Margret Wanjiru at one of the chicken slaughtering exercises at Muruguru village in the outskirts of Nyeri Town constituency, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

For poultry farmers, things can go wrong during the catching of these birds and slaughtering leading to downgrading and even total rejection of birds due to poor post-harvest handling.

Here are tips to maximise high yields and at the same time protect the welfare of the animals before slaughter.

Prepare adequately for the task ahead

The aim is to plan to coordinate the entire process in a manner that makes the process smooth, and seamless with minimal carcass weight losses, fewer mortalities, and minimal rejection by the buyers. Make sure you have enough crew members to catch and slaughter the birds for small-scale farmers. For large-scale farmers who deliver birds to a slaughter plant make sure the logistics are well planned and that the truck drivers and the plant are in total agreement on bird collection time and catching times.

Feed and water withdrawal

It makes no sense to feed your chickens up to the time of slaughter, since all the feed in the gut should be optimised and converted into meat prior to slaughter. That means you need to withdraw feed for at least 8-12 hours prior to slaughter while water should only be withdrawn at the time of catching the birds for slaughter. It is recommended to introduce 23 hours of light, 3 days before slaughter to calm the birds during catching. An empty gut at slaughter reduces the level of contamination of the meat which in turn improves the keeping quality of the carcass. Feed withdrawal of more than 12 hours will lead to loss of tensile strength of the intestines hence tear and rupture during evisceration at the plant. The birds will also lose an extra 0.1-0.5% of their body weight per hour, this is referred to as shrinkage, birds should not be held longer than necessary prior to slaughter. The withdrawal period, therefore, encompasses the time without feed, catching time, transportation period and the holding period at the plant before slaughter, it should not exceed 12 hours.


In an ideal situation, birds should be caught at night or lights should be dimmed to keep the birds calm during the catching process. This will significantly reduce incidences of scratching and bruises on the skin and wings. When catching, the birds should be held carefully by holding both shanks or around the body using both hands, pressing wings against the body to avoid bruises, wing damage and internal bleeding due to fractures.

Causes of scratches/bruises/blisters on the skin seen at slaughter

Many farmers delivering carcasses to hotels and restaurants have witnessed their whole birds being rejected due to scratches, bruises, and some blisters on the breast, these can be due to the following, use of poor and sometimes inadequate feeders and drinkers leading to scrambling among birds. Incorrect lighting programmes, high light intensity and poor ventilation. These can all lead to stress on birds. Poor nutrition can lead to poor feathering, weak bones, and more bruises during catching time. Wet litter causes breast blisters and hock burns due to excess ammonia in the litter. Aggressive catchers and poultry attendants are also associated with these losses.

Avoid over scalding

Using hot boiling water, the bird is completely immersed in this water to soften feathers making it easier to pluck feathers and remove any soil or organic material sticking on the skin. Plucking can be done by hand or using mechanical finger pickers available in the market. The ideal temperature is 500C- 570C and should be done within 2.5-3.5 minutes. Over temperature will cause cooking of underlying tissues and the meat will appear white and will be rejected by customers.

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