If you’ve ever plucked a chicken by hand it doesn’t take long to figure out that there has to be a better way. There are a limited number of commercially available small-scale units and their costs are prohibitive for a small producer or hobbyist. I have never been afraid of throwing money at a problem, But the easy availability of the components and the simple nature of a plucker’s design makes this a great do it yourself project.
Most of the commercially available units consist of a stainless steel tub lined with rubber picking fingers. I have seen many home built units that use plastic barrels for this part, but I wanted something a bit stronger.
I was raised in New Orleans Louisiana, so the first thing that came to mind for this was a crawfish boiling pot. Here in the south, boiling pots are available from just about every hardware store. I decided on a 160 quart aluminum pot. At a little over $325.00, this was the single most expensive component of the project.
Aluminum can be cut, bored and shaped with standard wood working tools. The trick is to feed slowly, use carbide tipped cutters and take light cuts. However, the chips produced are extremely sharp and very hot when first cut. I made sure to wear long sleeves and enclosed safety glasses.
The Feather Plate
I made the feather plate from the bottom of my pot. With a small trim router, I used a 1/2″ straight carbide bit with a collar to ride a plywood template. The template was undersized 2″ smaller than the interior diameter of the pot. This leaves a 1″ space around the perimeter for evacuation of the feathers during the removal process. I also drilled a small hole in the center of the pot and the template. This allowed me to secure the template to the pot and provided a reference point when attaching the drive shaft. Once the disk was cut from the pot. I drilled the holes in this plate to receive the plucking fingers.
The above Picture shows the completed plate. Notice the center hole. This hole really helps when mounting the shaft. While the shaft doesn’t have to be perfectly centered, it needs to be close to avoid excessive wobbling.
Above you can see the drill bit boring the four mounting holes for the shaft plate. I used the center hole to locate the plate while boring. The drive shaft is welded to this plate.
With the feather plate complete, I focused my attention on drilling the outer body for the rubber fingers.
Over 110 rubber fingers later and a very large blister on my finger (OUCH!!) the machining of the main body is complete.
Power transmission comes from an 18″ pulley and a 1/3 H.P. motor I had laying around.
I had intended to build a wheeled frame out of metal that functioned like a hand truck, but with chickens to process I ran out of design time. I hope to upgrade in the future. As a compromise, I made a wood frame from some red oak that I harvested from our property.
25 chickens later, I can honestly say this project was a success. With proper scalding, I can pluck two large chickens in under 60 seconds. Yes, there was a better way!