I've used a number of chicken plucker machines in my life, but none has been as efficient as the Featherman Pro chicken plucker. With the help of a chicken plucker, the toughest part of processing your own broilers (other than perhaps killing the birds) is a breeze. Last weekend, with the help of a few friends and a few pieces of equipment from Featherman, including the Featherman Pro chicken plucker, we managed to process more than 40 broilers from kill to chill in less than two and a half hours. If you are turned off by the thought of raising your own meat birds because you so dislike the prospect of hand plucking your birds, it's definitely time to rethink.
The first step in the process involved placing the birds in to the Featherman cones and stand for a quick and humane kill and bleed out. Once the birds are fully bled, they are ready for the scalder and chicken plucker.
The Featherman Scalder, with its 70,000 BTU propane-fired burner, makes it easy to scald four big broilers at the same time. The 40 gallons of water has sufficient thermal mass that the temperature varies only slightly from scald cycle to scald cycle. If in doubt about the length of scald, pluck a few thigh feathers by hand after 15 seconds of swirling in the scalder. Once the birds are scalded, it's off to the chicken plucker.
The Featherman Pro chicken plucker consists of a fixed drum lined with feather-grabbing fingers and a rotating platen. The platen is also lined with plucking fingers and causes the birds to be tumbled and plucked. Thanks to the hose fittings and sprayers, the feathers are rinsed out of the chicken plucker as fast as they are plucked and deposited in a neat pile on the ground.
After about 20 seconds in the Featherman Pro chicken plucker, we had completely clean birds ready for evisceration.
Processing your own chicken at home is the ultimate in keeping tabs on food safety and knowing just where and how your birds were raised and treated. The entire activity goes easier with a few good friends and if you are processing a large number of birds at one time, I recommend that you find some high-quality tools to help.
Today I received word from a couple of folks that have already roasted one of the birds. "Out of this world" and "delicious" were used to describe the birds. Perhaps it's time for you to take the broiler chicken plunge. I know you won't regret it.
Photos Courtesy: Karen Keb
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.