The bottom line:
My new favorite appliance is the chicken plucker. I need to give it a name, like I do my vehicles. I love it.
Saturday Hubby was on call, so we delayed our Chicken Slaughter, Round 2 until evening, when he was certain not to be called out. As it turns out, he was home all day, but he did reassemble the now-balanced shaft/flange to the unit (and also put a waterproof switch on it and fixed the mower deck of the riding mower). It was cool (high of under 60!), but that keeps the bugs away anyway. I had Hubby hang them by their feet and cut their throats (a better way for them to die, and better for the meat/nutrition also, apparently) to bleed out. We scalded them as per the Storey's Guide instructions (30 seconds at 130 degrees), and put the first into the plucker. The first bird came out fairly impressive, albeit not as good as pictures I've seen online. Still better than we manage by hand! The ones that followed were of mixed results. We did only 8 birds that night, as a big storm was moving in and we needed to wrap things up. Some birds wouldn't shed their back feathers or those from one wing; several had their faces just beaten up (not an eating issue, at all, but wild to see broken-up beaks and such) and occasionally a foot would get caught between the plate and barrel wall, jamming the system. I'd read it works better with more than one bird at a time, so we put 2 in at once, and thereby discovered that our motor is NOT a 1 hp, or even 3/4 probably. It's an old-school Westinghouse motor, and the horsepower info is all scratched out. It could handle one okay, but NOT two. I ended the night with mixed feelings about the contraption.
Hubby thought more fingers placed inside the barrel might help; some up higher as well. We had a handful of leftover fingers, so this morning he installed them. After a night of unusual rain (of unusual quantity), we set up shop again and gave it another go. The water had gotten way too hot, so Hubby cooled it down with the hose, but didn't cool it down enough. Or so I'd have thought. Instead of 128-130, he had it at 140 or just above - at least, according to our thermometer. This temperature, and the added fingers, made all the difference. Hubby is killer, scalder, and plucker extraordinaire, and I maintain my title of Evisceration Queen. (Wow, that'll be something for Gi-gi to brag about when she writes her Christmas newsletter to all the doctorate-holding relatives *sigh*) The girls chase and capture the chickens with finesse.
After this temperature discovery, I was so excited to be handling NAKED chickens right out of the plucker. There were the few tail-feather stubs (which, I usually cut off that entire little thingy anyway), and the occasional pinfeather on the back or under the wings, but overall I was enthralled. I haven't bought a store-chicken in years, so I'm not sure how well they're feather-free, but these were far better than we ever achieved by hand - and in less than a minute! (We're very accustomed to removing the skin around here. :) Modus operandi for us is to put the whole frozen bird into the crockpot, with or without seasoning, then remove the skin and enjoy tasty meat). I'm inspired to fry some chicken - and that is saying a WHOLE LOT.
Our unit differs a bit from the ones you'll find online. Obviously we'll be looking for a bigger motor before the turkeys are full-size, and there are the additional rubber fingers in the walls. Also, our 'gap' between the plate and the wall is less than the inch or so called for. And, in fact, since the barrel isn't perfectly round, our gap varies considerably in width. However, while most homemade-plucker users claim a certain percentage of caught/broken legs, we didn't have that happen at all. Caught/broken feet, yes. Boy, they came out looking wild and flopping at odd angles sometimes, but after removing the feet, there were no problems with the legs. I.e. the part you eat. Carcass-wise, Hubby scalded a couple of them too hot or too long, and their skin suffered some serious tears, but again, we're not selling these to restaurants or anything.
Once we found that groove, though, it was just great.
I love this thing.
I am such a freak.