. The hardest part, for me, is actually killing the animal. The rest is just a messy job.
If you find that you can’t bring yourself to killing your drakes, maybe you could list them for sale on Craigslist? There may be people interested in buying them.
Thank you for this great tutorial and blog!!
We also have an acre and are trying to become fully self sustaining, too, so you are an inspiration. We are raising chickens, ducks and turkeys for eggs and meat. After trying to pluck them by hand and also trying to pluck them using our handy dandy chicken plucker machine (love that thing!) we decided just to skin our ducks, too, because it’s so much easier.
Duck meat is incredibly tasty! I’m making duck noodles today… yumm! Also, we got our first duck egg yesterday so that was pretty exciting. 🙂
Thank you so much, Michelle! Duck noodles sound delicious!
I’m hoping to be back to raising my own poultry for meat and eggs soon. Today I am getting ready for hip replacement surgery. Not as much fun!
Thanks for reading and sharing!
How do you make duck noodles?
Michelle may not get your question because her comment was left some time ago. So I will share with you how I do this. Basically, I make a pot of duck meat with gravy…just like you would do with chicken gravy for biscuits.
I use left over duck from making a roast duck. I pick all of the meat off of the bones. Then the bones go into a pot with enough water to just barely cover them. I put in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to help leach nutrients from the bones and then put the pot on high…bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about an hour. Allow to cool enough to pour the contents through a sieve to separate the broth and bones.
I pick over the bones again to pull any remaining meat off (allow them to cool so you can handle). All of the meat goes into the broth, and this all goes back into the pot on the stove top. Reserve 1 or 2 cups of the broth.
In a separate bowl mix up some plain white flour or corn starch with some salt and seasonings…I like sage or poultry seasoning, pepper, garlic powder and a pinch of turmeric. Add a little bit of broth and mix to make a paste, add more broth and mix…the same way you would to make gravy…until you have a thin ‘gruel’ with no lumps. Set aside.
Bring the pot back to a low boil. Slowly add the flour and broth mix and stir. Bring back to a boil and stir until it thickens. When it is thick, turn off heat and pour this duck meat and gravy mixture over a hot bed of egg noodles.
The amount of flour or cornstarch will depend on how much broth you have…I just sort of eyeball the amounts. If the duck gravy doesn’t come out thick enough, make up a little more of the flour/broth mix and stir in as the pot boils.
You can add peas, corn, carrots, onions, garlic….or any other veggies you like. Just mix them into the pot with the broth and meat when you first start cooking (if they are already cooked you won’t need to cook the pot longer, if they are raw you will need to cook longer).
I hope this helps. I have a recipe for egg noodles here…
Hi Lisa, I have some ducks that I’ll be picking up this weekend to process for my dog’s. I plan to feed the heads as well but I’m not sure how to get the feathers off, would scalding accomplish that? Thanks for any feedback. Excellent post, I’ll be using your tips soon!
If you dunk the heads in scalding water they should pluck just like the rest of the duck. In the wild, dogs would eat the feathers too…but I don’t know if it would cause digestive problems for a domestic dog. Also, from what I have read, just be sure that you do not cook the bones because it causes them to get hard and brittle, possibly causing injury to their digestive tract. Just in case you hadn’t read that.
Best wishes and let me know how it goes!
Excellent info. I have killed chickens, but I have a dozen Muscovies and 5 of them are drakes, so with Canadian Thanksgiving next weekend, it is timely. I will try to pluck them – and I will get some wax beforehand. It seems like being well prepared will be key – buckets, hot and cold water, sharp knives, chopping block all laid out ahead of time.
Best wishes with your duck butchering project. It makes a very big difference when you have everything ready before you start. There have been times when I realized that my knives weren’t sharp enough, and stopping to hone the blades was quite a nuisance. Plus, if you have to stop to fetch equipment, etc, it delays the chilling process, and that can lead to bacterial growth.
