How does a Chicken Plucker Work?

As I was growing up, I never saw chicken being scalded. Never witnessed chicken being plucked using mechanical pluckers. 

My grandmother, together with my mother would hold the chicken, and pluck it very fast before it lost its body heat. As long as the chicken was warm, the feathers would come out with little resistance. If one was slow, they would need to boil water in a cauldron and insert the chicken, in order to scald it and loosen the feathers. My mum dislikes scalding chickens in hot water. She says the taste was not the same as a “naturally” plucked chicken. I can not tell the difference.  

I still do pluck chicken by hand and without scalding when I am processing one or two chickens. However, when I am processing many chickens, I use a scalder and plucker to make the work easier and less tiring. I do not have to rush, competing with the speed the chicken’s carcass loses heat. 

What is a chicken plucker

Back in the 1930s, a chicken plucker was a person who used to be paid to remove feathers from a chicken. 

In modern times, a chicken plucker is a mechanical device, that is automated or semi-automated, whose sole purpose is to remove feathers from a chicken, duck, turkey, quail, or any other feathered bird that is being processed for its meat. 

The purpose of removing the feathers is to make it easier for the processed bird to be used as meat.  You do not want to eat a chicken with its feathers. 

Types of chicken pluckers

There are two common types of mechanical chicken pluckers. There are tub-style chicken pluckers and drill attached chicken pluckers. 

Tub style Automated chicken plucker

A tub-style chicken plucker is a mechanical chicken plucker that is powered by a motor. It has a cylindrical tub where the butchered chickens are placed, after scalding.

It comes with rubber attachments, known as fingers. Some tub-style chicken pluckers provide a way of attaching a water hose. The water is used to wash down fathers as they are plucked from the chicken bodies.

If the plucker does not have a water hose connector, you will have to manually spray water into the tub as the chickens are being de-feathered. 

Drill attached chicken plucker

A drill attached chicken plucker as the name suggests is a plucker attachment that is powered by a drill. It is connected to a drill and runs over a chicken’s body during plucking. As the drill rotates, it rotates against the chicken’s body, plucking the feathers. 

Benefits of using a chicken plucker

  • Cuts down on processing time.

Mechanical chicken pluckers reduce the time taken to process chicken. It is estimated that tub style pluckers take about 30 seconds to pluck one chicken. This is quite fast.  When plucking chickens by hand , you can take between 5 minutes to half an hour per bird, depending on your skill level. Experts estimate that use if mechanical chicken plucker cut the entire processing time by half

  • Leaves a cleaner pluck as compared to hand plucking. 

If the chickens are well scalded, mechanical chicken pluckers will pluck all the feathers from the chicken. It is hard to get all feathers off a chicken by hand. 

  • Makes it possible to process many birds at once. 

With mechanical chicken pluckers, it is possible to process many birds in a single day, since the time and energy used for plucking is less compared to hand plucking.

How do chicken pluckers work

Chicken pluckers work by using gentle mechanical friction against the chicken’s body in order to remove feathers. 

This gentle action is made possible by the protruding pointed rubber attachments known as rubber fingers. These are the ones that are in direct contact with the chicken’s body during rotation. 

The rotation is managed by a mortar for tub-style chicken pluckers and a drill for drill-attached chicken pluckers. Water jets are sprayed into the tub throughout the plucking process in order to wash down feathers from the chicken’s body. 

At the end of the pluck, you should have clean plucked chickens with no bruises on their skin, if you use the chicken plucker well.

Components of an automatic chicken plucker 

  • Tub

The tub for a chicken plucker is a cylindrical round container made of stainless steel or aluminum. On the inside, it has holes, where you can attach the rubber chicken fingers. When the feather plate rotates, the chicken is thrown around the tub bringing it into contact with the rubber fingers. 

  • Feather Plate for Chicken Plucker

The feather plate for a chicken plucker sits at the bottom of the tub. It rotates once the motor is powered up. Rubber fingers are attached to the feather plate, to aid in the plucking operation as the feather plate rotates. 

  • Feather Pan

The feather is a small cylindrical container that sits below the feather plate. Its work is to collect feathers from the chicken plucker tub, as they are washed away by the water coming from the irrigation ring or handheld watering hose. 

  • Feather Chute

The purpose of the feather chute is to empty the feathers from the feather pan. 

  • Motor

The motor for an automated chicken plucker is responsible for the rotation of the feather plate. Motors for chicken pluckers run at a recommended rotational speed of 150rpm to 300rpm. The motor runs at 1.5 HP. 

