do y'all scald your chickens for plucking? Or do you skip that
step? We always end up doing 2 dozen birds at a time just so as
to avoid heating the water more than once."
I've helped friends who
raise birds for sale butcher their chickens and turkeys, and it makes
sense at their level to use a scalder (a special piece of machinery
that keeps a tub of water at a constant temperature). But on the
homestead scale, I think most folks will be best off just heating a pot
of water on the stove for each bird. It's low tech, doesn't waste
all that much water, and keeps the scalding water clean.
below. The usual warnings apply.)
A two gallon pot filled
two-thirds of the way up with water is just barely big enough to scald
a large, heirloom cockerel at three months old, when his dressed weight
comes in around two and a half pounds. We can generally fit an
old laying hen in this same pot, too, but if you're raising really
hefty Cornish Cross broilers, you might need to choose the next size up.
As soon as we're done
scalding and plucking one bird, Mark rinses out the pot and puts it
back on the stove on high while I dress the previous bird's
carcass. By the time the next bird is ready for dunking, the
water has reached 145 to 150 degrees (as measured by a meat
thermometer) --- perfect for loosening up feathers.
Since the pot is on the
small side, I like to scruff up the feathers of each bird with a wooden
spoon as Mark dunks it to make sure air pockets don't prevent water
from reaching the skin all around. Plunging
the chicken up and down also helps ensure thorough scalding. You
know your bird is ready to pluck when the tough tail and wing feathers
pull out relatively easily.
Having used a scalder,
I'm not so sure our pot method is actually any harder on the small
scale. Especially with turkeys, a scalder requires frequent
topping off with hot water, and who wants to be the lucky farmer who
gets to turn on the scalder at 5 am so it'll be ready to do its job at
7? On the other hand, I do really appreciate our automated
plucker --- that
seems like the appropriate level of technology for our farm.
Every chicken waterer order comes with an ebook
and video giving tips on butchering chickens on the homestead scale.
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