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!


Lynnie said...

Fascinating! And excellent pics! I appreciate you showing us what happens if the water temperature is off, and all those other fine details! My husband processes all our birds using the same chicken plucker his grandpa used.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Great post - I am almost tempted...when my friend moves to Montana and takes his chicken equipment we'll need one these.

Thanks MM for such a detailed and humorous tutorial!

sugarcreekstuff said...

What a great post Maine Man.
Wondering if you could send the plans my way? I think my hubby needs a project.

Lisa said...

I always wanted to know how the chicken pluckers work. We are considering raising meat birds next spring so this is all very helpful!

Anonymous said...

Excellent and entertaining post MM, you crack me up!! :) You are very welcome and I'm so glad it worked so well for you....but I had no doubt...yankee men rule!! :)

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool post, and pretty darn good piece of work, building the feather plucker!

Captain Hook and Lady Crochet said...

I missed ya! Welcome back! Hey... you wouldn't have copies of the plans you would sell or give away do ya? We have been wanting to make one as well...but like you, i am extremely frugal...and broke.LOL
PS: Feel free to email me!

Vintage West said...

What a great and informative posting, Thanks for sharing!

Country Girl said...


country girl said...

The killing cone works very well; it restrains the chicken so no broken bones.

Lynnie said...

Just wanted to say my husband really enjoyed this post! His grandpa's plucker is apparently giving out so I showed him yours. He didn't know there were others out there doing this kind of thing and writing about it (what can I say, he's not an internet-boy, yet!). It all made a lot more sense to him than it did to me (love joy? I just thought you were getting all soft and fuzzy on us!) so maybe we'll have a nice new plucker sitting in our backyard soon! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Nice plucker, I was wondering if anybody has seen one that you attach to a bench grinder, just a smaller scale version of a rubber tipped pluckin deal, I'm raising a couple of turkeys and a few chickens and cannot justify building a whiz bang. THANKS RYAN

Jenny said...

We're (my husband, that is) in the process of building one of these now. I'm going to bookmark your post to show it to him. It directly addressed a couple questions he asked me to try to look up. Thanks for sharing!

Dave Morgan said...

Thanks for the show..We are building a home now and will start raising birds next spring, I am looking for more info all the time.

Anonymous said...

great job, but could you tell me were I can get the "rubber fingers"

Scroll Man said...

This is perfect. I am planning on building one of these but I have a few question how do I get in contact with you.

Country Girl said...

to contact us by e-mail send to achornfarmer@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...


richelle6 said...

Has anyone ever heard of using the ends of the black bungee cords instead of buying the rubber fingers? Would they work?

Anonymous said...

here's a cheap one you could make for probably less than $10.00


Anonymous said...

Unreal!! I have been looking to make one of these, I havn't been able to find detailed pics like you have shown. Great job. Im going to try and make a smaller version of it though, to see how it will go with Quails.

Anonymous said...

hey the plucker is very nice and well worth the money it cost to build it .....can you tell me were i can buy the rubber fingers.....

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

Some sort of cone WILL help you with your dislocating problems. My husband uses old jugs with holes cut out of them screwed onto a tree. There are lots of free options, another nice one I saw were actually traffic cones with an inch or so cut off the top and they made a frame that would hold 3 or 4 of them inverted.

Bent Nails said...

I'm in the process of making one of these. I've left the barrel in tact and drill 1 hole and fill it at a time. I spray the finger with PAM. I've been pressing the fingers in with a 2-lb. hammer. The trick is not to hit the finger really hard or everything bounces. About 3 licks per finger seem to work. I just don't like aggressive music. Gettin old. Anyway, thanks for a great site, it's really helpful.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Thanks for posting this tutorial! I've posted a link on my blog and hope you don't mind.


Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Also, I just tried to send you an e-mail but it bounced back to me.

Anonymous said...

Thank yoou very much for these ideas.can you please send me details of the plucker and source of plucker fingers.

You can send them on augusmande@yahoo.co.uk

Bob Bolton said...

Great project. I'm using one a friend made that is great for 25 lb turkeys or 3-4 broilers at a time. I want to make a similar one like your design. Do you have plans you can send me, and the address for the plucker fingers?

Anonymous said...

Really informative. We have been raising broilers for about 2 years, and it is almost time to butcher our current batch.

Great Plucker!


jim waits said...

where and how can I get a set of plans

Gypsy Magic said...


I too am wondering if I can get a set of plans...my husband and I would like to do more than 2 birds/hr....thanks!


MB Sponski said...

Great job! Love the pictures and information. I just did 65 with a drill plucker and its time to move on to a barrel plucker. How can i get more information on building one like yours? I looked at the different items and do have some here already. Thank you! Seth and family

Anonymous said...

OK... I am new to this... Did I miss where to get the plans or is there a link that my old eyes have not detected? Thanks for a great tutorial and a bit of reality humor, for a good laugh helps me to remember.

pjk said...

This is a great tutorial. Is it possible to email me the plans for the plucker? Thanks so much.

Erin said...

Great post. Is there any way to get the plans from Children in the Corn? It looks like their blog is by invitation only.

Jon H. said...

Nice post, I built one of these and have had similar success! Love the blog by the way!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post , Great Job

Anonymous said...

gday mate , great job was wanting to build a pluckin machine myself was wonderin if you could email me plans please jefwilcar@bigpond.com thanks heaps .cheers jeff from australia .

Anonymous said...

