View Full Version : Building an automatic feather picker

01-08-2003, 10:57 PM
I need to build myself an automatic feather picker. I raise pastured chickens and turkeys for sale. New pickers are rather expensive ($1,725) and used ones are hard to find.

I need a tub type picker because the tabletop models don't have the capacity I need.

This link shows what I am trying to duplicate.

I am considering using a taper bearing to support the shaft of the revolving floor of the tub with a second bearing at the bottom of the shaft in order to take the side load from the v-belt. The rpm should be about 250.

I would like to use a gas lawn mower engine for the power source rather than using an electric motor. This is because the picker will be used occasionally on Amish farms where there is no access to electric power unless you run a generator.

What rpm will a 3.5 HP Briggs & Stratton verticle shaft engine have to run in order to deliver at least 1/2 horse? What is the range of rpm at which this engine will operate ie idle to full throttle?

Do you have any idea of the difference in price of 16 ga stainless and galvanized?

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

01-09-2003, 01:42 AM

When you select an engine you normally could look at engineering data that shows torque and horspower vs rpm. This would give you the an idea of actual hp produced at a particular rpm.

I think for food products you may need to use stainless and of a minimum gauge. There is probably a spec/guide to support this.

01-09-2003, 04:27 AM
You cannot use galvinized in contact with food.

[This message has been edited by Thrud (edited 01-09-2003).]

01-09-2003, 07:11 AM
What is the rational for not using galvanized steel in contact with food. I have seen it done before. I know that you aren't supposed to heat galvanized metal but if the process is cold what is the risk?

01-09-2003, 12:10 PM

I've cleaned chickens before, and we used the table top feather plucker and it worked pretty cool. So, I know the birds are dead, but looking at your picture of the birds in the plucker I could swear they look like they are having a good time getting spun around.
I would get a generator and try to keep it away from the chickens to keep the fumes away from the food. Besides you've probably been needing an excuse to buy a generator for years now you have one.
Two jokes for you.
How does a chicken add and subtract?
With a cackelator.
What goes clop clop bang, clop clop bang?
Amish drive by shooting.

I'm really glad you did this project the wife and I hope to farm someday and we'll need one of these.

Good luck

01-09-2003, 02:32 PM
Every component that touches or can touch a food product is required to be stainless for use with food products. Galvanized steel and regular steel are not considered sanitary, but stainless steel is. The galvanized coating can flake or wear off and contaminate the food. It also has to do with the level of cleanliness you can achieve with that material. You would need to meet the USDA/FDA requirements if you wanted to sell it for use on food, or sell any of the products that went thorugh it. Check their website for information on what is allowed.


01-09-2003, 09:44 PM
I haven't built the feather picker yet. The link is to a website that I found yesterday. He used a design that is very similar to what I want to build.

This past season I used a friend's feather picker but I don't want to continue borrowing his because of the hassles of scheduling and borrowing equipment. He runs his picker using a honda horizontal shaft engine. There aren't any problems with the fumes.

I have a generator but I would prefer to not run it for powering the picker because I wish to run it only as needed in order to extend its working life.

The other advantage of powering the feather picker with a gas motor is that the rpm can be fine tuned more easily.

I while I wish to process in as sanitary manner as possible I am not concerned with FDA or USDA regulations regarding processing. As a poultry producer slaughtering the birds on the farm where they are grown the state of Indiana has a 2,000 bird exemption on inspection. Federal inspection is not required for processors who slaughter less than 20,000 birds. So as long as I don't process more than 2,000 birds I am free from regulation.

Last year I butchered 175 chickens and 20 turkeys. This comming summer I will need to raise at least 500 chickens and 50 turkeys.

01-09-2003, 09:50 PM
If you have concerns about stainless steel in contact with food products, check out where an egg comes from.

01-09-2003, 10:14 PM

You definately have a point.

I am going to find out the price difference on galvanized and stainless before I make my decision.

01-09-2003, 10:27 PM
Only chicken plucker I ever been around was the manual variety. We scalded them in a galvanized tub even.

Looking at that page I have a dumb question, how do they kill the chickens before scalding. They have the heads on them, what do they do just throw them in the scald and then in the picker live. They probably wrin the necks or cut them but I'm wondering.

Buddy of mine tells the story of his one armed aunt. He went to her house and she had heard that the sooner one can pluck a bird after it was killed the easier it was to do. So she just plucked this turkey alive, was an awful sight he said. What we wonder is how this one armed woman managed to do this with just one arm. When I say one arm that is all she has, no stub even on the other side, was yanked from it's socket when she was a young girl walking to school when it got caught by the suicide door handle of a 34 Ford.

Amazing how some people can overcome handicaps.