It sounds like you are well prepared! Let me know how your project turns out!
I’m glad I found this blog. I have a one acre self-sufficient (for the most part) farm in Hawaii and I raise ducks. I have never been able to kill one because they are like pats, but I have to get over it. Why buy duck when you have a hundred+?
Want to talk self-suffiency?
And BTW, no one is placing cookies or using web beacons on mt browser. No worries.
It isn’t easy for me to kill ducks either. They are so comical to watch, and they seem a little bit more intelligent than the chickens. But I originally ordered them for meat ducks and I knew that 20 of them were more than I needed! But 100 is a lot! I bet they are building up some awesome soil for gardening. 🙂
Thanks for reading…I hope you are able to get the duck numbers down to the level you’d like. Best wishes!
PS – Although I continuously washed my hands and utensils & cutting surface with organic dish soap & hot water, I didn’t use chlorine bleach. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I’ve stopped using chlorine bleach altogether, so I don’t have any.
Basic sanitation is fine, I’ve never used bleach when butchering, except to sterilize my cutting board afterwards.
Thanks, David. 🙂
First timer, and thank you so much for the tutorial. I really appreciate the photos; they helped tremendously. I plucked rather than skinned, so it took me a lonnnng time! Also, I had no helper and not the best equipment. Your advice is well taken now!
Do you process the feet?
Glad to help out! I’m thinking about trying the duck wax someone suggested…I have a black duck to process and I think it will help make the skin useable. I’ll let you all know how that works out when I try it. 🙂
I haven’t used the duck feet very many times, but I usually do use the chicken feet when making stock…it really gels up the stock nicely and I know it is more nutritious. I think I’ll try to use the feet next time too and see how it goes. That black duck I mentioned is a male that is a bit on the older side, so he will probably be going into some duck soup.
I also saw your question about the bleach and I am no longer using it unless things get really dirty. It really does some serious damage to my hands my the end of the day. And although I like knowing that I’m cleaning any e coli, etc off my hands, I decided to forgo the bleach. Now, if I open up a bird and there is a whole lot of feces that leaks out, then I do try to rinse things off really well and then do a quick dip in a very mild bleach solution, then rinse really well again. But this isn’t usually an issue and I am trying to be a little less obsessive, lol! So I think you are fine. Just wash up really well and be sure to cook your bird thoroughly!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your first time experience with us…you rock!!!
If you purchase gloves from a pharmacy or Costco you won’t have to worry about getting bleach on your hands and then you will know that everything is very sanitary. You can buy 2 boxes which will last a long time for $20.00 or find a friend to purchase the other box.
Also duck wax makes the job of cleaning the carcass so much easier. You need a pot, turkey fryer works well, full of water that is specifically used for the wax. Add the wax, bring the water to boil and make sure you allow room for the duck otherwise it will overflow and then you have a huge mess. You want the wax hot but should be cooling otherwise it doesn’t stick as well to the duck. You also need cold ice water in a small garbage can, we line ours with a garbage bag so you can throw it away after processing a group of ducks. You dunk the duck in the ice water and you need at 3 coats to work really well, remove the wax, throw it back into the pot and heat and reuse. We normally wax several ducks at a time so you need to have enough wax in the pot to allow for this. Hope that helps.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us, Rose! I hope this helps other readers too.
I’m trying Muscovy’s for meat this year. I’ve never raised ducks before. I’m sort of planning to butcher at 12 weeks for the extra drakes and the females I decide to cull. I’m going to use a turkey lung flush valve that hooks to a garden hose so I get the insides as clean as possible.
For the initial processing I plan to do it the same as a wild harvested duck. Pluck as much as you can and then use duck wax to remove all the down. It leaves you with a nice clean carcass.
Sounds like you have a good plan. 🙂 Where do you buy the duck wax? Maybe at a hunting good store? I think I’d like to try that because they are such a pain to pluck. Best wishes!
