The Small and Beginning Farmers Association of New Hampshire (SBFNH) owns bird processing equipment that once you’ve been trained on it, you can reserve it when you need it and bring it to your own place to process your own birds. We’d been looking at building our own plucker in particular, because the stuff is just so expensive, but this is way better. What a great investment for our farming community. It all fits into a small livestock trailer, so you just attach that to your truck to take it to your place.
Included is a large pot and a propane burner to use as a scalder, as well as a thermometer cleverly held up by a piece of wood so it floats so you can see what the temp is easily. Having that big pot is a huge time saver compared to using my chili pot like we did last year. Then, even one of our small cockerels barely fit, whereas with this huge pot, it was large enough to move the bird around in the hot water, which makes the feathers loosen much faster. My only squick time is holding the feet for the first time — I get a physical wave a ickiness. It passes quickly, though, and then I’m good to go.
The plucker was great. It is so much faster than plucking by hand, something I really don’t enjoy doing at all. It’s a powerful machine and a little intimidating, but the little rubber fingers that stick up don’t hurt if they touch your hand, and once you figure that out, it’s a little less scary to use. No skin gets torn at all, and it takes some practice to get the feathers off of the wings and the bottom of the legs, but even just doing a few birds let me get better and faster each time. Cool machine and kind of fun to use, to be honest.
The chill tank is pretty simple — just a plastic barrel that you add cold water and ice to, but it worked well. It’s nice to have something nice and big like that. None of our own stuff was big enough to hold very many at a time, and it’s pretty important to get the birds chilled down as quickly as possible. It was really hot out there today, which is a huge difference from the last time we did chickens, last fall, where the temps were much chillier to start with.
They included a couple of holding pens for chickens, a table for working on, a stainless steel mat for the table, some big trash cans for the blood and offal. All in all, a really good set up. We just need to provide the ice, the knives and the birds. Perfect.
It’s still really time consuming to gut the chicken. No one seems to be able to do it in less than about 15 minutes. There’s no way to make money that way if you value your time at all, but since we are still just doing these for our own use, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not willing to eat factory-farmed chicken, so doing it this way makes me feel good about the food we eat.
We reserved it for mid-July to process a batch of ducks, and the Sunday before Thanksgiving to do the turkeys and probably some more chickens by then. Doing ducks is going to be tricky, we hear. They don’t pluck nearly as easily as chickens. The turkeys are supposed to be easier than chickens, which sounds good to me.