What's the big deal about plucking by hand?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Sunny Side Up, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    I have got to say that in my experience plucking by hand is really NO big deal. But I've read a lot of posts from other folks who complain about how long it takes to pluck, or how difficult it was for them, or who construct elaborate plucking machines before they begin processing their birds. So I want to say here that with the proper preparation it shouldn't take very long, or be too difficult, and can easily be done by hand.

    Of course, if you have a large number of birds to process at one time, if you find that you have an aversion to the smell of wet feathers, or if you're a person who needs little excuse to build some nifty machine, then go right ahead and build your mechanical plucker. Or sharpen your skinning knives.

    Otherwise, you will need only two, maybe three things to make your hand-plucking chore a breeze:

    1. A large pot of scalding water. Large enough to fit the bird head-first and reach up to its tail. Make sure the water is good & hot, around 140-150 degrees. You can keep the water hot over a camp stove, fire pit, BBQ grill, turkey fryer, or on your stove top. It need not STAY at that temp the whole time you are butchering, just be hot during the dunking. I keep pots simmering on the stove inside and have my teen periodically refresh the water in my scalding pot outdoors. Hold your bird by his feet & agitate him up & down so the hot water reaches down to the skin. After about 10 dunks try pulling out a wing feather, if it comes out easily then he's ready to pluck.

    2. A sturdy place to hang the bird by his tied-together feet. This can be a tree branch, fence post, clothesline, whatever. Hang your bird so he's about shoulder-height. I use a metal porch-swing frame I've repurposed for my processing chores. When you hang the bird you'll have both hands free for plucking, which makes the chore go much faster. It's as easy as cleaning the lint trap in the dryer, and goes almost as fast.

    3. (Optional) Gloves. The feathers will be sticky & you'll need to frequently shake your hands to get them off. They seem to cling less to rubber gloves, and those cloth gardening gloves with the rubber dots work really well.

    You can just let the feathers fall where they will, or put a garbage can under the bird to contain the feathers. The last time I processed I was able to pluck each bird clean in about 5 minutes. I usually have to work by myself, and do only about 6 or less at a time.
  2. greenfamilyfarms

    greenfamilyfarms Big Pippin'

    Feb 27, 2008
    Elizabethtown, NC
    We've always hand-plucked. The feathers feel really gross if they get on your legs, so wear long pants and shoes. [​IMG]
  3. Red Maple Farms

    Red Maple Farms Wish Granted

    Feb 25, 2010
    NE Wisconsin
    If you really want to be a master hand plucker, pluck a duck.
  4. Wifezilla

    Wifezilla Positively Ducky

    Oct 2, 2008

    Hand plucking is no big deal for a couple of birds, but some of the people here are processing dozens to hundreds at a time. After the 3rd bird I would get bored and wander off....

  5. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    Well of course, if you're raising birds in those vast numbers you'll have an entirely different set-up. But I just want to encourage the folks who plan to process just a few birds at a time and feel stuck because they lack a mechanical device to do the plucking for them. And also to help those who had an awful experience trying to pluck by hand.

    A lot will also depend on how many other people you have helping you with the processing chores. It doesn't make sense to pluck more birds at one time than you have hands to do the cutting & cleaning.
  6. mstricer

    mstricer Crowing

    Feb 12, 2009
    I pluck by hand also and do all the above things and roosters are over 17 wks. I've never been able to pluck in 5 mins. I even tried to do as fast as possible. The wings and tail and especially under the wings seem to take the longest. I must really suck at it.
  7. Salt and Light

    Salt and Light Songster

    May 20, 2008
    Osteen, FL
    I plucked by hand until I built a drill-powered plucker. The one thing I really like is that it gets about 99% of the pin feathers, which is really the only thing I don't like about plucking.
  8. NevadaRon

    NevadaRon Songster

    May 28, 2010
    Quote:Do you think maybe your scalding water isn't hot enough, or maybe you aren't scalding them for long enough? [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2010
  9. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    There is a BIG difference in plucking CX birds and regular dual purpose breeds. I can pluck a CX in a minute or two...the feathers practically wipe off the bird, even the tails and wings. A dual purpose bird is older and far less tender, the feathers are a much harder thing to pull out on these birds.

    On the CX I found that there are very few feathers per square inch of bird and their pin feathers are still that of a young bird and very easy to pull out...on an old stew hen, the pin feathers along the back seem melded into the backbone! [​IMG]

    Also, the CX have very little smell when processed....the feathers didn't smell like a usual wet chicken, the guts didn't have any smell.....it was so very different from processing an older dual purpose bird.
  10. lakeman

    lakeman In the Brooder

    Jan 22, 2010
    Abbevill SC
    Quote:You burn off the pin feathers.

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