Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to Build a Chicken Plucker

Back in the game! I apologize for the break but I just could not keep up with everything. The pig roast went well and I will share pictures soon. I never did catch up on reading other blogs but hope to in the near future. The following post is written by Maine Man.
I'll start by saying thank you to Angie & Eric over at Children in the Corn for giving us plans to build this project! I had been looking at the whiz-bang chicken plucker on the Internet for a couple of years but I probably would not have carried through without the plans.
The plucker fingers came from Kent Company which is based out of Florida. They were very helpful and friendly folks. These silly little pieces of rubber were one of the most expensive items in the project costing approximately $120 with shipping. Most of the other parts I had with exception to the lumber, screws, and coupling.
Prior to installing 120 plucker fingers you should first drop a brick on your toe while listening to some very loud aggressive music. Anger will make these buggers go in a bit easier. Beveling the outside of the 3/4 inch hole and standing inside the barrel while pulling inward is also a big help. Some liquid encouragement may be needed for this portion of the project. Take note of the redness and veins in my forehead.

I lag screwed the frame together and sealed all the wood with some leftover stain I had kicking around the shed. When I first saw this contraption I thought the tub spun like a washing machine but that is not the case, it is just there to contain the birds.

This is the feather plate, the part that performs the actual plucking process. The plan called for a 1/4 inch plate of aluminum which was rather costly to purchase. Instead I opted to build it from the bottom portion of the barrel and 3/4 inch plywood. I attached them together with #14 self taping screws. It made a rock solid inexpensive plate.

Rather than use a belt and pulley system as the plan calls for I used the auger blade gearbox from an old snow blower that was in the barn. It was a 10:1 ratio which worked perfect with an electric motor that turns 1725 rpm and giving me a speed of around 175 rpm on my feather plate. The bearing block you see on the picture above is an idler wheel off a snowmobile suspension. I installed a jack shaft bearing, the type with a locking ring. That part was from a snowmobile as well. You know you live in Maine when half of your Yankee ingenuity involves some sort of snow related items. Despite this confabulation of parts its construction is far stronger that it needs to be and I am certain it will last for years, perhaps a lifetime.

This is a love joy coupling. It worked great for attaching the electric motor to the transmission. On the first try I weld up a rigid coupling. I had alignment issues which caused quite a bit of vibration. The love joy has a rubber connector in the middle which is tolerant of misalignment and only cost $22.
I had a 1/3 hp motor in the shed off an old bench grinder. Once again I deviated from the plans which called for a 3/4 hp. I knew as soon as I spent $200 on a new one a free-be would appear. As luck would have it my father-in-law was given one by his neighbor. I've yet to install it but must say the 1/3 hp did an excellent job on the average size birds and also worked on the 10lb birds but would bind up on occasions.

The one thing I need to add is a splash guard around the feather plate outlet to keep the chicken soup off your legs and out of your boots. Spraying the bird with the garden hose as it is being plucked keeps the fingers free of feathers and speeds up the process. The process is so amazing, you never realize your boots are filling with chicken juice until you turn off the plucker.

On the left side there is a plastic tote that I modified to keep the electric motor clean and dry.

Looks like fun, who's next?

The finished product 30 seconds later. Bald is beautiful, especially when it comes to chickens. This one dislocated a wing shortly after it became separated from its head. This has been an ongoing problem for me. I have found completely restraining the bird helps keep the muscle spasms from breaking wings but it's not always 100% effective in treating separation anxiety. I've yet to try the killing cone method. Perhaps on the next batch of birds I will.

You must have a thermometer or the whiz bang plucker will make a mess of your birds very quickly. The picture below clearly shows what guess work will get you, boneless chicken every time.
Scald your birds for approximately 30 seconds @ 13o degrees. You'll notice the color of the shin which is normally a yellowish white color will develop a tanish appearance at which point is prime for plucking.

Oops, too hot! Better get out the knife and start boning.

