If you’ve ever processed a bird at home, I’m sure you agree: the de-feathering process can be time-consuming, messy pain in the ass.
Even though at time of writing, I’ve processed a relatively small number of birds, I still cringe at the thought of plucking one more chicken by hand. Or, almost as bad, having to clean up the feather storm from our “Power Plucker” drill attachment (picture here). If you’ve ever processed a bird at home, I’m sure you agree: the de-feathering process can be time-consuming, messy pain in the ass. I knew that if we were going to put a meaningful amount of meat in the freezer this year, I would have to either (1) come to terms with the suck, or (2) find a better solution.
As luck would have it, or because of well-targeted marketing, I landed on Herrick Kimball’s Planet Whizbang website. Herrick self-publishes, and runs an online store for “products and information that will inspire, teach and enable you to live a more satisfying and self-sufficient lifestyle”. One of these inventions is a tub-style mechanical poultry plucker that you can build at home. It’s essentially a plastic barrel lined with rubber fingers, and a rotating (also finger-y) plate at the bottom. Scalded chicken goes in while the plate is rotating, gets tossed about and all of the feathers come off. The whole bird is stripped bare in a matter of seconds, ready for evisceration. Watch any one of these videos and you’ll get the idea.
For specific plucker pieces, Herrick sells parts on his website. However, I found an eBay seller who puts together kits like this one, with just about everything (except the motor) for a fair price, so I went with that — I am very glad I did. The majority of the construction for this is very straight forward, but there were some things I wasn’t quite sure where to buy (such as specific-sized pulleys), or parts I wasn’t quite sure I could fabricate (the aluminum plate and driveshaft) so buying the kit was a happy medium. Sure, it could have been done for a couple bucks cheaper, but this was meant to save time and reduce headache. I’d say it was worth the extra investment.
Copying some clever YouTube videos, I also made a few ‘improvements’ as well. I attached the bottom of the barrel (which had already been cut off and came extra with the kit) at an angle and cut a hole in the side to direct water away from the motor, and feathers into a bucket for collection. I also attached wheels, and used some equipment hangers for handles, to make moving the plucker in and out of storage easier. Spraying water while the machine is operating washes feathers away and helps things work, so we’ve also attached a hose-fed ring inside the tub that provides a consistent even spray. Last, to protect the legs of the plucker, I gave it metal shoes (bolted metal washers to the bottom of each leg). Now it’s even easier to use, and should last for years.
When all was said and done, everything needed was purchased new and cost me about $500. That’s a pretty hefty price, for someone who is not raising chickens to sell commercially – but – this is roughly half the cost of what similar commercially-available pluckers sell for. We’re planning a few batches of chickens a year for our family, plus we wanted to do a few extra turkeys, so this will save hours of picking feathers.
Our results with it…
It really works – and fast! A single chicken can be completely plucked in about 15 seconds. If anything, I’d say it plucks too hard, sometimes ripping or tearing the skin. I’ve found that removing the feet and shanks (which we freeze as dog treats!), and head before putting the bird in the plucker makes for a smoother operation. There is a small gap between the aluminum plate and wall of the barrel where those things can get caught, and the powerful motor has no problem tearing skin or ripping off the stuck appendage once thats happened. Also, scalding the bird correctly, before plucking, makes a big difference. We heat the water to just under 150°, and fully submerge the bird several times for 3-5 seconds, swishing around to get water under all feathers. All in all, this has made a wonderful addition to our homestead and I shudder to imagine processing day without it.