Frequently Asked Questions About The Whizbang Chicken Plucker

Years ago, I built myself a remarkably effective mechanical chicken plucker. I named it the Whizbang Plucker. Then I wrote a book telling others how to easily build their own inexpensive Whizbang Plucker. People bought the book. They built their own plucker. They were delighted with what the machine did for them.

Simply put, a Whizbang Plucker makes chicken plucking fun. I’m very serious when I tell you that.

Thousands of copies of the book have now been sold. Thousands of Whizbang Pluckers are now hard at work all across America. Homemade Whizbang Pluckers are also plucking chickens in at least a dozen other countries. It is an amazing thing. It is a Whizbang revolution.

What does this mean? It means that more and more people are once again raising wholesome food for themselves, independent of the Industrial Providers. Where will it lead? I like to think it will lead to a Whizbang Plucker in every backyard, and a home-raised chicken in every self-sufficient citizen’s pot.

Bearing that in mind, many people have e-mailed me over the years with questions about the Whizbang Plucker. I have decided to assemble many of the questions, and my answers, here. If your Whizbang question is not answered here, please send me an e-mail (hckimball@bci.net). I will do my best to answer it.

Best Whizbang Wishes,

Herrick Kimball

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How does the Whizbang plucker work?
The plucker consists of a tub with a disc-shaped, motor-driven plate in the bottom. The plate (called the “featherplate”) is studded with rubber “plucker fingers.” Turn the motor on, and the plate spins. Drop one or more scalded birds into the tub, while spraying them with a garden hose. The critters tumble around while the fingers flail the feathers off. In about 15 seconds the chickens will be plucked clean. It’s truly amazing. It’s one of those things you have to see to believe.

You can see the Whizbang Plucker in action on YouTube HERE and HERE.

Can the Whizbang Plucker really pluck all the feathers off a chicken in 15 seconds?
If you scald your chickens properly, the Whizbang will, indeed, pick the feathers off in 15 seconds (20 seconds at most). Scalding means to dunk the chicken in hot water. This loosens the feathers. It is not hard to do and This Essay tells you how. Virtually all the bird’s plumage will be mechanically picked off. Pin feathers will be removed too. 99.9% of the feathers will be gone (see the YouTube video links above). The few odd feathers that don’t come off during plucking can be easily rubbed or pulled off with no trouble prior to Butchering.

Better yet, a Whizbang tub plucker will pluck two, three, or even four chickens at once, just as quickly. In fact, you will get a better pluck if you pick at least two chickens at a time.

Are the bird’s dead when you pluck them in the Whizbang plucker?
Yes, very dead. All birds should be dead, bled, and scalded before going into the plucker. You should never pluck live birds.

Can you dry-pluck birds in a Whizbang plucker?
Nope. That doesn't work.

Don’t the birds bruise from all that tumbling and finger flailing?
No. There must be blood in the bird for bruising to occur. If you kill and bleed out the bird prior to plucking, there can be no bruising.

Do the birds ever bounce out of the tub when you are plucking them?
No. The plucking action does not bounce the birds. They tumble from side to side.

Where do the feathers go?
When the feathers are slapped off the bird’s carcass, they spin out to the sides of the tub and are washed down, through a space between the tub and featherplate, to the ground under the plucker. Then you rake the feathers up and put them on your compost pile. Poultry feathers are a great compost ingredient.

Did you invent the chicken plucker?
No. The first automatic chicken plucking machine was invented by Andrew Toti and Kent Tomlinson back in the 1940s. Commercial tub-style plucking machines have been in use for many years. The unpatented, expensive, stainless steel, commercial pluckers were my inspiration for building the Whizbang. There were other homemade pluckers out there but I was the first person to develop comprehensive plans for an inexpensive, remarkably effective, homemade poultry plucker that can be built with common materials and basic handyman skills.

Will the Whizbang pluck birds other than chickens?
Yes. Whizbang tub pluckers are being used to pluck turkeys, geese, and ducks too.

Turkeys up to 40lbs have been successfully plucked in a basic Whizbang (the exact unit I tell how to build in My Planbook). Such large birds are plucked one at a time and they tumble better if the feet are cut off prior to plucking. Even still, you may have to manually help the big bird tumble in order to get the best pluck. Turkeys will take longer than 20 seconds to pluck, but not a lot longer (maybe 45 seconds)

Ducks and geese do not pluck as easily and completely as chickens and turkeys. But they pluck a whole lot better by machine than they do by hand.

Can you pluck quail in a Whizbang plucker?
The basic Whizbang will not pluck quail. However, the Whizbang can be easily modified to pluck small, thin-skinned, game birds. To do this, you will need to install MANY more plucker fingers in the “featherplate” (the spinning, disc-shaped, finger-studded plate in the bottom of the tub). You should also use very soft plucker fingers in any plucker that will be used for gamebirds.

