I hate plucking chickens. I do not mind anything else about them and there is a long list of things I love about them, but plucking them cramps my hands, takes forever, and just generally sucks.
So, there must be a better way! Chicken pluckers are nothing new. They sell commercial products with a tub and a spinning base covered with rubber fingers, but those cost $1000 and up and I cannot see spending that kind of money on 60 or so chickens a year.
I scoured the internet and found many pieces of this design that all came together with a few of my own ideas to fill in some missing pieces or to improve on other aspects of the original designs. Keeping costs to a minimum was the one criteria my wife had for this project.
The final product is the white pipe with the black fingers attached to a frame that can sit atop a sink, a barrel, sawhorses, and can store fairly flat against a wall when not being used. It is powered by my variable speed Milwaukee corded drill, which turns the rod, which spins the pipe, and the rubber fingers slide the feathers out of the recently deceased chicken effortlessly.
I saw one major improvement over this design by using a clever cut out of a blue 55 gallon barrel, but storing it would be an issue throughout the year when I am not raising chickens for meat. Putting my plucker drum and driveshaft into the sidewall of a drum with a space cut out above the plucker will catch every last feather. If the drum is upside down, without a lid, it can funnel the feathers into a bag, a pit, or another drum intended to collect feathers. A very slick improvement, but a storage issue… I chose better storage year round and more manual cleaning of feathers a few times each year.
The fingers that do the plucking are made of 9″ black rubber tarp straps cut in half with the hooks removed. I read a lot aabout 10″ straps, but the 9″ were available ad the next size up was a 14″ strap.
The big knobby part the hook goes through will prevent the fingers from sliding out of the holes I need to drill in the 2′ section of 4″ PVC pipe. As an added bonus, I can string my privacy tarps along the rope using the spare S hooks like a shower curtain. The privacy curtain is partially for being neighborly but mostly to shield my critters from seeing what goes on.
I start by using a drill bit slightly larger than the thickness of the strap. I drill two holes next to each other, then wallow out the middle until it is a slot that the strap can fit through. Remember, the end of the strap the hook used to go through will be inside the pipe and is larger than the hole you drilled.
On a 4″ pipe, I was able to make space for 5 fingers in a row (about 2.75 inches from the last hole) as the pipe spins. I offset the slots in the next row of fingers and created 5 rows. This should provide a nice even set of flap-flap-flap and should make it easy to use.
I drill a hole, centered in each of two endcaps, slightly larger than the threaded rod and carefully guide the rod through one side and out the other. I use a fender washer on either end of the tube, then 2 nuts on each end… This allows me to lock one nut tightly against the other, which prevents them from moving around even as the pipe flexes and changes dimension while spinning with the fingers attached.
I decided not to buy bearings for the rod, but any time two surfaces grind against each other, they wear down and eventually break. I used wooden blocks for the steel rod to run through knowing the wood will wear out quickly, preserving the steel rod. I would rather replace those cheap wooden blocks than to run a new piece of threaded rod through the pipe again any time soon. I always have a bin full of endcuts that are virtually free leftovers from previous projects.
I use two blocks, one on each end, and flipped them so you can see the hole for the driveshaft on one block and the pilot holes for fastening it to the wood frame on the other block.
I did use my cordless DeWalt for putting this together, even though I will use my corded drill next week since a battery will get run down. The cheap-ass wooden bearing blocks are in place and the first tests were run….