Cleaning Chicken Feet

We started processing our chickens this week. I say started because we didn’t finish. Once we get the other half completed, I will update you on the stats. But for now, I want to talk about cleaning chicken feet.

How to Clean Chicken Feet | Everything Home with Carol

Chicken feet–ready to peel.

One of the reasons I look so forward to butchering chickens is having healthy stock on hand. But the stock is only as healthy as what you put into it. Adding the chicken’s feet is something you do not want to leave out.

When I first heard this, I was totally grossed out. I mean I raise these birds. I watch them. I know where those little feet have been! And it ain’t pretty. So you can bet that before any of those feet go into my stock pot, they are getting a good scrubbing. And peeling!

The first thing that we do is when the hubby is scalding the bird to remove the feathers, he also dips the dirty feet into the hot water and gives them a good swishing to get most of the muck off. So, what he brings into the house is what you see in this picture. Not too bad, huh?

Next, I scrub the feet real well with a small scrub brush in some vinegar water. Make sure to separate the toes and get into the folds of skin.

The final step is the peeling. I think this is so cool. I didn’t know about this until my friend Karen explained it to me. Now I’m not so grossed out. I heat some water to about 150 degrees and put the feet, a few at a time, in it. After a minute or two, the thick, yellow, scaly skin peels right off. Like a glove! Nails and all. Sometimes the nails are a little stubborn and you have to pop them off separately. If you leave them in the water too long, they are harder to peel. That is why I only put in a few at a time.

Now I know that nothing that scratched around in my compost, or the goat doodoo, or any other disgusting thing out there, is left to go into my stock. Only the wonderful nutrients that God designed.

What about you? Ever peel chicken feet? Tell us about it.


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Cleaning Chicken Feet — 47 Comments

  1. oh my, I don’t know that I could use the feet. My family would really freak out! There is just something about them that are…strange.?

    • You’re right, Monica. They are strange. But so healthy and they make a really rich broth.

  2. I have never done this (I don’t even like to butcher my own chickens), but I was raised by my German Grandmother, and she used to ‘pull the socks off’ the chicken feet! She loved to nibble on them, after they were cooked ~ (she enjoyed pickled pigs feet, too!)I’m kinda glad that gene didn’t get passed down! :>

    • I don’t like to butcher my chickens, either. In fact, that’s work for the men-folk. They do everything and bring them to me like they came from the store. Well…practically…I do still have to pull out quite a few little feathers.

  3. LOL! I know what you mean! The first time I used chicken feet in soup was too funny. I let them cook down to practically nothing. All the joints were apart and the nails had fallen off. Our daughter pulled something out from between her teeth and asked, “what’s this?!” I took one look and knew it was a chicken toe nail….and I just smiled and said, “I don’t know”. She’s 27 and I just told her that story the other day when I was cleaning chicken feet. She almost gagged!

    • I think I would have gagged, too. Welcome, Diane, to Everything Home. Glad to have you.

  4. I’ve actually done that–growing up on my parents homestead–we would peel the feet and put them in soup like you are describing!

    Thanks for stoping by my blog.

  5. I’m not sure if my mom used chicken feet, but I think my grandmother did. When I was a kid, I busted out of my awkward shy shell in the 3rd grade and took a chicken claw to school for show and tell. I showed them how you could pull the ligament and make the claw stretch…this came on the heels if me taking a rooster head the day before and making it “crow” by pulling the vocal chord. Yup…I was pretty popular those two days.

    • Wow Mari, Maybe I need you to do a post on entertaining with chicken feet. It might get me a few more followers! Thanks for coming by and commenting.

  6. Nope, never have! But when my mom and dad were dating, the first meal my grandma served my mom was soup with a chicken foot in it. She was horrified, but ate the soup. Definitely great for stock, but not for presentation! hehe 🙂

  7. I have heard that it is important to include chicken feet in stock but I’m not sure I could do it! I really couldn’t peel them, that is for sure! But I bet your chicken stock is absolutely wonderful – and extra nutritious too. Thank you for sharing a post that I am sure many (much braver than I!) readers will find very useful (and which I found very interesting) with the Hearth and Soul hop.

    • Thanks for sharing, April. Believe me, I felt as you do for a long time. But once I got brave enough to try, it was much easier.

  8. Thanks for your insightful blog, I just cleaned the feet and dropped them in my soup. I don’t enjoy butchering, but hey, this is how people did it for thousands of years. Just because we are all squeamish due to our upbringing doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. It should be known, where do all the feet go to after millions of chickens are butchered each day? To China! So from one chicken, parts get to the USA, then some shipped round the world to the other side too. Globalization is so amazing. Also, you know the chicken wings about 25 years ago were sold for soup at a very cheap price That was the rise of the chicken wing fad (no longer a fad but a staple of our restaurants). The other day, I saw that chicken wings were more expensive than chicken breasts! So were we dumb back then and now smarter because we tasted them and now like them?