If you are looking to build a quail plucker (which, by the way, will also pluck chickens), I strongly recommend that you contact my chicken-plucking friend, David Schafer, maker of the Featherman Plucker. David makes a plucker specifically for game birds. He can answer questions specific to making a game bird plucker. You can also purchase the really soft plucker fingers from him. In the event that you decide to purchase a gamebird Featherman plucker from David, Make sure you request a Whizbang Discount. You’ll save some money by simply mentioning those two words.

What’s the difference between a homemade Whizbang plucker and David Schafer’s Featherman plucker?
Both machines do a fine job of plucking birds. The Whizbang will cost you less money.

How much does it cost to build a Whizbang plucker?
Using all new materials, you can build a Whizbang Plucker for around $500. But the Whizbang design is “salvage friendly,” which means you can easily utilize some salvaged components and save yourself a lot of money. For example, if you can find a second-hand electric motor that will work, you can save around $150. I’ve heard from people who built their whole Whizbang for as little as $150.

I Don’t have a lot of carpentry experience. How hard is it to build a Whizbang Plucker?
It is very easy to build your own plucker. Most people who read the book come to realize that it is something they can do. Many readers who are not “handy” have written to tell me they got the plucker made and they were downright pleased with the results.

Many people have a more handy friend or relative help them with the project.

How long does it take to build a Whizbang Plucker?
If you purchase a pre-made, pre-drilled, HDPE featherplate with a pre-mounted-and-perfectly-centered driveshaft from me (see below for more info about this), and you have all your other parts on hand, you should be able to assemble the plucker in a day. Figure a couple days (maybe longer) if you make your own featherplate.

Does your book tell everything I need to know to build a Whizbang plucker?
Yes. EVERYTHING is in the book. Nothing is lacking. The Book is also very easy to understand and follow.

Where can I get a copy of the Whizbang plucker planbook?
Lots of places…. Amazon.com, Cumberland Books, Back-40 Books, Acres USA, BackHome magazine, Mother Earth News, Strombergs Hatchery. Murray McMurray Hatchery, and directly from me at the Whizbang Books Online Catalog.

Is there a Canadian source for purchasing the Whizbang plucker planbook?
No. Not at this time. But Canadian folks can easily purchase a copy of the book from me at the above link.

Do you sell the plucker planbook to people in other countries?
Yes. I can ship a copy of the plucker planbook almost anywhere in the world using US Postal Service Flat Rate International Priority Mail. You can find details at the Whizbang Books Online Catalog.

Do you sell ready-to-assemble plucker kits?
No. Not at this time.

Do you sell any plucker parts?
Yes. I sell the harder to find parts needed to build a Whizbang Plucker. You can read all about the parts at this link: Plucker parts from Whizbang.

What kind of plucker fingers do you recommend? And where can I get them?
For general purpose plucking (not quail or gamebird plucking) I recommend the Kent C-25, medium durometer rubber plucker finger. These fingers were designed by Kent Tomlinson back in the 1940s. They are widely used and highly regarded.

You can purchase Kent C-25 fingers from Stromberg’s, Murray McMurray, or my son. Deatails can be found at the Plucker Parts From Whizbang link I've provided in the previous answer.

Can I save money by substituting something other than rubber plucker fingers to do the work of plucking?
Not that I know of. There is no substitute for a good plucker finger.

Do black rubber plucker fingers leave black marks on the birds when you pluck them?
No. I’ve never seen it. This is an unfounded sales pitch made by a company that sells yellow plucker fingers. (BTW, I’ve heard that yellow plucker fingers leave yellow marks on the birds.

Where can I buy plastic HDPE to make my own featherplate?
Try www.thecuttingboardfactory.com

Can I use an old washing machine to build a tub plucker?
I used to tell people it can't be done. But then I saw This YouTube Video. So the answer is now "yes." But I don’t know how it’s done and I can’t imagine the finished result is nearly as simple and effective as a Whizbang Plucker made according to my plan book.

What kind of motor do I need to power a Whizbang plucker?
In my book I recommend a 3/4hp, 1725 rpm, Farm Duty motor.

Will a 1/2hp Farm Duty electric motor work?
Yes. But a 3/4 hp motor gives you a little more uuumph!, and I feel better recommending a motor like that.

Will a 1hp Farm Duty motor work?
Yes.

I already own an electric motor but it isn’t a “Farm Duty” motor. Will it be good enough?
It might be. I hope so. Give it a try before you buy a new motor. I’m no expert on electric motors. All I know is that you can’t go wrong with the power and features found in a Farm Duty motor (and I do discuss this in the plan book). There are, I’m sure, other motors that are comparable to the Farm Duty units.

Where can I get a “Farm Duty” motor?
Lots of places. Check out Surplus Center. And don’t forget to see what’s available on Ebay.

Where can I get the pillow block bearings you recommend in your plucker planbook?
I recommend that you buy the bearings from Northern Tool. You want item #18314. You need to buy two of the bearings. They cost $8.00 each. Here’s a link to the item: Pillow Block Bearing. By the way, the bearings have a grease fitting on them. Make sure you grease the bearings each time after using the plucker.