I caught, killed, and plucked seventeen 8-10lb birds in just 40 minutes by myself, not too shabby. It cost about $200 to build. Without my extreme frugalness it would have cost closer to $400. That still is not bad considering similar factory built models start around $1200. I figure we will save a bundle in the long run. Our local butcher charges $3/chicken, $5/turkey and $7 or more for ducks and geese. Plus you have to make an appointment 3 weeks in advance. (don't I hate those long term commitments) Heaven forbid life goes astray and you have to reschedule. That will put you have 3 more weeks.....200 lbs of grain later.
By summers end we will have raised approximately 24 ducks, 80 chickens, and 5 turkeys for the freezer. This means it has more than paid for itself in the first year of use. More importantly than the money it has given us easy access to high quality food and a greater feeling on Independence which is priceless!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blogging Vacation

Taking a brief break from posting on my blog. I will return the first week of July with a post from Maine Man on how he built the chicken plucker and a post on kids crafts with some great links to share . I will take this time to prepare for our upcoming pig roast and catching up reading some of my favorite blogs .
THANKS to all of my followers. I'll be back!
P.S. HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all you Dads!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's the simple things.....

My uncle died suddenly 14 years ago. He loved cardinals as did my Aunt. Ever since my Aunt has always looked at the cardinal symbolically. She had a beautiful picture of one etched on his gravestone and has many throughout her house. So now when I see a cardinal I always think of and remember my Uncle Ray.
He's been trying to get in the house now for 3 + weeks. I'm thinking he just wants to check out our new digs.
This week we are putting up a real cool birdhouse my dad made...pictures to follow. Hope you enjoyed my series of "It's the simple things..." The end!

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's the simple things.....

The lilacs come and go so fast but their beauty and scent make their brief appearance well worth waiting all year for. Maine Man took a trip up to my Dad's just after Mother's Day and I sent him with a vase full of lilacs for my Step Mom (& a bluberry buckle). When he returned he told me that my Dad said the lilacs reminded him of when he was a child, reminded him of his Mother. My Dad, the youngest of 5 lost his beloved Mother when he was in his early twenties. They literally had to carry him out of the funeral. I just recenlty found that out. There is just something about the relationship between a Mother and her boy. Gosh, where are my tissues?

When I am out tending the gardens and feeding the animals I am always scouting for the next bouquet of flowers. Beautiful, simple, and free....just the way I like it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It's the simple things.....

Exploring their surroundings.

Kids being kids

The kids have a cabin above the shed. It is equiped with chairs, tables, radio and they even just
put up some curtains that we acquired through the tote. It is a great place for them to get away even on a rainy and/or windy day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's the simple things.....

100 Muscovy Ducklings.....we will keep a bunch and sell the rest. They are said to be good Mommas and good at reproducing. Oh yes and I hear they are good eats. I have eaten wild duck before and I did not like. We will see!
Turkeys are getting big. We raised 4 last year and we have 5 now. I wonder if the plucker MM built will be able to handle them? In the next couple weeks I will put together the pictures of that and have Maine Man do a post on how he constructed the plucker. Thanks for the book Angie, it was a great reference for John. It came out nicely!

Over the weekend I heard a meowing under the barn and out came this friendly, starving kitty. His name is Grislo thanks to the purple tag. It also had an out of state phone number listed. Called the number, no answer, voice mail in another language. I'm thinking this is a joke, someone dropped him off. Sure enough the owner calls back. He's from 2 towns over and has been missing for a month. As Leah said "back to his righteous owner." Don't ya love happy endings?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It's the simple things.....

This is our first year of growing and tasting kale. I made a potato/kale casserole with our first harvest and second time around we cooked it up and ate it like spinach. John and I loved it and so did Leah. Gotta love her, she'll eat almost anything. Love to hear from anyone that has any favorite kale recipes to share!
Our first fruit to grow on farm that we planted. YEAH! I swore this year would be the year of the fruit and it is. We planted 30 raspberry bushes, 12 blackberry, and 4 rhubarb that were all given to us by friends. We bought and planted 24 strawberry plants and 2 kiwi bushes. Then the kids were gifted by their cousins a pear tree and some grapes. THANKS to everyone!

I finally put up a pea trellis. It would have taken Maine Man 15 minutes to build. It took me 3 hours. I am not handy by nature, it takes much effort and multiple injuries for me to complete simple tasks.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It's the simple things.....

