Handling of Live Birds and Processed Poultry


Feed is withheld from chickens for 8 to 12 hours before slaughter to reduce the amount of feed in the gut and the possibility of tearing it during processing, which would cause fecal contamination of the carcass. Withholding the feed too long will result in watery guts that leak. Remember that when you remove the feed, if feed is in litter/bedding or on the floor, they will find it, so remove them to a clean area. Turkeys may require a longer withdrawal time.


Birds are best caught at night or early in the morning when they are calm. For small producers, picking birds up individually by the sides is the best way to minimize stress and prevent injury. Poultry transport crates are ideal as a typical crate can hold about 8 birds in the summer and 10 in the winter, depending on their size and on the weather. The crates usually have a small opening, to help prevent escape during loading, but a small opening also increases the chance of physical injury to wings., so be careful when loading.


Avoid holding birds in crates for too long or transporting them when the weather is too hot, cold, or wet. If you have to transport in cold, wet weather, be sure to cover the birds— small producers typically cover the crates with a tarp. Once the birds reach the processing facility, it is important to keep them comfortable in the holding area. Scheduling your arrival at the plant to reduce waiting time. With two hours of travel, shrinkage or weight loss is about 1%.

Care must be taken when unloading the birds from the crates to prevent bruises and broken bones. Transport crates should be washed after each use.


Excerpted from: Small Scale Poultry Processing By Anne Fanatico

NCAT Agriculture Specialist, May 2003


Arrange for pickup of your packaged poultry so that it can be transported directly to your storage cooler or freezer – poultry not kept chilled or frozen can allow bacteria to grow and spoil your chicken or cause food poisoning.

Ensure that you know when your product will be ready for pickup and be on time. Bring clean, sanitized plastic containers, (e.g. Rubbermaid or similar) with lids, coolers or precooled freezer sufficient for your poultry. Ice (preferably flake or cube) should be used to keep poultry chilled or frozen in warm or hot weather. It is important that the interior of the transport vehicle be clean to prevent contamination of the packaged poultry.

Your processor reserves the right to not load your vehicle with the finished product if it is not equipped to transport the poultry in a safe, sanitary manner. Your birds have been processed in a provincially-inspected facility and are labeled accordingly. Use of the label on non-inspected product is illegal.


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Cariboo-Central Interior Poultry Processors Association (CCIPPA)