Raising 25 of each chickens and 25 turkeys this year and I am looking for suggestions on a plucker that works for both. It will need to be able to handle up to a 30lb turkey, and I am looking to spend somewhere in the $600 range. Am I dreaming? Thanks
Here's a few scatter brained thoughts after a long day in the sun:
For 25 birds, I would just get a couple people to help and hand pluck them.
We raise about 250 freedom rangers and 40-80 broad breasted whites every year and we bought a featherbird two years ago. It's not exactly in your price range, but I figured I'd mention it. Maybe you can find one used? We bought the same version that we rented from our feed store for a couple years. It works like a charm. A 30 pound turkey will need most of the tail feathers and flight feathers hand plucked before putting it in the plucker, but I've seen it handle a 40+lb turkey after hand plucking the bigger feathers.
There are some good resources out there on building your own plucker with a belt motor and a 55 gallon drum. Look up whizbang plucker.
A couple times I borrowed a friends off-brand plucker that seemed to be made out of thin sheet steel. It was heavy as a boulder, and would probably not fit any size turkey, but it did work pretty well for a few chickens at a time.
I bought a 6" end cap from a plumbing supply store and a bag of those plucking fingers off ebay, put a spindle through the center of the cap and run that with a cordless drill. Google search "pvc chicken plucker" or similar and you'll see some clever DIY options you can rig up for short money + an electric drill.
I find the bottleneck isn't so much the plucking itself but just keeping a pot of 165 degree water through so many birds. Water cools after a few birds and also gets pretty disgusting so I like to change it every 3-4 birds. Beg or borrow multiple turkey fryer stands and large pots if you can and have a bunch of them going on processing day. Turkeys are rough plucking by the pin feathers (the bigger the bird the more those feathers fight you) so you'll probably need to do a fair bit of work by hand on the turkeys regardless.