Building the Whizbang Plucker
Materials List and Hints for
Building a Plucker From Scratch
Guest Article: © The material on this page, text and photos, copyright by Michael Rininger, February 2008.
I came to this project knowing that I had a number of birds to process in the near future and that I didn’t want to hand-pluck them. In the past I have butchered birds at Boxwood with Harvey Ussery, using his equipment, but thought it would be a good idea to have a plucker of my own so that I’d be free to process birds as the need arose.
My research began with mechanical pluckers both used and new. I immediately found that new mechanical pluckers were well out of my price range. They work very well but I was unable to justify the cost based on the small number of birds that I process every year. I was unable to locate a used unit for sale in my area.
Considering myself pretty handy, I began to investigate building a plucker from scratch. The plans I encountered on the Internet ran the gamut from little more than an electric hand drill with plucker fingers attached, to massive units that looked unmovable. I came upon the Whizbang model [see “The Whizbang Homemade Poultry Plucker”] through a Google search, and ordered the plan book from Amazon.com. [Also available from Whizbang Books.]
The unit looked interesting and fun-to-build, though I was a little concerned about the metal fabrication and welding skills involved. I was also concerned about being able to locate some of the components, particularly HDPE cutting board material for the feather plate and the very large pulley at the bottom of the unit. The plans suggest a method for making a laminated feather plate (the piece that actually spins around at the bottom of the tub) out of aluminum and plywood. I bought plywood for this purpose and cut it to size, but abandoned this route when a friend located a sheet of steel plate that I thought would be more suitable. Luckily a local friend with an extensive metal shop, sculptor John McCarty, volunteered to cut out the steel circle and do the required welding for me.
Assembly of the components was pretty straightforward. The wooden frame is rough construction that shouldn’t prove a challenge to those with even the most rudimentary carpentry skills. Pulling the rubber plucker fingers into the barrel and featherplate was hard work but probably could be done by anyone with a pair of pliers and a lot of patience.
The plucker performed pretty well in its maiden voyage. We ran seventeen birds [nine mature cocks, six small hens, and two mature male guineas] through it, and it did a very satisfactory job of plucking them. We did encounter some broken legs that became trapped between the wall of the tub and the feather plate, but that only happened once or twice. Overall I’m pleased with how the unit performs.
My recommendation to someone else considering building a Whizbang plucker would be to carefully investigate your options for getting the required welding done and to scope out cost-effective suppliers of the plucker components. Having to pay a professional machine shop to do your welding/metal fabrication or having heavy parts shipped to your door via UPS will quickly drive up cost.
If this project is something you think you might enjoy then by all means order the plans. If you decide to build from them you’ll find things explained very well, with copious suggestions by the author for making things easier or alternate ways of doing the same thing.
List of purchased materials, including source and price
- Plan book: Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker, by Herrick Kimball, Whizbang Books—$15.00)
- Electric Motor ¾ HP Capacitor-start (Harbor Freight Tools—$75.00 + shipping & handling—$10)
- Main Driven Pulley 15.25″ with 1″ bore (Part #MA153, Mid-State Electric Motors, Washington, VA—$68.45)
- Drive Pulley2.5″ Outside Diameter x 5/8″ bore (Tractor Supply Company—$7.50)
- 150 Rubber Plucker Fingers (Item #C-25, Kent Company, Miami, Florida—62¢ each x 150 + shipping & handling = $105.00)
- Misc. Hardware, Lag/Carriage Bolts (Home Depot—approx. $22.00)
- Lumber 2×4’s, 2×6’s (Home Depot—approx. $15.00)
- Drive Belt 63″ 4L ½” (Tractor Supply Co.—$12.00)
- Electrical Parts including Switch, Weathertite box, Romex cable (Home Depot—approx. $20.00)
- Two Pillow Block Bearings 1″ Bore (Northern Tool Co.—$16)
Total out-of-pocket costs: Approx. $365
The following items were salvaged locally or found at home
- 1/8″ thickness sheet steel for feather plate
- 1″ round stock pipe for shaft
- Misc. scrap 2×4’s and 2×6’s
- Misc. electrical wire, wire nuts, staples
- Plastic juice barrel for plucker tub (Supplied by Harvey Ussery)
- Stain (for wood frame)
- Misc. Screws/Hardware/Washers
- Two 10″ diameter wheels
Steel cutting and welding services were generously donated by local metal sculptor John McCarty.