How to Build a Chicken Plucker

Back in the game! I apologize for the break but I just could not keep up with everything. The pig roast went well and I will share pictures soon. I never did catch up on reading other blogs but hope to in the near future. The following post is written by Maine Man.
I’ll start by saying thank you to Angie & Eric over at Children in the Corn for giving us plans to build this project! I had been looking at the whiz-bang chicken plucker on the Internet for a couple of years but I probably would not have carried through without the plans.
The plucker fingers came from Kent Company which is based out of Florida. They were very helpful and friendly folks. These silly little pieces of rubber were one of the most expensive items in the project costing approximately $120 with shipping. Most of the other parts I had with exception to the lumber, screws, and coupling.
Prior to installing 120 plucker fingers you should first drop a brick on your toe while listening to some very loud aggressive music. Anger will make these buggers go in a bit easier. Beveling the outside of the 3/4 inch hole and standing inside the barrel while pulling inward is also a big help. Some liquid encouragement may be needed for this portion of the project. Take note of the redness and veins in my forehead.

I lag screwed the frame together and sealed all the wood with some leftover stain I had kicking around the shed. When I first saw this contraption I thought the tub spun like a washing machine but that is not the case, it is just there to contain the birds.

This is the feather plate, the part that performs the actual plucking process. The plan called for a 1/4 inch plate of aluminum which was rather costly to purchase. Instead I opted to build it from the bottom portion of the barrel and 3/4 inch plywood. I attached them together with #14 self taping screws. It made a rock solid inexpensive plate.

Rather than use a belt and pulley system as the plan calls for I used the auger blade gearbox from an old snow blower that was in the barn. It was a 10:1 ratio which worked perfect with an electric motor that turns 1725 rpm and giving me a speed of around 175 rpm on my feather plate. The bearing block you see on the picture above is an idler wheel off a snowmobile suspension. I installed a jack shaft bearing, the type with a locking ring. That part was from a snowmobile as well. You know you live in Maine when half of your Yankee ingenuity involves some sort of snow related items. Despite this confabulation of parts its construction is far stronger that it needs to be and I am certain it will last for years, perhaps a lifetime.

This is a love joy coupling. It worked great for attaching the electric motor to the transmission. On the first try I weld up a rigid coupling. I had alignment issues which caused quite a bit of vibration. The love joy has a rubber connector in the middle which is tolerant of misalignment and only cost $22.
I had a 1/3 hp motor in the shed off an old bench grinder. Once again I deviated from the plans which called for a 3/4 hp. I knew as soon as I spent $200 on a new one a free-be would appear. As luck would have it my father-in-law was given one by his neighbor. I’ve yet to install it but must say the 1/3 hp did an excellent job on the average size birds and also worked on the 10lb birds but would bind up on occasions.

The one thing I need to add is a splash guard around the feather plate outlet to keep the chicken soup off your legs and out of your boots. Spraying the bird with the garden hose as it is being plucked keeps the fingers free of feathers and speeds up the process. The process is so amazing, you never realize your boots are filling with chicken juice until you turn off the plucker.

On the left side there is a plastic tote that I modified to keep the electric motor clean and dry.

Looks like fun, who’s next?

The finished product 30 seconds later. Bald is beautiful, especially when it comes to chickens. This one dislocated a wing shortly after it became separated from its head. This has been an ongoing problem for me. I have found completely restraining the bird helps keep the muscle spasms from breaking wings but it’s not always 100% effective in treating separation anxiety. I’ve yet to try the killing cone method. Perhaps on the next batch of birds I will.

You must have a thermometer or the whiz bang plucker will make a mess of your birds very quickly. The picture below clearly shows what guess work will get you, boneless chicken every time.
Scald your birds for approximately 30 seconds @ 13o degrees. You’ll notice the color of the shin which is normally a yellowish white color will develop a tanish appearance at which point is prime for plucking.

Oops, too hot! Better get out the knife and start boning.

I caught, killed, and plucked seventeen 8-10lb birds in just 40 minutes by myself, not too shabby. It cost about $200 to build. Without my extreme frugalness it would have cost closer to $400. That still is not bad considering similar factory built models start around $1200. I figure we will save a bundle in the long run. Our local butcher charges $3/chicken, $5/turkey and $7 or more for ducks and geese. Plus you have to make an appointment 3 weeks in advance. (don’t I hate those long term commitments) Heaven forbid life goes astray and you have to reschedule. That will put you have 3 more weeks…..200 lbs of grain later.
By summers end we will have raised approximately 24 ducks, 80 chickens, and 5 turkeys for the freezer. This means it has more than paid for itself in the first year of use. More importantly than the money it has given us easy access to high quality food and a greater feeling on Independence which is priceless!