Wow it awesome. I must build one for my mom :-) .can u email to me the plans slurpzzg@gmail.com

Ann-Marie Williams said...

Greetings from the Isle of Spice,Grenada - West Indies.
Great information and pics. My husband has approximately 300 birds soon to be plucked and we were looking to purchase a plucker. Having seen your demo, we would appreciateyour emailing the plans soonest to annmarie.prestige@gmail.com

thefarmhand said...

How many inches should the fingers be from the bottom of the barrel?

charm484 said...

How does the drill plucker work? this is our first year and we only have 16 chickens to do

Gufka Investments P/L said...


I came across your project while scouting around for info on how to build a plucker for my wife. We do broilers on our half acre backyard garden here in Harare, Zimbabwe and I would like to mechanise some of the operations. Please may you help with information on how to get hold of your book of plans.

Anneke said...


First of all, thank you for putting this on the web. I think a lot of people all over the world build one because of your blog.
We did too. We ordered the fingers trough ebay and started building the chicken plucker. But after a couple of tries, the skin stills comes off. The birds are soaked well in 130 F, but the bird get stuck between the bottom and the side. What are we doing wrong. I also think the electric motor we use, is not strong enough. Could that be the problem?
I hope you can help us out.

Anonymous said...

Dan Thomas thanks for the info. I'm excited to get one of these made. if you do sell a set of plans please let me and us know the price and how to get them. againgreat job and thanks for shareing.

Unknown said...

Love the idea of this and will be getting ready to harvest a flock that are no longer producing i also live in maine and would like a blue print as i want to try to make one using a dryer drum and have access to round aluminum plate have seen others use rubber air hose so might experiment but plans would help if possible my email is jcaravalho@townisp.com

Unknown said...

Awesome, I've been looking for plans to download(don't mind paying for plan but not $18 postage to New Zealand in a digital age) I reckon from you excellent photo's I could build this if I knew approx RPM of the feather plate

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic! My husband has been looking for info for a while and this is perfect. The fingers can be bought at: http://www.commercialbargains.com/c-151-farm-products.aspx

Happy Chicken Plucking!!

Anonymous said...


what do you think about this motor? do you think it would work?

Unknown said...

We raise Fayoumi Chickens and do a lot of culling on our homestead. We've got some wonderful pictures of our livestock at: http://www.ainmusafarms.com come visit us and share your experiences as well.

Honey said...

This may not be helpful to some of you but it's so much easier to install the fingers if you hand them to your husband and say, "Here babe." No need for anger or pulsating, red forehead veins. I do believe it was very relaxing this way. ;) Enjoyed reading this and dh said the same thing when he was building ours! :)

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Jacob said...

Greetings from Denmark
Thank you so much for sharing your Pictures and info. It has truely inspirred me

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Unknown said...

Self made poultry dressing machine looks good!
Great effort.

Anyone need rubber picking finger can look for me.
I do have plenty contacts on bigger version turn key poultry machinery fabricators.

This site sells rubber fingers.

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TommyD, CT said...

Wouldn't it be easier and less stressful all around to use the kill cone before the chicken plucker?
Jus sayin'

Unknown said...

what speed is suppose to be the speed of the chicken plucker, i recently constructed onee with a motor of 2800 rpm and i am afraid it is going to destroy the chicken flash with its speed, is it fine?

Unknown said...

what speed is suppose to be the speed of the chicken plucker, i recently constructed onee with a motor of 2800 rpm and i am afraid it is going to destroy the chicken flash with its speed, is it fine?

TommyD said...

120-500 rpm

TommyD said...

I meant to write 120-200 rpm. Of course this is after dipping the chooks in boiling water for 10+ seconds.

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Unknown said...

I am Kingsley from Nigeria. I need to say big thankyou for putting up your ideas on the internet for the world to shear and lean.my question is what hot water temperature do you need to use on bird before send it into the plucker machine. You could reply me via email kingekon@yahoo.com

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anniedoll said...

Interesting and it seems to do a good job of it. We just skin them and there is no plucking at all.

Oluwasegun said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this guide on building a plucker for poultry

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Anonymous said...

That is the best lesson on bird plucking I have ever come across. You are talented and funny all in one. Swamp people will take a look at this one. Your a true country boy!

Anonymous said...

gandalf - I tuck chickens under my arm with the head facing the front of my body other hand holding their head neck. I might have their legs in the other hand, don't remember. They generally relax after a few seconds. Then you simply pull the head down firmly along your leg while turning your body (and the body of the bird) the other way. You should feel a snap or crack and stop the motion at that point. If you don't the head will come off creating a mess. You can then either hold them tightly against you for 30 seconds or so or hold them by one or more leg. If they don't do the dance you may not have separated the spine. It's important to keep the bird hanging legs up as they'll bleed out into their own neck. It takes a bit of finesse but is humane and quick and doesn't make a mess. I don't think it takes too much strength to do this as you're using your body for leverage. If you fail it will probably just knock the bird out for a bit. sonic dot net

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Poultry Care Sunday said...

I am very surprised about the plan, thanks for share.

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best Chicken plucker machines said...

A few days ago, we purchased one of those chicken plucker and finally got to use it today. It dose really good on the hens. The roosters have tougher feathers to get out so a few get left in. It is a lot better than plucking the whole thing though!

Definitely need to get more killing cones set up to speed the process up.

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Anonymous said...

just wondering why you chose the expensive plucking fingers when there are many many much cheaper on ebay?

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