The Great Chicken Butchering Debate: Pluckers vs. Skinners

Perfect Fried (Skinned) Chicken.
Perfect Fried (Skinned) Chicken.
Skin or no skin. That is the question. Believe it or not, this is a highly debated topic on our homestead. It can even get quite heated at times! I’m sure that it will be argued until the end of time, or at least as long as we raise chickens. So…probably forever. I call it the “Great Chicken Butchering Debate” because there will never be a consensus for how we butcher our chickens. In one corner we have the Pluckers, consisting of my husband and our oldest son. In the opposite corner are the Skinners. Its members are my dad and mom. Both sides are very adamant about their positions and make excellent points for their point of view. The sides are currently even. My two year old has yet to throw his hat in the ring and choose a side. I remain neutral because I really like chicken both ways. I have not met a chicken dish that I don’t like! You bring it and I will cook it. Skin or no skin. I guess that makes me the perfect person to explain why there will never be a winner in our Great Chicken Butchering Debate.

Mama hen with her chicks.
Mama hen with her chicks.
My dad is the chicken authority on our homestead. He built our coop and raised our first little purchased chicks in a box in his living room, using a kerosene lantern for extra heat. He used his expert knowledge to get a total of 1,447 eggs out of our hens last winter! (Read how here.) It is spring as I write this and we now have our own little chicks running around. Aren’t they adorable?! They were hatched the natural and old-fashioned way, under mama hen. On an off-grid homestead (so no electric incubator) this is a necessity. We have very happy and healthy chickens. My dad truly knows his chickens and how to get them to perform at their best! So when it came time for butchering, he took charge and did it like he wanted. No skin.

My husband is the grill master on our homestead. Put fresh meat in his hands and he is firing up the grill! He was taught by his grill master father and has perfected his craft over many, many years. I never knew how a steak off the grill should taste until I met my husband. His skills can rival any professional grill master. He knows just how long to cook a steak to achieve the perfect medium-rare to medium doneness. However, there is only one thing that stands in his way when grilling perfect chicken. The meat needs its skin to keep the inside moist and the outside a charred crispy goodness. No skin on the chicken means there will be no grilling.

Round 1 Skinners: 1, Pluckers: 0

Skinning Pros

  • Essential when canning.
  • Less time-consuming.
  • Less equipment needed.

Skinning Cons

  • More limited preparation options because grilling and roasting is out.
  • No crispy skin goodness.

Enter Patricia. Unbeknownst to Patricia, she would break the long winning streak for the Skinners. Patricia is a retired woman that my husband met by volunteering at a food pantry in town. She is all alone on her small homestead. She raises chickens for meat and eggs, but just doesn’t have the strength to butcher them on her own anymore. Zac volunteered our help and we have now butchered over 40 of her birds. And you guessed it. We plucked them! Barbecued chicken for dinner! The Skinners hand over their crispy skin to their eager grandson.

Round 2 Skinners: 1, Pluckers: 1

Plucking Pros

  • Most commonly accepted method.
  • Great for all chicken dishes, including roasting and grilling.

Plucking Cons

  • More time-consuming.
  • Feathers stick to your hands.
  • More equipment: boiling water and plucker.

So…skin or no skin? We currently have a tie. The debate will continue as long as there are chickens to butcher. Each side will have their victories and losses. In the end, the only common ground we have found is to allow the butcher to decide. But either way, we have fresh, home-raised, free-range, delicious chicken on our plates. That’s a win to me, however it is butchered!


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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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  1. It’s great to see other people butcher their birds using the skinning method. I was beginning to think I was all alone there. I skin ours simply because it simplifies the process. We don’t grill chicken often anyway.

    Excellent post!

  2. We are skinners. It makes butchering so much easier. We usually do a bunch at once and can the meat. I grew up with the plucking method, but once my husband tried the skinning method, we were hooked.

  3. To eat with the skin or not.
    Good article on both sides of the chicken coop.
    Well, being a suburbanite, we eat free range, organic chicken here in Oregon. And depending on the way we fix it determines rather leave the skin or not.
    Either way….tasty! it is still good.
    Enjoy the American Homestead.

  4. Im a plucker, built our own wizbang so not a big expense an there easier to sell as it is what people are used to 2.
    I also like to cut the birds up into breast, tender, wing and thighs but that adds 4 min a bird. I have to vote on your hisbands side even on the cut up birds having the thigh skin on and grilling is just the best. If you dont have power how do you pluck your birds!