  • Rubber Chicken Fingers

Rubber fingers are rubber attachments that come into contact with the body of the chickens, as the motor rotates. They are attached to the feather plate and the inner walls of the tub.

Rubber fingers for automated chicken pluckers usually wear out with use. They need to be inspected for wear and tear and replaced accordingly.  

  • Irrigation Ring

Some automated chicken pluckers, such as the yardbird chicken plucker come with an irrigation ring. This is a pipe, with holes that sit on the inner top of the tub. 

The work of the irrigation ring is to spray down water into the tub, washing away plucked feathers into the feather pub. The water exits the tub through the feather chute. 

The advantage of having a plucker that has a feather chute is that it leaves your hands free to do other tasks as the tub rotates. If your tub does not have an irrigation ring, you will need to engage one hand in holding a water hose, spraying water into the tub. 

Where to buy a chicken plucker

If you are looking to start raising your own backyard chickens with the goal of having homegrown chicken meat for your family, you may be thinking about where to buy a chicken plucker to get the job done.

When you are looking to buy a chicken plucker, you should know what to look for. You shouldn’t just go out and buy the first chicken plucker you see. You need to research your options before you buy.

It used to be that you could only buy a chicken plucker in the town hardware store. (If you were lucky, it would be near the lawnmower repair kits.) These days, you can buy one online from a variety of sources.

Some people prefer to buy a chicken plucker at a local farmer’s market or a small hardware store. This is because they can see what they are purchasing and have it tested before they take it home. Other people prefer to buy chicken pluckers from online stores like Amazon, Tractor Supply, Rural King, or the manufacturer’s online stores. For some online stores like Rural King, you can purchase online and pick up the item at your local rural king store. 

 A quick search for “chicken plucker” will bring you to a number of online stores that carry chicken pluckers, as well as a number of video tutorials on how to build your own.

How much does a chicken plucker cost

So, how much does a chicken plucker cost? There is a wide range of prices for chicken pluckers on the market, from $65 for an entry-level drill attached plucker to $800 for a top-of-the-line automated plucker. Higher-end models will be able to pluck more chickens. And, if you are looking to raise enough chickens to start a business, you will want to consider the features and price of the best chicken plucker for your particular needs.

Replacing chicken plucker fingers

From time to time, chicken plucker fingers will need to be replaced. This is because they degrade with use and time. 

When replacing chicken plucker fingers, make sure you get ones that will work with your chicken plucker. 

There are also different sizes and even different kinds of fingers, some of which are better than others. Chicken plucker fingers, for example, are designed more for larger birds, while the smaller ones are better for, you guessed it, smaller birds.

The best option will be getting chicken plucker rubber fingers from the supplier of your chicken plucker. Sometimes it is not feasible to buy chicken pluckers specific to your brand. For instance, if you have you have built your own automated chicken plucker, you will have to purchase generic chicken plucker rubber fingers available online. 

Where to buy chicken plucker fingers

Just like the chicken plucker, you can buy chicken plucker fingers at your local store or online stores like Amazon, Tractor Supply, or Rural King. 

Frequently asked questions on chicken pluckers

Do chicken pluckers bruise meat?

Chicken pluckers are not meant to bruise chicken meat or tear away the skin. Most cases of bruised chicken meat or torn chicken skin are a result of poor scalding. 

To avoid torn chicken skin during de-feathering, you will need to heat the scalding water to a temperature of 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit and dip the chicken in the water for not more than 15 seconds. 

Can you rent a chicken plucker?

You can rent a commercial-grade chicken plucker at your local feed store or hatcheries at between $50 to $150 per day. Some chicken plucker owners near you can rent out theirs at about the same rate. Check out your local directories or farmers’ markets for owners willing to rent theirs. You might be charged a refundable deposit of between $200 to $400 to cover any damages. 

I own a plucker, can I rent it out?

If you win a plucker, you can definitely rent it out to friends and neighbors. A point of note is that backyard chicken pluckers like the Yardbird Plucker are not meant to withstand heavy usage. Due to this, you might rent out to poultry keepers who are processing a small batch of birds. If you intend to start a chicken plucker rental business, you will want to check out heavy-duty pluckers, such as The Bird Nerd Poultry Man chicken pluckers that can pluck hundreds of chickens in a day.

If you are renting out, make sure you charge a refundable deposit to cover any damages. Decide on whether you will require renters to clean the pluckers before they return them. You might want to charge a fee for pluckers that are returned without having been cleaned.

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About James Polystead

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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