When raising poultry as a food source, and not just for eggs, the day comes sooner or later when you need to process them. If you have a large enough flock or are processing a large number it may be feasible to send them off to a licensed processor who can do them for as little as $2 a bird (possibly cheaper). Or if you have friends or family who you’ve spent the year slowly buying into your debt with eggs, and the time has come for them to pay off said debt, you can have a work day and put them to the task. Nothing brings a family together like chicken entrails.
Dispatching the birds has been discussed elsewhere, and I’ve talked about how we processed some ducks and frankly it sucked. Plucking duck sucks. But luckily we live in a golden age of technology to help us. There are companies out there that sell plucking devices, from large barrels you can toss the dead bird into (after a boiling water dip), to table top pluckers, to small ones you put into a drill. And they are priced accordingly. And in this age of ‘find everything and the porn version on the internet’ you can find the plans for those devices on the Web. Thankfully, this is not the porn version.
This particular entry I’m going to go through my build of the drill plucker, which should be perfectly sized for a small homesteader who wishes to pluck a few birds. I base this design of a few I found online, google ‘homemade plucker drill’ if you don’t like what I’m saying.
The idea behind it is simple, you have a spinning drum with soft yet gripping rubber fingers. The bird, having been dipped in hot water, has feathers that will come out easily, and so the rubber fingers will grab the feathers far easier than yours and pluck them without you spending your entire morning doing so. And often times do a far better job getting pin feathers and those small annoying ones that cause you to question why you don’t just skin the frelling buggers.
The design varies online, but I used two 4 inch PVC caps joined with a carriage bolt. Since I used what I had laying around, they didn’t match (one is rounded the other is flat) but that isn’t the end of the world. I started by drilling a hole in the middle of each of the caps large enough for the carriage bolt to pass through. How far you want the plucker to extend away from your drill is your preference, but it will come in to play later on. There is an 8 inch bolt in this with washer and lock washer on the flat side, if memory serves. I bolted it together to get a feel for the size and then with a sharpie marked out 16 holes on the plucker, rows of 2, alternating. Basically each cap had a set of holes about a half inch in from either the left or the right. So that’s 4 rows of holes, A B A B. So if I looked at the cap from the end the A holes were at the main compass points, and then the B holes were just 45 degrees off of them. You can see the marks better in the photo, cause words are hard. The holes are then drilled with a small bit
With the holes drilled, I went back and made them a bit larger, 3/8” I think. I really need to write this stuff down… The hole was just big enough to feed the finger but small enough that it didn’t fall back through it into the inside easily.
The ends are taken apart and it’s time to make the fingers. My dad has a weakness for those crappy rubber bungees, you know the ones, the black solid rubber ones with the metal hooks. The ones you see on the side of every major highway in the country. He goes back and picks them up, tries to reuse them. “It’s still good”. Well, they aren’t always, except in this case. I snagged a few of his collection to cut the fingers out of. They are an ideal choice as they are soft and flexible, and easy to find if you need make replacements. You can get them from your local home center, or perhaps find them on the side of the road on the way to your local home center. I cut 5 inch pieces out of the rubber.
Then on my 5 inch pieces I made marks with a white charcoal pencil. Yea it sounds fancy, chalk will work too, cause pencil just wasn’t showing up. One of those silver sharpies could do the job too. I made marks at a half inch from each end and then a center line. Why does that line go all the way across the width of the piece? cause you’ll need a lot of these things and it was easier to mark the ends on two, bunch them all up and use a ruler to draw some lines across them all at once. Me smart.
The caps are bolted back together and it is inserted into the drill for a test run. Please be aware that once you tighten that chuck down on the carriage bolt you will flatten those threads, so you won’t be completely disassembling this unit again, at least not easily. So make sure your carriage bolt is long enough to give you the room to separate those caps and replace any fingers that might wear out or break.
And of course a test run. Being a damned fool, I stuck my hand against this. This is no pillow fight, this bugger stings.
Pluckmaster 5000 was fired up this weekend and was only about 20% successful. I’m not sure if the drill wasn’t spinning it fast enough, if the rubber fingers needed to be soaking wet to grab better, or if they were just too soft. The feathers they did grab did go a flying. So some proper fingers are on order, i just need a willing victim to test it on…