Chicken Plucker: Part One

When I bought 50 meat chickens, I started to think very seriously about how to butcher them.  In the past, we’ve butchered 10 or 15 at a time, skinning the birds instead of plucking.  If they’re young, they skin easily.  If they’re more than about 6 months old, they’re “tough old birds.”

The problem is, I like chicken skins.  And I don’t like skinning chickens.  But I really don’t like plucking them by hand.  I finally realized that I would have to build a plucker.

The little PVC table top pluckers that attach to drills seemed only marginally better than plucking by hand.  Whizbangs looked simple and practical but too expensive.  Then I noticed the similarity between a Whizbang plucker and a washing machine.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one who noticed.  A man posted this video of his “Chicken Washer” on YouTube.  And better yet, he offered free plans to all who asked!

That seemed great, until I finally got the plans from him this morning.  Turns out it’s just a modified Whizbang dressed up as a washing machine.  Nothing wrong with the design, but not what I was hoping for – I wanted to use as many of the machine’s original components as possible.

Unafraid – well… maybe a little afraid – of venturing into unknown territory without the guidance of an anonymous appliance hacking guru, I forged ahead.

This is what we started with.

Disassembly was pretty straightforward.  The control panel cover came off first.  I took a picture of the wiring so I can put it back together the right way.

I plan to use the control panel to operate the plucker, rather than attempt to decipher the electronics and risk frying something important.

The skin was held on by three screws and a handful of plastic clips.  I also had to disconnect the wiring harness and drain hose.

The washer with the skin removed.

The basic tear down went smoothly, with only a couple things causing issues.  The spanner nut that held the drum and agitator on the driveshaft was stubborn and the drum made for a cramped space to try to swing a hammer.

If you ever wonder why your washing machine smells, this is probably why. This plastic tub surrounded the inner perforated drum and caked up with soap, sand, and generally nasty cruddy stuff.

The Freedom Rangers have no idea what the future holds for them and this pile of junk.

At this point, I was really hoping the new-to-us washer that replaced this one would work on laundry day.

The motor was oriented horizontally, powering this fancy gearbox that agitated the agitator and spun the drum.

When the input shaft is spun, the long agitator shaft rotates back and forth. The collar with the brake inside is part of the clutch that controlled the drum rotation.

I have no use for the agitator shaft so that will be cut off.  I plan to mount the feather plate  on the clutch housing.  The existing holes will be convenient for that.

If you don't have a large enough compass, use a chalk line or string to draw a perfect circle.

The feather plate will be roughly 19 inches in diameter.  I’m using 3/4 inch plywood this time around.  I’ll paint it with several coats of good exterior paint after I drill the holes for the rubber fingers.  It won’t last forever, but should last a couple years, at least.  Replacement will be simple enough when it does need to be repaired.

I cut the bottom out of the drum, leaving a lip to help keep the feathery mess from flying everywhere.

I haven’t decided for sure how to attach all the components together.  I might use a 2×4 frame like the Whizbang pluckers, or I might use a modification of the original washer base.  Whichever way I decide on, things should be a little simpler because of the gearbox being used in place of the typical belt and pulley system.

Chicken Plucker:  Part Two

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