    But at the same time. So why do we waste this precious resource of ours, because we were spoon fed sanitary chicken nuggets in a cardboard and colorful box that has nothing to do with reality? That is the way they sell more chicken nuggets to kiddies. Well, we are adults here or of adult mindedness. I for one thought it odd, but I just got to do what my grandparents did in Europe on a daily basis and I thank you for showing me how.


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  10. My great-grama Helen made chicken soup several times a week her entire 95 years With feet. I loved them, & didnt realize this was an ‘old world’ thang until I was on my own (at 16) living in Hell’s Kitchen, one of the last immigrant bastions at the time in Manhattan, & could find chicken feet anywhere. The Spanish-speaking Italian grocers , to order from i learned Spanish, thought I was freaky asking for feet! haha. How things turn full spiral. Circle are a closed loop, spirals bring us back to using all the Goodness we are given, conscious of the Connection us & our food. Namaste & bwawk bwawk, y’all

  11. I scald the feet then I scald the chicken. I put the feet on the plucker and I am normally able to peel almost everything off without even touching the feet. When I butcher my old gals (after they are done laying eggs) I will tuck the feet inside the body cavity with the heart, liver and gizzard. This makes it easy to make broth!

  12. So I take it you discard the skin that you remove from the feet and only put the bones in? I got some today and am trying it for the first time. I am so glad the woman I bought them from told me to wash them, or I would have just popped them into the stock “as is” – EWWWWW!!!! 😉

    • Hi Holly,
      What peels off is a very thin covering. The bones have flesh on them underneath so more than bones go in the pot. Let me know how it goes!

  13. How interesting! Really it is and yes it sorta grossed me out like my Granny scrambling the chicken brains for breakfast!

    My father-n-law taught me to use bones cooking them down in a pressure cooker to use in stock….he taught me how…that doesn’t mean I did it. But I tell you what he was one of the best cooks I ever met.

    Great blog I’m marking it to read every chance I get. 🙂

  14. I was just at a friends farm, we killed and defeathered 6 big roosters – he was going to throw the feet away and I told him I wanted to try them in my broth – I don’t remember that Mom ever did that but I know it’s supposed to give you that really healthy gelatin so I’m going to do it. Thanks for the info on cleaning them – very helpful

  15. Thanks for the foot cleaning instructions!

    I started with chickens this Spring- got 24 straight run silver grey dorkings, so a lot of extra roosters came with my chicks.

    Slaughtered the culls today (6 smaller or imperfect cockerels, about 5-6 lb. in weight). I don’t want to waste anything, so the feet, necks, hearts and (cleaned) gizzards are simmering in a stock pot right now along with onion trimmings, home grown thyme, sage, rosemary and a couple of carrots.

    On Christmas, several of my chickens will be coming to dinner-

  16. Well, glad to come accross this post – I assisted some homesteading friends in butchering some roosters last weekend (it was a GREAT time! Must simpler than I thought, esp utilizing the killing cones). Well, they were going to discard the feet so I asked for them (having read wellness mama’s recipe for chicken stock & Carla Emery’s Country living book on homemade jelly – I was intrigued). Well, the feet are kinda gross but I was willing to try anyway – so glad to come accross this post!!

  17. I wished I come across this info a couple of weeks ago. We just butchered 4 large roosters & canned the meat, made stock & put the legs in a trap, but did not know anything about using the feet. Still have 6 chickens left to can & this time am going to use the feet in the broth. That should be a hoot when the yuppie city grandkids see it!

  18. Thank you for finally talking about chicken feet!!! Wish I saw this post 2 summers ago! We processed for the first time, and on advice from some old-timer friends of ours, we did keep and process the feet…
    It went much better this past summer. My hubby cleaned and peeled them for me, and we cooked them at a gentle simmer for about 2 hours in lightly salted water. The resulting jellied broth, we pressure canned. Now I add a pint to each batch of chicken soup. It contains an amazing amount of mineral supplements and has a really nice rich, chicken-y flavor. Don’t be afraid of the feet! They really rock! Thanks again, best wishes, ~Amanda

  19. I’ve never added the feet to stock yet, for the same reason – I know where they’ve been! Though I’ve felt guilty about wasting them, I haven’t wanted to clean them. And we just skin the chickens, rather than plucking, so I don’t have hot water ready to go anyway. I certainly didn’t know about the peeling part. Thanks for the info. Maybe this year I’ll finally do it!

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  21. A friend gave us chicken feet. She is new at raising chickens. We got the feet but we also got 8 to 12 inches above the ankle, so part of the calf. Can you use that part of the chicken for chicken soup or chicken feet or should we cut the leg an inch or two above the ankle.

