I keep some chickens, mostly for eggs, but I do like eating them on occasion. What I don’t like is plucking them, which is why I keep chickens mostly for eggs.
By now you are probably aware of my penchant for performing internet searches for solutions to my problems (either perceived of actual), so I was not surprised when I found out that somebody has figured out a way to mechanically pluck chickens. What surprised me was HOW MANY people figured out how to mechanically pluck chickens.
This meant I had to figure out how to build a chicken plucker.
Basics of All Chicken Pluckers
They all follow the same basic idea. After dispatching the bird (be it chicken, duck, turkey, etc) you scald it for approximately 30 seconds by dunking it in 138-140°F water. This loosens the feathers for easy removal. The feathers are then raked off the bird by the use of rubber fingers. Commercial type fingers cost around $1 each, but there are designs available that use strips of black rubber tie down straps. After the plucking process you then butcher the chicken as desired.
According to my research there are two main designs. The first and most documented is the tub style plucker. Credit for the DIY design is generally given to Herrick Kimball author of the Whizbang books. This is the larger and more complicated design and is best suited for farms that butcher more chickens. This design can accommodate more than one bird at a time.
The second design is much simpler and easier to build. The basis of this is an electric drill. I am not quite as sure who the originator of the idea is. You can read a more detailed post at the living the frugal live blog. The drill design is much cheaper in the short term, but I have read that it tends to wear out the bearings in the drill due to the side loading caused by the weight of the bird. It also only plucks one bird at a time.
Being a tinkerer, I would not be satisfied by following either design without some modification. I just took what I could and came up with my own plucker.
Building My DIY Chicken Plucker
Basically I took a section of 4 inch pipe and drilled 24 holes (6 rows of 4) for the plucker fingers.
I drilled out the centers of two pipe caps and fixed a shaft to one cap. Next I installed the pipe section. Then I ran the shaft out the end of the last cap. This creates the roller portion of the plucker.
I then build a stand about 18 inches square and 4 ft tall. At the top I affixed two wings to hold bearings for the roller shaft to ride on. I attached a pulley to one end of the shaft. This pulley is connected to an 115 volt AC motor that is bolted to the stand.
When the power is switched on, the motor causes the roller to pluck the feathers right off a scalded bird. It only takes a couple minutes to fully pluck a chicken using this device rather than the 15 minutes it takes me to do this by hand.
I do need to mention two things. This project involves motors, belts, electricity and water, so be careful. Secondly stand so that the plucker rotates away from you (the fingers on the bottom of the roller move toward you, then away from you at the top of the rotation). This way when you lower the chicken against the plucker it will want to be pushed away from you rather than be pulled toward you