Once we started raising a lot of our own meat chickens, it quickly became clear that plucking was the most time-consuming part of the operation. Luckily, there are several ways to make your own mechanical plucker and expedite processing day.
The Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker is the best know, for a good reason — it works like a charm. You simply toss one large or two small birds in the moving drum and the feathers come off as the birds bounce around inside. The good news is that plans are available for under
$20. The bad news is that you’re either going to spend a long time scrounging for used parts or spend about $600 buying the parts new. As a result, I think the Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker is only appropriate for folks starting a pastured broiler business, plucking hundreds or thousands of chickens every year.
The next most expensive option is the Markham Plucker, the plans for which are found in Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre ($11.53 on Amazon.) A motor turns a belt that rotates a piece of PVC pipe covered with chicken plucker fingers. You hold the chicken against the fingers, rotating the bird as necessary to remove all of the feathers. I haven’t used or made a Markham Plucker, but my guesstimate is that the plucker could be built using new parts for less than $200. I’d be curious to hear a first hand account from someone who’s made and used a Markham Plucker — does it get the wing and tail feathers? How well does the machine pluck?
The cheapest DIY option I’ve seen is the drill-head plucker. Simply cut up some old bungee cords, install them in a short section of PVC pipe, and hook
that onto a drill. The price tag (assuming you already have a drill) is around $20. The plucker operates pretty much like the Markham Plucker and reports on its efficiency vary.
Mark is currently experimenting with a washboard-style chicken plucker. The idea is simple — he installed chicken plucker fingers in the sides and bottom of a U of plywood (cost — $20 to $30). You hand-pluck the difficult wing and tail feathers, then pull the bird through the plucker a few times, rotating it after each pass. I was astonished at the efficacy of version 1.0 (even though Mark thought it needed more work.) Sure, I had to pluck the feathers around the neck and between the legs after the plucker was done, but I estimate the washboard plucker saved me about 10 minutes per bird — and it doesn’t require electricity! I’ll keep you posted once Mark comes up with version 2.0.
Do you have an even better way to pluck your chickens?