    Thank you for any advise you can share. We hope to cook the chicken feet this weekend.

    Many thanks,


  22. Dear Carol
    Thanks for your site. I looked at a few and yours is the most informative.

    A friend started raising chickens. We got delicious chicken livers from her with her first group of chickens and now on her second group of chickens we asked if we could have some chicken feet. Our grandparents used to make chicken soup with the chicken feet. So our friend gave us some chicken feet but gave
    us part of the calf of the leg, about 8 to 12 inches above the ankles. We plan to make chicken soup and also a dim sum style chicken feet recipe!! Our question is…can we boil and eat the calf of the leg or should we cut off the leg one or two inches from the ankle??

    Please give us some advise when you can. We plan to cook up the chicken feet on Saturday.

    Thank you, Bruce

  23. Thanks in advance for any information you can share with us. My mouth is watering just thinking of those chicken feet, soup and all.

    • Sorry that it took me all day to respond, Bruce. Here is what I would do. The “feet” of the chicken is what you see in the picture. If that is what she gave you, it is all peel-able and definitely should be used. If you do have more attached, then that would be the drumstick and you can dis-attach at the joint and have fried chicken tonight or you can just put it all in the stock pot and pick the meat off to add to your stock. (Just make sure to pluck off feathers and peel the feet part as described.) The choice is yours. Let me know what you do. I’m curious.

      • Hi Carol,

        Thanks for your reply. We plan to make the chicken feet on Saturday so will let you know how things come out…plan to make some “nice” soup as my Mother would say and then try and make some dim sum style chicken feet. We found two recipes on the computer.

        Thanks again,

        Have a good weekend.


  24. Hi Carol,

    We rubbed the chicken feet with salt to clean them and then rinsed them well. We cut off the toe nails and then put them in a pot with carrots, celery and onions and cooked for 90 minutes. We skinned a few feet but decided to leave the chicken skin on, remembering how our Grand mother cooked chicken feet. She only had two or four feet. We had 24 feet.

    The chicken soup was delicious. When it cooled in the pot it was pure gel throughout the whole pot. Fasinating. We had read that the soup was full of colligen and elastin…good for your joints and arthritis…what a nice flavor.

    The next day we made a dim sum style sauce with the chicken feet…soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, hot pepper, wine, and star anise…mmm… My brother and I enjoyed them. Mum and a neighbor Jan, gave a taste but two others were “too chicken” to try the delicious chicken feet.

    So we had a good experience with preparing the chicken feet. Nice to know that parts of the chicken that most don’t eat nowadays but was prepared by our Grandmother is still very good today. So do give it a try if you have a chance to get chicken feet.

    Thanks again for your advise

    Many thanks,


  25. hey Carol

    Just wondering. It seems if you scrub with water vinegar solution that feet would be pretty clean and not need skin peeled. I don’t want an easy way out if the feet need to be peeled so please provide some clarification on that. Also is 150 degrees a simmer or or not even that? Thanks.

    • Well, Norm, if you feel comfortable eating the chicken feet without peeling them, go right ahead. But I should tell you that peel is kind of like the shell on a steamed shrimp only softer. The water should just start to be sending tiny bubbles up to the surface. No hotter.

      • I am going to peel when I buy them from a farmer this summer. I did buy some at a butcher who ordered them from me. They looked clean with pink nails s I assume they are pealed. The butcher says he uses the way they are so I will do same for these but peel the ones I get this summer.

  26. This was great. I have bought chicken feet in the stores (international markets) and have made broth out of them. It came out so amazing. Beautiful clear broth (just like store bought) and so healthy. The first time I had it was when I felt the flu coming on as a co-worker had gone home with the flu. He went to the Dr. 4 prescriptions and was out sick 1/2 of Thursday, Friday, 3 day weekend and Tuesday. Came back to work and wasn’t well, 7 days later our boss told him he should ask for me for some of my soup since when I felt the flu coming on the Friday he was out I started on my feet broth and hot baths with Epson salts and vinegar. I was back to work on the Tuesday he was still off and totally over the flu. Yes, it was the flu. Fever and chills and body aches. I was blown away how well it works for health. Yesterday we processed our first birds. 14 week old roosters. the feet will be made into this years broth.

  27. I am having my first chicken feet stripping experience right now. I am wondering if it should take an exceptionally long time to get the yellow skin off? Toenails popping right off but is there a trick in getting the rest off? I have been kind of scratching it with my thumb nail to pick off. I tried putting them in hot water longer that seemed to make it worse.

    • You either have the feet in the water too long, or not long enough. It’s a trial and error kind of thing until you get the hand of it.