The tub I intend to use for my plucker is bigger than the one shown on page 30 of your book. Will the 20-3/4” diameter featherplate you sell work in a bigger tub?
If you are using a 55-gallon plastic drum to make your plucker, the 20-3/4” featherplate I sell will probably work just fine. But I don’t guarantee it will. I suggest the featherplate gap (space between the outside of the spinning featherplate and the tub) be between 1” and 1-1/16”. Even a gap of 1-1/8” will probably work. But I’m hesitant to recommend a bigger space than that. With those measurements in mind, a tub with an inside diameter of 22-3/4” to 23” will work. This is discussed in the book.

Wouldn’t it be better to have almost no gap between the featherplate and the tub? Won’t a bigger gap allow legs and wings to fall into the space?
Errant poultry appendages will, on occasion, slip down into the gap, no matter what size it is. If the gap is small, wings and legs will get pinched, stop tumbling, and the fingers will beat the chicken unmercifully (until you shut the machine off). This is a sure recipe for broken skin and bones.

On the other hand, if the gap is bigger, and part of the chicken happens to slip down into it, the spinning featherplate and fingers are more likely to slap the bird right back out.

My homemade Whizbang plucker lacks power. What’s wrong?
Chances are you are using too long of an extension cord and/or the cord is not heavy enough. I recommend an extension cord with 12-gauge wire, and try to keep the length under 50 feet. That should solve any lack of power problem. It will also ensure that your motor has a longer lifespan.

Also, if the motor you are using is not a Farm Duty or comparable motor, that could explain the lack of power. If, for example, you use a 3/4hp motor that is engineered to drive a fan, it will not have the power needed to drive a chicken plucker. All 3/4hp motors are not created equal. But all Farm Duty motors are pretty much the same.

I built a Whizbang plucker and have used it to pluck chickens. I’ve been getting a lot of broken wings and legs. What’s wrong?
Some leg and wing damage is normal and to be expected in any kind of a tub plucker. But if more than 4 percent of the chickens you pluck are coming out with broken bones, something is wrong. I wrote an entire essay on this subject and you can find it here: How To Properly Whizbang-Pluck A Chicken

I’m in a hurry to build my plucker. Can you overnight parts to me?
Sorry but no. I typically ship plucker parts out the day after I get your order and I ship them via UPS Ground. Please do not procrastinate about ordering plucker parts.

If you have a question that was not answered here, please e-mail it to me at: hckimball(at)bci.net

CLICK HERE FOR AN ARCHIVE OF ALL MY ONLINE POULTRY ESSAYS

5 comments:

itsrobbyg said...

Herrick,

this all sounds like great stuff to a guy like me. I've plucked probably a hundred pheasants in the last couple of years by hand, and also with a drill mounted plucker. You mention that bruising doesn't occur if the birds have been bled. Do you have experience with birds that have not been bled out? When my buddies have pheasants for me, I tell them to leave them intact and cool them down. I usually age them for about a week or two at forty degrees, then process them. I don't think I can get these guys to bleed them out, in the field. So, I wonder if bruising would be a concern for this application. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hey Herick ,...Hope your well... want to build W.B.C.P.
However not ready yet ... When I am ready , I want to
buy your shabang kit ... When I do , would you please
write down adaptations neded and sell me the correct
fingers & quantity of them so it will also pluck quail ?
I really enjoy all your writings and do not want to have to
use any other vendor or plans but yours ...
If built do you believe it would work on quial , chickens, turkey , and ducks ? Would it perform & last like the
standard W . B . Plucker ? Or are they just two seperate
machines ? It would be great if I could do it all with one
machine .... However if quality would suffer , would not
want to mess with the great machine . Please advise ...
Thank You Tim C . Franklin. , Tn.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Tim,

A Whizbang plucker made with lots of fingers so it can pluck quail will pluck other birds just fine. You don't need two separate machines. I say that based on what I've been told, not on personal experience.

Unfortunately, I've never plucked quail and I can't advise you on the specifics of building a quail plucker, other than that you need a lot of fingers and they need to be of the softest kind. My standard plucker parts "shebang" kit does not have a featherplate that is drilled for a lot of fingers.

I will ask about making a Whizbang quail plucker at the Yahoo discussion group, WhizbangChickenPluckers. There are a few thousand members there and hopefully they can provide some good advice on the subject.

Otherwise, you may want to buy a Featherman quail plucker.

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball

Janice said...

I have a 2 3/4" drive pulley with 5/8" bore. Would using a 16" driven pulley work? Or would I be better off getting the 2 1/2" drive pulley and using a 15" driven pulley?

Herrick Kimball said...

Janice,

I recommend a 16" driven pulley with a 2.5" drive pulley. But I'm sure your 2.75" drive pulley with a 16" pulley will work just fine.