I use a product called duxwax that I bought at the local farm/fleet type store around duck season. I paid 11.99/3.25 lbs. I tried a search engine using duck wax, poultry wax, etc. the best I could find was https://www.cconly.com/processing/ez_duck_wax 10lb slabs for $38 with free shipping. That is enough for a dozen or so ducks without re-capturing the used wax.
You do lose a little wax with each bird but you can recapture most of the wax by remelting the feather/wax mix and filtering it. Most say to use cheese cloth, I just use a brand new small white T-shirt cut in half.
I get the water just hot enough to melt the wax, dip the bird, hold it up for maybe 10 seconds and re-dip another time or 2 and then plunge the bird into cold water and hold it there for 10 seconds or so to set the wax.
The wax will be a hard coating at this point. Crack it enough to get fingers under it and start ripping it off. Rinse off any remains bits of wax. I use this on Canadian Geese, one of my geese was banded 18 months as a gosling before I took it and the product worked just fine.;
I have some old chickens that are probably going when I slaughter the first few ducks in 5 weeks. I’ll try to remember to comment on how well the wax works for getting those long hairs the older chickens have underneath the feathers. Personally I want that skin and attached fat for the stock pot, If you feed your birds a clean GMO free feed and they free range, then that fat is not only flavor but healthy.
free range IMO means sometimes the old blue haired lady next door calls and complains that they are eating the fallen crab apples in her yard LOL
Hey you! Get your chickens off my lawn! 😉
I wonder if you could just use parafin wax? I might give it a go the next time I am butchering ducks. Thanks for sharing!
If you live outside city limits be prepared to deal with critters… but I have told the neighbors… if you can catch it you can keep it LOL. I did see that some peeps use plain paraffin, I have never tried it. I do know paraffin has a higher melting point so the water will have to be hotter before it melts.
Good to know about the parafin…thanks! My neighbor isn’t very understanding…gets upset by a feather in his grass 🙁
Strangely enough I just stepped outside to bottle feed a couple of calves and 2 of my geldings came running by, unfortunately one of my year old muscovy drakes stepped out in front of them. He took one blow from a hoof, he looked at me like…what just happened? I walked over to him and tried to soothe him a bit and he quietly passed on. All this happened in a matter of 60 seconds. I would hate for him to go to waste. So I put him in a bag in the fridge. Now I’m trying to find the next best step. Sounds like skinning is the best way for an older bird. And maybe cook all day long in a crock pot or put in the freezer for a future meal? Thanks for any advice.
I’m sorry to hear about your duck…that’s very sad. You are very practical to use the meat. I would try to dress the carcass as soon as you are able, so the meat will be fresh. Skinning is easier than plucking. If you have a pressure cooker, that will make the meat the most tender.
I hope this helps.
My daughter sent me this link today. She has 5 Indian Runner ducks that are 1 year old that she want to harvest. Since they are ‘built’ a bit differently than meat ducks and are older, do you have any suggestions? I was raised in an Iowan farming family but I’ve never been the hand that harvested. The rest I can easily handle. I just want to be as humane as possible.Thank you for your feedback.
The only difference that I can see would be that the runner ducks will have less meat and, being older, the meat may be a bit tough. You can use the same method for killing that I use, or you can use a killing cone and bleed them out. I feel that one chop with an ax or hatchet is the most humane, but bleeding them out can be done humanely too.
After the ducks have been dressed, I would suggest cooking them in a pressure cooker, or pressure canning the meat, so that it will be nice and tender. Let me know how everything goes! Best wishes!
We use our older butchered chickens for soup or cook them in the slow cooker with some water or broth and then use the meat in pot pies. Doesn’t taste tough at all. I’m sure you could do the same with duck meat.
Thanks for sharing. I haven’t made a pot pie in forever. Love them! Great idea. 🙂
Totally off topic for a moment here, but I love your precious feet profile pic!