3hp Briggs should do fine, a long flex exaust should also work to get fumes away from operating area. ALA Maytag

01-09-2003, 10:36 PM
Just a bit more.

Wouldn't need to run that briggs too fast to get needed power, but you are going to have to turn it decent RPM because it's air cooled and it needs the RPM to move the air.

I'd back it off a bit, but not much.

Problem with the galvanize is those holes for the fingers, everywhere the metal has been cut, rolled, welded, or bent the gavanize is going to be gone or disturbed. I don't see anything wrong with making out of plain steel and then hot dip galvinizing, but then stainless would be easier.

Plus, stainless is shiny, just ask Thrud.

01-09-2003, 10:52 PM
How do you pluck chcken fast and with head on? Dad Raised chickens when I was in 8 th grade. Had a hook that looked like a W.
Feet went in hook, wings locked behind the back, head haning down. Had a tin can full of leadwith what looked like a fish hook- a big one and sharp with no barb. the hook wnet into mouth, into brain and cut some blood vessels. Blood ran into cup, grabbed feathers and striped the chicken, takes longer to write this than to do a chicken. Guts removed while hooked. I htink I have told every one more than they could possible want to know http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif.

Despite all that blood and guts as a kid, One of the most sickening sight I ever saw was at a chicken dressing plant, chickens comming down an over head link belt, heads down, guts hanging out. Man standing wherethe belt took a 90 degree bend. his job was to flip the chicken and sling guts. Smell was bad, man was bloody to his feet, and that SOB was eating a sandwich as he flipped. made me sick to see a man working with justone hand and boss paying for both!!!!!

Robert Jones
01-09-2003, 11:28 PM
Doc Steve, you just described something I've been wondering about for a while. I looked at the ingredients list of some lunch meat once, and the first listing was "mechanically separated chicken" All I could think of was some pore ol' chicken going down a ramp with feet, legs, feathers and guts just flying everywhere with the chicken squawking like crazy. Can't eat lunch meat any more.

By the way, ain't this forum grand? We go from sharpening razor blades to milling abalone and chicken plucking without losing a step. What a place to learn things, Bobby

01-10-2003, 12:13 AM
sorry to re-iterate Halfnut but he's right. Single cylinder air-cooled engines are designed to run at full rpm(3500-3600)only.This provides sufficient cooling air not to overheat and carbon the piston.Briggs and stratton made a 2 h.p. horiz.shaft engine for stationary pumps and small reel mowers.You should be able to find one used cheap.I would belt drive to reduce speed from engine to tub and use briggs "lo-tone" quiet muffler.And Mr. Hannum, you've got a valid point!Galvanize...Stainless...IT'S A CHICKEN!!

01-10-2003, 12:51 AM
Seen the centrifuge (Mechanically de-boned) that Mcnuggets come out of - and I will still eat them as long as I have BBQ sauce. Have to have something to kill the taste of the grease. Same with "Mystery Meat" & "Tube Steaks" - as long as I don't get a beak, hoof, or finger in it - I am happy.

Stainless steel you can use two gauges lighter stock than regualr steel and get the same strength. If you will not go to stainless consider instead 1xxx series Aluminum (Pure) - this would be a better choice than the galvinized (which can have toxic metal in it).

You can purchase new VIRGIN Stainless steel drums 30 & 55 gallon size relatively cheap - this might be the way to go, then all you need to do is pop holes in it.

[This message has been edited by Thrud (edited 01-10-2003).]

01-10-2003, 01:05 AM
Stainless drums would be nice but I want a 30" diameter tub.

I don't understand the bit about the engine needing to run at full throttle. As far as I can tell there aren't any cooling fans on either of my lawnmower motors. And the blade is on the bottom side of the deck so it certainly isn't cooling the engine. What generates the air movement?

The Honda engine my friend uses doesn't sound like it is at full throttle.

Bikewrench, This is one situation where a horizontal shaft engine makes things more complex because I am driving a verticle shaft.

01-10-2003, 11:47 AM
The flywheel is the cooling fan.

01-10-2003, 12:35 PM
Even though you are exempt from regulation, IMO it is still a good idea to follow those guidelines. Some of them are a bit over the edge, but I would not used galvanized in anything for food.

JC, Im not concerned about eggs, I usually don't eat the shell http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//wink.gif

The separator used for getting the meat off the carcass is made by Beehive http://www.weilerinc.com/default.asp
I had a tour of a chicken slaughterhouse a number of years ago when I was doing a pilot test there, they hung the chickens by one leg and slit the throats, then defeathered them. After that the heads and legs were removed and the bodies placed on a conveyor belt where about 50 people on each side sliced parts off. At the end, all that was left was the carcass and that was cut into peices and then put into the Beehive to separate/extrude out any leftover meat. That became hotdogs. I never really liked hotdogs, but after that, really didn't have any interest in eating one.


