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.



I finished the plucker and scalder tonight.  No pictures because it was quite dark when I finished.  I ended up spending two hours waiting to get the Jeep inspected before we could go to Lowe’s to get the rest of the stuff I needed.  The contraptions are assembled and ready to go aside from the day-of setup that we’ll have to do in the morning.

Bethany is tasked with taking a lot of pictures.  We’ll also shoot some video of the plucker in action.

Check back Saturday and Sunday.  We should have more posted by then.

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.

Chicken Plucker: Part Two

After finished a new chicken tractor for the Freedom Rangers this morning, I got back to the chicken plucker.  I made a couple stupid mistakes along the way and basically had to start over.  That’s what I get for trying to work when I stay home from work because I’m sick.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures today because I was just doing a rough assembly of the parts shown in Chicken Plucker:  Part One.  I’ll take more pictures when I do the final assembly to show how it all goes together.

Continue reading Chicken Plucker: Part Two

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. Continue reading Chicken Plucker: Part One

My new washing machine…

… is so beautiful!

I am hoping the clothes become as clean and pretty as the machine. If it doesn’t, we’re not out much. We paid $40 for the washer (asking price $35), a hand-crank meat slicer (asking price was $10), and a box of records ($1/$.50 each for around 40). The washer rode home on its side in the back of the Jeep. (I LOVE having a Jeep!) My old washing machine was given to us; we used it for a little over two years. And it is already taken apart to build a chicken plucker, so there’s no going back now.


Here goes another all-day laundry day, off to a perfect start!



One Man’s Trash…

Yesterday was the annual Route 11 Yard Crawl, so named because we could have crawled through peoples’ yards faster than we drove down Route 11.  Hundreds of yard sales were set up along the 50 mile stretch, selling everything from antique froes to Michael Jackson cassettes.

We set out with a full tank of gas and a pocket full of twenties after dropping the kids off with Bethany’s mom.  The Yard Crawl is serious business and no place for children!  Along the way we picked up a nice washing machine, a hand cranked food slicer, a handful of files, and some “kitchen stuff.”  All for under $50.

The washing machine has replaced the old free washing machine that didn’t get things clean any more.  The old machine will become the new chicken plucker, once my rubber plucker fingers arrive.  I’ll be detailing the construction of that project in a later post.

I tested the food slicer this morning by slicing a roast to make jerky.  It worked well, although I can certainly see why the electric models are more popular.  It’s a job for three hands.  We’ll see how my jerky turns out after being marinated in the contents of three bottles pulled at random from the fridge and a dozen or so spices picked blindly from the cabinet.

I always wished I had a better set of files but wasn’t willing to pay the typical prices for them.  Yesterday I bought 8 Nicholson files for $3 from some people who had no idea what they were worth.  Now I have a fairly complete set to work with and no excuse for dull tools.

We looked at a meat grinder for $65, but didn’t buy it, thinking we could find it cheaper online.  Boy were we wrong!  We’re kicking ourselves now for missing that chance.  That led to pricing grinders and packaging supplies and we realized that we could break even by grinding beef ourselves for just one year instead of paying to have it ground.  We’ll most likely end up paying the extra money to buy one now that we’ve started thinking about it.

We don’t have anything against electricity and power tools, but we try to keep in mind that there’s no promise of always having a consistent power supply.  I started thinking today about modifying an old exercise bike to power some things like a meat grinder, food slicer, grain mill, and bench grinder, then remembered the old bike that has been sitting in front of the Old Mill next door, where everything is for sale – for a price.  I walked down to look, and what do you know, the bike was gone.  It won’t be as simple as I had hoped, but I’ll scrounge one up somewhere.