We have worked real hard over that last few weeks getting the gardens in. Then these little buggers (Cucumber Beatles) move on in and make our plants look like Swiss cheese.
This is our second year of learning and attempting to practice pesticide free gardening. We have never been ones to use them much but any amount is too much. I have a few products from Johnny's that we use including diamatacious earth and another I cannot recall at the moment. I have also made up the garlic/pepper mixture everyone writes about. I am not convinced that it works. They all scattered just after spraying but they were back come morning.

We rotate our crop placement, mulch, and inspect the plants closely daily. It is been challenging at times but doable and we are learning. Just figured out the other day that Johnny's catalog has a great guide as to what your pest is and what product works best. BTW the best for everything according to Johnny's is row covers which we do not have. We do have the greenhouse that we hope to get up in July, can't wait for that!
Would love to hear from you all. What works for you? We can use all the help we can get!

Planting potatoes. Muck boots & shorts. You might be a redneck if.......

For the most part the gardens are all in. MM is the orchestrator of this deal and I do as I'm told (I assure you in the garden only). He was sweet enough to reserve me an area for herbs which I can plant whatever wherever. For those that do not know us, MM is organized and methodical and I am well .... Helter Skelter.
Up until a couple of years ago he was the planter and I was the picker. Now that I am more into it and our garden has grown into gardens it is a joint effort to plant, maintain, harvest, and preserve.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's the simple things.....

To spice it up this week I have decided to do a series of posts titled "It's the simple things" as a way of sharing some photos and some of the happenings from around the farm. Tonight I scheduled posts that will appear every night with the last one appearing on Saturday. They will not be filled with lots of words but the pictures should tell the story.
Maine Man found the above clothes line out back on our land shortly after we moved here. He put it up the other day and I strung it with clothes line. I have only used my dryer once or twice since. I can't wait to see my electric bill. Nothing like the smell of clothes on the line after being washed with homemade laundry detergent.
I have given up on making the liquid soap mixture, the dry mix is what I use. It is quick and not so darn messy. I make a batch every week, it takes all of 2 minutes. At a high estimate I'd say it costs 75 cents a batch and it usually lasts us 1 week or more. I always have a back up of store bought liquid detergent that I use on occasion if I am out of the other.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gone Fishing!

Nothing like seeing Dad with his girl.

We are fortunate enough to live across the street from the river. However to get there from here you must go down a REAL steep embankment and through a jungle of poison ivy. We cleared an area out across the street 2 years ago and ummmm... that was the year I said "I don't get poison ivy, never had it." Can you guess what happened from there? We've yet to return. With that in mind, we go down the road about 1/2 a mile to yet another steep area but to a trail that is free and clear of the itchy stuff.

Obviously unimpressed with the depth of the hook........"John". This year after some begging from the kids I purchased a license. I usually just play photographer and bring along a good read but now I've decided to play along as long as the fish are biting. This is was the first time out for me this season. The kids & John have been out well over a dozen times. Fishing is on the top of Luke's favorite list. He doesn't let a day or two go by before asking Dad when they can go out again.

She is always ready with a pose.

I think that one might weigh nearly as much as her.

She is better then Mom. I can bait my hooks with worms and crayfish but I admit I am a little spleeny when it comes to taking the fish off if they are the least bit in there.

Fishing is a great family activity that can be done with little to no costs. I'm glad we have MM to take us out! Luke traps crayfish from the ponds with bait traps and MM & the kids jack worms on rainy nights. John and I have to purchase licenses but the kids do not and will never have to as they both have lifetime fishing, hunting, and archery licenses....how lucky are they?

P.S. All the above fish were caught and released.

Here is a link for a yummy chowder I made last weekend with some perch we had stored in the freezer from this past winter's ice fishing season.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Luke

Life forever changed for the best after he was born. Words cannot even begin to express the love we have for this boy, but I'll try...
WE LOVE..... his sense of adventure
WE LOVE....his gentleness with animals.
WE LOVE....that he is the BEST big brother!

I LOVE that he still adores his Momma although he sure does love to mess with her.
(If Leah had the camera at the right angle you would have seen little bunny ears behind my head.)

WE LOVE..... his passion for fishing and his love of the great outdoors.

Get the point!! Just one heck of a kid!
We love ya buddy!xo