Thanks, Annie 🙂
You could always make a sausage out of the meat instead!
I’ve recently started grinding the meat from older ducks…very good!
I loved your article; it was much needed. We will be killing our ducks in eight weeks and it will be our first time. I got them for $.25 each and we have 31 of them so it’s our only option for them to have a good humane life and death. I wish someone was here with us who has done it before to help us but that’s not the case. The best we have is your article which I’m sure you will read many times. Thank you again
I’m glad that this is helpful…I know it isn’t easy, especially when you haven’t done it before. If I hadn’t helped my Dad butcher chickens when I was a kid, I think it would have been much more difficult to do. Even so, it still isn’t easy for me to kill an animal. I don’t think that ever gets easy and it probably shouldn’t.
You might might be able to get to know some people in your area who have poultry and butcher their own. They might let you watch while they process a bird. Maybe check on Craigslist? Best wishes!
I hope your processing went smoothly! Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I’ve been tilling and planting my garden here. I have butchered many ducks much older than your drakes. It is a pain to get all the feathers and down off, so I usually skin them. They might be a tad bit tougher than the young ones, but you can grind the meat, or pressure can them if they are tough. Remember to chill overnight so they will be more tender too. Best wishes!
Thanks for all your info and the questions and answers, I need info, as we are killing our first crop of young muskovies ducks tomorrow, not looking forward to it, any more info would be appreciated both drake boys they are 5 months old not to old I hope, like the other man from Australia I have been fighting the pythons just to raise our young ducklings resorted to bringing them in the house while still young all good now have got 17 coming up nicely let you know how we go once again thanks for info:))
I’m in the exact same scenario as you were… how did it go for you?
I use a pruning lopper to decapitate the poultry. That eliminates the risk factor of missing with an axe or cleaver. Surprisingly, the ducks calmly allow me to put the loppers around their neck, and never flinch when I close the handles.
If you can do this quick enough, I guess it would work. I saw a lady try this once and I was horrified…it was definitely not humane the way she did it. I haven’t had many problems with missing now that I’ve had practice.
With ducks as well as chickens I have a block of wood with two nails driven in to it to hold the head still. Space them wider for ducks and of course narrower for chickens. Apply a little tension and they can not pull away. Your misses will go away do to bird movement.
Thanks for sharing!
I want to thank you for your thoughtful and practical guide to butchering ducks ,we have a lame female,who sadly after 3 weeks of me trying to care for her is no better ,and I now feel I need to take this final step,we are miles a way in Caithness ,Scotland .But I feel we all come together in our love for animals.
I’m sorry to hear about your duck. 🙁 I’m happy to provide this information for folks who need it and I’m glad that it is helpful.
Have you checked to see if your duck has bumble foot? I had a duck that had bumble foot and I was able to perform minor surgery on her foot to clean out the infection. She recovered and was able to walk well again after a couple of weeks. But sometimes it really is the most humane thing to put them down, and why not honor their life by using the meat?!
Best wishes with your duck.
I just wanted to tell you that this article was the first one that came up when I searched for processing tips. I want to thank you for writing such an honest and direct how-to. I also appreciate the small bits of advice you give, such as preparing for yellow jackets, which are a menace where I live.
I have a small hobby farm, and I’m raising chickens and rabbits. The rabbits are a similarly challenging animal to process, and I could easily relate to what you were saying about getting better at it, but never feeling good about it. Today, I ordered my first 10 Welsh Harlequin ducklings. I’ll be going to pick them up in person. But I chose ducks for both egg production and meat. I’m not looking forward to processing day, but I’m much more prepared to handle it after having read your bog. I’ll definitely be following along with other posts.
The Gentleman Farmer
Thanks so much for the compliment! I sure do appreciate hearing the feedback. 🙂 It sounds like you are doing a great job on your Gentleman’s Farm! I have gotten to the point where I don’t take half an hour to dispatch an animal, because I know that will just prolong their fear and my mental discomfort. But I don’t think that I will ever stop feeling bad for the animals either.