01-12-2003, 06:27 AM
Hawkins: halfnut warns/Sez:"The flywheel is the cooling fan.". On lawnmower engines, that is so very true. The fly wheel ain't no flywheel. The Blade is the flywheel!!!!!!

The "fly wheel" (the blower, magnets, starter mechanism) may split along the key when started unless a real flywheel (Heavy mass, used to store energy) is in the system. You don't want a disconnect belt between the engine and flywheel.

Lower RPM/Vs cooling? So far as I know, ALL fans follow a "power Cubed" law- Double the speed and you need at LEAST 8 times the power for spinning the fan (because you are moving twice the mass of air, and increasing the velocity by twice- and Energy= 1/2 (Mass x velocity X Velocity).) I also have observed several manufacturers simply increase the max rated speed a few hundred RPM and publish the increased speed as increased HP. If their HP ratings are true they are not on the high end of the torque/ RPM curve. In other words, I suspect they don't really produce much more useable HP because the parasitic drags eat up a lot of the "HP". Look at a list of parts numbers and (neglecting the parts that have Hp ratings on them) the numbers are the same.

also Check warrenty info (even if buying a second hand engine) and see if you can figure out how many hours UNDER LOAD an engine should last. Hard info to find untill you start fussing about short life of a big bunch of engines.

Also Kohler makes a 1800 RPM engine for 60 cycle power plants. High torque/low RPM they are heavy, have a low pitched rumble, but are durable because of the low speeds. I mention this not to circumvent the Amish, but to point out that not all single cylinder engines are high speed (3000 to 3600 rpm according to my figureing of speeds http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif) But it is so much cheaper to get HP by RPMs than Torque.

In my opinion, check the cylinder head temp or block temps to see if you are hurting engine by operating at lower speeds. I would also gamble that if the engine can "hold speed" (govenrned speed remains the same under loads you apply) the engine PROBABY will not heat up at lower speeds. I know some manufactureres have concealed heat sensors (marine engines) to "prove angine has not been overheated in use". From that I ASSUME that, if it don't get too hot, it won't be hurt.

So I would gabmble that between 1800 RPM and 3600 RPM, the engine will provide the torque at pretty consistant level and you can vary speed by as you desire. 2:1 ratio befor swapping a gear or blet ought to give fair control.

Galvanized? I have no idea how the govt regulations arrived at stainless for food prep. I sure have consumed many a gallon of water from a "tin" (galvanised iron) bucket. I sure remember when the Gov't out lawed wooden cutting boards for fish sellers- said you gotta use plastic. Took a few months to change that rule!!!! Seems wood kills bacteria- Plastic does not. Taht applies to Florida fish camps anyway. Never trust a GOvt reg to be well researched (unless the reg is challanged by big business). Too much "hip pocket" engineering goes into govt rules.
Rant off.

When comparing horse powers- figure a gas engine needs twice the HP in the same service as an electric motor. So a 3.5 Hp Briggs, at half RPM will be down to say 1.5 hp. And the 1/2 HP electric motor will probably keep up with a one HP gasoline.

01-12-2003, 07:13 AM
Stainless is clean, and easy to clean, I'd keep all the materiel of that or plastic. You can mig weld stainless easily with argon gas and stainless mig wire also. The more you rub it the slicker it gets, using rouge and finishing out with white I can hardly hold onto it to polish it. I love stainless. The first deboner I saw... was stainless tig wires run by a hydraulic motor( like the paint strippers run on the home shopping network). it had a chute coming into the top of it you would put chicken pieces into. Once it jammed and the woman operating it pushed the meat into it with her hand, yes it deboned more than chicken that day.
No clue how a chicken-defeather machine worked tho. I saw some in Oklahoma that had been defeathered by the tornado that had passed through, them were ugly and unhappy chickens.
Even if you don't get inspected you should maintain health standards.

01-13-2003, 01:19 PM

I've been thinking about this for a few days, and I have to say I agree with the others use stainless steel. It'll wear like a pigs nose, easy to clean and you can polish it up and make it the envy of the other chicken pluckers. Besides, OSHA, FDA and other regulations are usually written in blood. Why take the chance? for a few extra dollars you get peace of mind and an easy to work, clean up chicken plucker.

Best of luck to you


01-13-2003, 02:04 PM
Oh, horsefeathers! I just saw on the news that a featherless chicken has been bred! Really ugly, but then what chicken is beautiful? Forget the chicken plucker.

01-13-2003, 02:12 PM
Or, how about a porcelain tub from a clothes washer?