Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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How to scald a chicken without a scalder

Broiler"How 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."
--- Lindsey

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.

(Graphic pictures below.  The usual warnings apply.)

Scalding a chickenA 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 Roughing up feathersall 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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