Let me know how you like the Welsh Harlequin ducks. I love to read about other people’s animals. 🙂 Since we only have 1 acre, I’m limited on how many breeds and species I can keep. So I live vicariously through others!
Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave comments…I love to hear what other homesteaders are up to. 🙂
Thanks for the information, I have been killing ducks for the table for a while now but i still like to check for better ways to slautghter humanely. The feed bag is a great idea as just hanging on to such a large bird is a bit difficult, i have about 30 Muskovies and they are completly free range and only come to the shed for feed (and to be caught). We are maintaining our numbers as the ducks breed quite well but the Goana’s and snakes take most of them. I have 7 ducklings in the shed at the moment about 4 days old. this will replace my numbers back up to 30.
Where abouts do you live? I don’t have Goanas…would that be Australia?
Muscovies are on my list…wanna try them! I’ve read that they are good mothers.
Thanks for stopping by, Glad to share info!
Thats right Lisa I live on The Sarina range just 40 min out of Mackay. Muskovies are a treat to watch, very good and fierce mothers. Drakes when young go at Mating like a bull at a gate but when they get older they aquire manners and are very romantic , they talk they head bob and take there time. A nice big bird that can handle itself.
Well gosh, now I want some even more 😉
They are pretty good moms. I’ve never seen one lay without the intent to hatch, and they seem to have around 3 clutches of eggs each summer, of around 10 to 15 eggs at a time. I gross an average of 8 to a10 from each clutch
I have read that they are good at brooding, hatching and raising ducklings. Some people suggest giving them a clutch of another ducks eggs to hatch, because some breeds don’t set on a nest well.
I’d like to have some…but I’m not sure if that will happen. I’ve been downsizing quite a bit in the coop these days, and I don’t have any ducks now.
Thanks for great tutorial! I am getting my head around the idea that I should have only ordered female ducks. My beautiful five month old Rouen drake is too aggressive for the littler ladies and eats a LOT! Think he may be going to freezer camp soon….
Yours is the best how-to I’ve seen yet, but wanted to share a tip someone else mentioned: if you put the already butchered birds and the offal, into two separate buckets of cool water, you will greatly reduce the yellow jacket problem.
Thanks! When I ordered ducks, they didn’t give the option of sexed ducklings. I haven’t seen hatcheries that do…but then, I haven’t checked around for more info.
Your drake is in his prime right now and may seem very aggressive. You do want to be careful that he isn’t injuring his ladies, but sometimes what seems like unacceptable behavior to us is actually ok for the ducks. You might be right that he needs to be processed, if you aren’t hoping for babies in the spring.
I have been trying to do all of my butchering in cool weather when the yellow jackets aren’t a problem…but this is a very good tip! Thanks so much for sharing!
Best wishes with your ducks and drake!
I ordered my birds from Metzer Farms Hatchery in Gonzales, CA, which is just down the road. They do sex their birds for an additional $1.50 per bird. The other large hatcheries I looked into, followed a similar sexing/pricing policy, but you have to ask. Since I knew I wanted at least 5 hens, I had them sex 5 for me, which are banded with gender-specific bands for easy identification. The other birds are straight run.
Thanks for that info…this is great to know, especially for folks who have limited space and don’t want to butcher the extra males. Thanks for sharing!
Just rereading your posts on duck butchering and wanted to suggest next time you save the fat not give it to the lucky dog, haha. Duck fat is a real treasure! You can render it in a sauce pot over low heat or in the oven (or save your fat in the freezer until you have a good quantity to do all at once. Strain and pour into a mason jar & keep in fridge or freezer for storage. It is an all natural non GMO fat (unlike canola and corn oil) and now the experts are finding animal fat is much better for us than they used to think. I save my duck, goose & chicken fat rendered down for all kinds of kitchen cooking. Our Amish friends always save their chicken fat for popping popcorn – I tried it and its spectacular the flavor it adds.