  5. Hi AAH,

    Thank you for another interesting topic for discussion. My family eats it both ways. I think the issue Americans have today is that we eat more meat than our ancestors did and how we prepare would be irrelevant if we ate healthy (less) portions. In our home we have chicken and beef twice a week, fish once, and meatless meals twice a week. Chicken, when raised organically is a healthier choice no matter how it is prepared in my opinion, however I generally will cook a roaster (skin on) for one meal and fry (skin off) the other. Each memeber in my family also has a preference although they will eat what ever momma prepares for them.


  6. Why choose? On our homestead we do both, with the same bird. To save freezer space all of our meat is pieced apart. Breasts are taken off boneless and skinless, so no need to pluck. Backs and wing tips are stocked, so no plucking. We only pluck the meaty part of the wing and the leg/thigh. If you catch the bird at the right stage of molt there’s no need to scald, and you can pluck the wing/leg off in about 5-10 minutes a bird by hand.

    • Diana Fredendall

      What a great idea to cull during molt. That has never even crossed my mind!
      We are still in the planning stages of our homestead and am loving all the great ideas here.

  7. Huh, I never knew there was this diversity in desire of skinless to skin on raising meat chickens. But it should only follow, as there are hundreds of recipes for making spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, piecrust, chicken soup so it goes for skin vs no skin.
    Me, I do love crispy skin. But I also have lots of recipes for skinless. My favorite is Golden chicken and Autumn vegetables found here:
    This year, knock on wood, will be the first year that all the ingredients will come from our land and hands. Sweet potoes look great but are not harvested yet so it remains to be seen….
    This was a fabulously written article on what sounds like a deeply passionate topic on your homestead. Thank you for sharing.
    Pam Baker

  8. We do both! This spring, we raised one batch of Cornish Cross chickens & plucked them by hand. These birds were frozen whole for roasting or smoking. BTW we use a propane fired turkey fryer to heat the water for dunking birds. We raised a second batch, but skinned them & cut them into pieces. Breasts & legs were packaged & frozen, but some was canned. Backs, necks & wings were used to make broth which we canned. Each batch was around 15 birds & our goal is to have a year supply put up each year. We also raise a couple of turkeys each year & dry pluck them so they can be roasted for holiday meals. They dress out at 20-30 pounds & we don’t have a pot big enough to dunk them!

  9. Skinner here. I process all my birds on the same day by myself; and usually carry into the night prepping the meat parts for different meals (shredded/boned/sliced, etc.), so speed and ease are utmost priority in order for me to move the meat quickly to a preserved place. With only two in our household, I process 15 birds twice a year. I hope to increase that number next spring, but I’ll need to split the processing days. I “feel” it would be too upsetting for me to work two processing days in the same week. It is truly an emotional day for me, and of course, I believe for the birds, as well.

  10. I’m not voting. But I did see a device used for plucking feathers.
    It kind of looks like a car wash for chickens.
    Strips of bendable rubber are fixed on a wheel or disc that goes into a hand drill powered by a generator. As you may guess, I’m not very mechanical. After a bird is dipped, it gets a defeathering that wipes the birds feathers clean off in no time flat. Amazing how creative people get to save time and work.
    How many chickens does a person need to be able to can enough for meat and broth to feed two or three people for a winter? Just curious.

  11. Thank you! Tim. Appreciate your family.

  12. Well Zach, i saw an idea that folks said worked although i have not tried it yet. It is a wheel with strips of rubber coming out of it, and a rod to fit into your drill, and it supopose to take all the feathers off..may be worth looking into. One day me and the children gonna have to come up and sit around the campfire and talk lshop [Torah] ..Your Brother in Texas

  13. The cook in me says to pluck. The chicken fat is so good for us! The worker in me says to skin. I can just imagine how much time it saves. Is there a good use for the chicken skin? I hate for anything to go to waste.

  14. Don’t count out the nutritional value of the skin. Our culture tends to not eat, or cook stews with, whole animals including connective tissues, hooves, bones, claws, etc. and thus lose out on a treasure trove of health benefits. Chicken skin is an easy way to get that natural gelatin and omega 3s into your diet. If you do skin, at least use it to make a broth or something!

  15. I’ve been BBQing a lot. Slow roasting a chicken makes the skin tough, the fat & collagen rendered out. I eat it anyway, though very chewy. What’s great are stews. Quick baked chicken will have tasty skin, but it is an unappetizing softness in a stew. Slow-roasted chicken skin, very thin with all that’s rendered in the pan, is a very nice consistency in a stew.

    Skin makes a great variation on the old pork rind. I first discovered it in Japan. There are restaurants dedicated to chicken. You can get crispy rendered skin, knuckles, all sorts of variations.

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