No, it’s not Talk Like a Pirate Day. That was last week. It’s an Arghhh of frustration.

Last night I replaced the gearbox on the chicken plucker. I put casters under the feather plate to keep it from rocking under the weight of the chickens. This morning, shortly before 6:00, I dropped the first chicken in. The plucker stopped. Not good. Apparently the plastic internals shattered again. So much for that plan. Another $55 down the drain.

Worse, I had 60 chickens to kill and after 10:00 would be working by myself. No way were we going to pluck that many by hand. Fortunately we had a bunch of extra plucker fingers, a few tools, and a little creativity.

For the people who requested plans of the washer plucker, sorry.  Looks like it’s not a practical design because the gearboxes aren’t strong enough.

It's not nearly as fast or easy as the tub style pluckers, but it is way better than plucking by hand. And it was built with scraps I had laying around so the price was right.

We built a drill powered table mounted plucker, then found that the drill chuck was worn enough that the plucker would work loose as it oscillated out of balance, and the nuts holding the rig together worked loose. We should have either used a left handed bolt or run the drill in reverse. The biggest problem was the lack of support to control the oscillation.

We ended up putting a support on the outside end of the plucker.  It’s not something that will hold up for a long time, but we just need to get through these chickens.  Then we’ll have all winter to come up with something better.  Hopefully by then I’ll have the washer plucker sorted out.

Twenty two chickens worth of feathers. We had to add the shield because it was throwing feather all over the garage. It's a messy operation for the person running the plucker. Then again, every part of butchering is messy.

Even with the time we spent building the plucker, we were able to butcher more chickens than we could have plucking by hand.  It’s you have limited engineering and building skills, or just do a few birds a year, I definitely recommend a plucker of this type.

Tomorrow we’ll have more help so we should be able to get more pictures.  We’ll try to get pictures showing the entire process and write up a bit of a how-to.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

…You aren’t Chuck Norris.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

I wish I could say that the new and improved washing machine chicken plucker is like a washing machine on steroids.  More accurately, it’s like a washing machine on crutches.  And roller skates.  I’ll explain that in a later post.

I spent $55 on a gearbox on eBay.  Sure, I could have scrounged one somewhere.  But with the chickens eating almost $10 worth of feed every day, it was worth the money to get as quickly as possible.  I thought about using ball transfers (Google it if you don’t know) to support the feather plate, but opted for the cheaper and more readily available rubber swivel casters.

With Bethany being under the weather (For our Australian readers, that means something totally different on this continent.) I’ve been helping out inside the house and didn’t get much done outside until the kids went to bed.  Tomorrow will probably be the same deal so I’ll start butchering around 5 and hopefully get a good start on it by the time the kids get up.

Ohh Man!

This morning when we hit the traffic jam in Northern VA, we pulled up behind a car with one of the greatest license plates, ever.  “OHH MAN”.  Very appropriate.

We finished early today so I was able to almost finish another job that I’ve been putting off for a couple weeks.  Just a couple little detail things to take care of then I’ll be done.  And I can get paid…

When I finally got home the second time today, I worked on the chicken plucker.  I know I’ve been promising for weeks that I’m about to finish it.  Turns out the metal drum is a lot tougher to drill than I expected and I could only drill a few holes before the drill would start to overheat.  I finally finished drilling, cleaned out the burrs, and pulled all the fingers.  I cut the agitator shaft, modified the motor mount to clear the backside of the plucker fingers, made a spacer block to raise the plucker plate half an inch, and test fitted everything.  It looks like it will work well.  It’d better, because we’re now scheduled to kill about 70 chickens three days from now.

I didn’t have time to take pictures today, but when I do the final assembly tomorrow or Friday I’ll get pictures and try to get a post up by Friday night.  We’ll take a lot of pictures of the whole butchering process, including making dog food, and make a series of posts covering those processes.