Notes from Windward: #68


The Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker

making our feather-plucking job easier

     Ebb & Flow consists of 28 hens and roosters. They should be called Lunch and Dinner instead, but we haven't butchered them yet, mostly because the prospect of plucking 28+ chickens by hand isn't particularly exciting.

     To make our job easier, I took on the job of building a chicken plucker. Although I found this small one on the butchering table, I could see that it wasn't terribly effective, compared to the one I was about to build.


     The tub plucker is a better way to pluck the chickens. After scalding them, 2 or 3 are put into the tub lined with rubber "fingers." The bottom plate (which is also covered with the "fingers") spins and tumbles the chickens around the tub, pulling their feathers off. This particular plucker was designed by Herrick Kimball, and he calls it the Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker.

     I built this plucker over a long period of time, working a little every day. I learned by experiment a whole lot about what sorts of bolts to use with wood, how to make the appropriate holes, and how to measure and plan accurately. I had to do a lot of things twice over, which was tedious, but very helpful in the long run. I also learned how to hook up the motor and switch properly and make sure everything works up to par. The biggest challenge I had was simply working in the cold and wind.

     Here is the view from the top, with the tub full of rubber fingers. The white plate on the bottom rotates, tumbling the chickens about.


     Here is the view from the underside. The motor turns the small pulley, driving the belt that turns the big black pulley. The rest of the mechanism is an idler, which keeps constant tension on the belt.


     The chicken plucker is a prime example of an "intermediate technology." The term intermediate technology, sometimes referred to as Appropriate Technology, was described by E F Schumacher in his book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered as a tool or technology that, although it may be more expensive than the traditional method of completing the same task (but perhaps more effective), it is at least an order of magnitude cheaper than developed-world technologies. Commercial chicken pluckers cost thousands of dollars. The tub plucker that I built cost under $500 and used locally available materials such as full-cut 2x4's milled from a beetle-killed pines from up behind the dining hall.

     This machine is a good example of technology that is "designed to serve the human person instead of making him the servant of machines."

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68