How to Butcher a Duck with Complete Instructions

How to Butcher a Duck

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
  • table
  • 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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How to Dispatch a Duck
Dispatching the duck.

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.

Cleaning a dead duck
Washing the carcass.

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.

skinning a duck
Skinning a duck.

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.

butchering a duck - removing innards
Be careful not to spill the contents of the intestines when you pull them out.

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.

The dark colored thing in the middle is filled with green bile.

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.

Duck heart and gizzard
Save the heart or feed to your chickens.

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.

s duck 11
Ready for the freezer. Use vacuum sealer bags to prevent freezer burn.

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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How to Butcher a Duck

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