Great suggestion, Linda! I’ve actually been thinking about this. I have put off rendering the duck fat because we have a huge tub of lard in the fridge that I use in place of shortening. We use it so slowly that I haven’t been very proactive about saving the duck fat. But I think I need to start because we are slowly working toward eating mostly just the poultry we raise and getting away from ordering beef and pork from local farmers. Although I do want to support them, I find I don’t really enjoy beef so much these days and the pork is raised with regular GMO corn…so I want to get away from that too.
Thanks for the idea…it’s been rolling around in my noggin for a while too!
Thank you for these very helpful instructions. My neighbour left a fresh wild duck on my back door handle (previous trout hadn’t fazed me, then I’d tackled the pheasant successfully, so he must think I’m up for anything). It hung in our shed for 2 cold nights and I was surprised to find it plucked quite easily without scalding. Are wild ducks supposed to be easier? Followed your instructions and all well – in the freezer now though seemed to be missing a gall bladder! Michelle, Leicester, UK
How nice of your neighbor! I have never left a duck to sit for any length of time before plucking, perhaps this helps release the feathers more easily. I also have not had the opportunity to try a wild duck…so I can only guess at the answer to whether or not a wild duck is easier to pluck. It may vary a bit depending on breed and diet…I’m not sure. I’m glad that you were able to tackle the dressing with no problems after reading my instruction. 🙂 Sometimes the gall bladder is small and this could depend on the diet of the bird too.
Thanks for writing from the UK! I love to hear from folks all over the world!
Hi Lisa. That’s good to know re the gall bladder. It is a Mallard and I read somewhere that yes, hanging can help losen feathers, as you suspect. My neighbour’s freezer is full so he’s promised more – so more practice to come! Happy New Year from England.
That’s great, Michelle! Enjoy those free ducks! It’s really interesting to know that the hanging/aging could make the plucking easier…I’ll have to remember that. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Thanks, Jane! And thanks so much for hosting such a great party!
Thanks for the information! I had never heard of using a bag over the duck to make butchering easier. I was pretty excited about that tidbit. 🙂
Glad you found some helpful info! Using a bag makes the job a bit easier. 🙂 Have a great day!
The Muscovies are doing well (only one baby survived from 3) but at least they all go into the henhouse at night – which is the real reason why they are surviving. The one baby has lost most of his yellow down and turning white like his parents. Thought they might lay more eggs & hatch but doesn’t look like it. Oh well, there is always hope for next spring to increase the flock.
I hope that little baby is a hen so you have more eggs in the spring! I’m sorry to hear that the other two didn’t survive, but I’m glad you were able to get them to go in at night. It’s so disheartening to lose them to predators.
Best wishes for a big spring hatch!
Great tutorial, the photos are really helpful, we don’t have any ducks, but we did three rooster on the weekend. Its hard work, but worth it for the tasty meat.
Thank you, Liz! Good for you! There always seem to be more roosters than we need 😉 But you’re right, they are very tasty!
Lisa you did a very good job of explaining and showing step by step of butchering duck,thank you.Now I need help on cooking part ,some say meat is Creasy is this true and what to do to give it a better flavor.
Thank you! I have cooked the ducks both with and without the skin. I roasted a duck earlier this year with the skin on…using a roaster pan in the oven. I sliced up a lemon and laid the slices over the top of the duck before cooking. It was very tender and tasty…a little bit like the dark meat of a chicken. There was quite a bit of fat in the bottom of the pan, but I didn’t think that the meat tasted greasy.
I also slow cooked an older duck, with the skin removed, in a crock pot recently. It was also very tasty, but it was a little bit tough. Nothing wrong with the flavor, but I am wishing I took the time and effort to pluck these older ducks when I butchered them. I think that the meat would have been more tender.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