Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Mark from Jericho Settlers Farm asked in the comments of my last post if the piece of red furniture in the background of one of the photo's was a Whizbang chicken plucker. It surely is, a 30 incher no less. When we decided to go into Pastured Poultry about 5 years ago we a had an old drum style chicken plucker. It had a drum that spun with a bunch of plucker fingers on the outside of it. You had to scald a chicken for about a minute, then hold it against the drum to remove the feathers, turning the chicken until it was bare. My wife and I started butchering our first batch of 72 at 9am, and we didn't finish until about 3 the next morning. Part of the trouble was lack of experience, but a big part was a lack of good equipment.

It didn't take too long to realize that if we were going to do this commercially that we would need more efficient equipment. I was all set to spend $1500 on a 27 inch tub style chicken plucker which would be able to handle 4 chickens at a time when I stumbled across a Yahoo group dedicated to the discussion of a book written by Herrick Kimball called "You Can Build a Tub Style Chicken Plucker".

I bought the book and a few weeks later I had a finished plucker. I decided to build a bigger one than the plans called for because I figured that the time may come when we were doing enough chickens to want to have the capacity to pluck 6 or so chickens at a time.

The Gear Reduction

One of the problems we had with scaling the size up was that the outside edges of the feather plate (the aluminum disk in the bottom of the tub, which is studded with rubber plucker fingers) spins at a lot more feet per second than a smaller plate would which was causing too many broken wings and legs on the chickens. This also caused the 1.5 horsepower motor to barely have enough power to handle the job. I ended up putting a gear reduction into the machine in the form of a second shaft and pulley setup. This brought the featherplate RPM from 275 to 175, and reduced the power requirements substancially.

Since I made this modification I couldn't be happier with the plucker. It cost me about $400 to build and plucks the birds nice and clean. It can even handle a 42 pound (dressed weight) turkey.

Friday, May 25, 2007


With a mere three weeks until we butcher the first batch of chickens of the year, it has suddenly become pretty crucial that I finish up construction of the store / processing room. I am fairly certain that I can at least get the butchering room finished up. I have a little bit of the ceiling to install and another wall of tile plus the grouting and caulking. I also need to hook up the water supply in the house cellar and hook up a few outlets, but then we should be good to go. Perhaps you may have noticed that the tiles I am using appear to be totally mismatched. When the Tile Hooligans put down the tile floor there were still enough of these left over tiles from several years of tile jobs to cover the walls in the processing room. The price was right (free) and they are so mixed up that I think it actually looks kind of good. Sort of like an abstract mosaic

It is good to have this early deadline because it is getting to the time of year when there is too much farm work to get done to have time or energy for construction projects.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cluck Truck

The Cluck Truck is home to our laying flock for about 8 months of the year. We like to have the chickens out on pasture because the grass and insects they eat out there greatly improve the quality of the eggs, as well as reducing their feed consumption considerably. In the past we have tried using these chickens to reduce the face fly population that the cows have to deal with. Chickens will scratch through the cow pies where the fly eggs hatch and spend their larval stage. I have heard that this is where the euphamism "that's for the birds" originated. Another benefit of this activity is that it spreads out the manure so that it decomposes faster and doesn't kill the grass underneath the pie, This eliminates the "repugnancy zones" around cow pies that the cows won't eat the next time through the pasture.
The trouble that we have had is with keeping the chickens with the cluck truck. Being a fairly small farm, the barn is always in sight, and eventually a lot of the chickens jump ship and move into the barn. We have eliminated that problem by putting electrified poultry netting around the whole affair, but unfortunately we cannot fence the whole area that the cows have been in because it is too large.

This year I decided to add a poultry species to see if they would take care of the fly larva eating/ manure spreading chore. When I worked at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm they had Guinea Fowl. These birds are just barely domesticated. They would travel many miles a day in search of insects to eat (they are deadly on the tick population). I am thinking that they might be just the ticket. On Tuesday we got our first batch of turkeys, so I went ahead and had 40 guineas sent as well. They are the little striped keets in the photo.