Dry Plucking Poultry (Poultry - General)

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I came across the following in Farming for Self-Sufficiency by John & Sally Seymour, 1973 edition, and wanted to throw it out for discussion:

"To kill a chicken grab its legs in your left hand, put your right hand over the back of its head, bend the head upwards at the same time stretching its neck. It is a turning movement of the hand. You will feel the spine snap. If you do it too hard you will pull the head off which doesn't matter but it looks disgusting.

"Start plucking immediately if you are going to dry pluck. Every second counts, for the feathers come out easily when the bird is warm but very uneasily when it is getting cold. Sit down, put the wings (which will go on flapping violently for a time) between your knees, and quickly pluck the feathers off the breast - it's matter of experience, and Old Mother Common Sense. Then pluck the whole bird."

Now then:

Would dry plucking a live bird be inhumane? Perhaps one could get it a bit drunk first with some whiskey poured down the throat.

Would birds undergoing molt be the easiest to dry pluck?

One advantage of dry plucking is apparently to use the feathers in bedding. The Seymours say to "...pile them in a very slow oven, or on a grid over the stove, for some hours to dry first."

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 02, 2002


Go ahead and rip the feathers off a live bird, if it protests (squacks, etc.) it probability in inhumane. Let us know the results.

-- Joe (CactusJoe001@AOL.com), February 02, 2002.

OK, before I get my tires slashed by P.E.T.A., let me rephrase the questions. Has anyone tried this technique? If so, how does it compare to hot water plucking? Rabbits are normally just whacked on the head to render them unconscious before processing. Could this also be done with poultry for dry plucking?

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 02, 2002.

I have never had any luck with dry plucking I perfer skining or plucking after being submerged in hot water.

-- Mark in N.C. Fla. (deadgoatman@webtv.net), February 02, 2002.

Ken, the only birds I have ever dry plucked were geese when I wanted to save the down. All others have always had the hot water treatment. As for the fast plucking when newly dead (I ain't goin' nowhere nohow towards plucking live birds), there is a technique for killing birds where you slit their throats and then stick a knife in the brain that is supposed to really loosen their feathers up for easy plucking. Never have seen this done, but have heard of it often. I think it's something that you need to be shown how to do, and that it takes practice.

-- Jennifer L. (Northern NYS) (jlance@nospammail.com), February 02, 2002.

Ken:In the book "Raising poultry the modern way"by leonard s. mercier there is directions and diagrams,here is what it says-Debraining loosens the feathers so that it is easier to pluck the birds.it is done after the jugular vein is cut.Debraining is done when the birds are to be dry picked,but may also be done when the birds are to be semi-scalded to make the removal of feathers easier.The knife is inserted through the groove or cleft in the roof of the mouth and pushed through to the rear of the skull where it pierces the rear lobe of the brain.The knife is then given a quarter-turn.This kills the bird and loosens the feathers.A characteristic squawk and shudder indicates a good stick.If the front portions of the brain are pierced it may cause the feathers to tighten.This procedure requires practice before the operator becomes proficient.I personally have never tried it that way,like said above I think I would need to be shown how to do it first.I did try a 22 cal. to the head and evidently I hit to much of the brain,it was very tough getting the feathers off and almost impossible to get the bigger wing feathers off,I just ended up skinning the bird. Dave

-- Dave (duckthis1@maqs.net), February 02, 2002.

Tryed dry plucking ONCE!!! Not ever again. Just give me the old hot water bath...smell and all. Goes many times faster.

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), February 02, 2002.

This morning I butchered two big RIR roosters. I popped them in the head with a 22 using shorts at close range. As soon as they quite flopping all over the place I started dry plucking some of the feathers. They seemed to come out very easy. I didn't dry pluck the whole birds as I was only keeping certain feathers for fly tying purposes. Afterwards I finished them by skinning them out since to me this method always seems a lot faster. You loose a lot of flavor in the skin if you are going to make broth. But the speed is well worth it to me. However, if piercing the brain with a bullet maybe is what made them easier to dry pluck. I don't think I would try dry plucking while they are still flopping everywhere, you will end up with blood all over you.

-- r.h. in okla. (rhays@sstelco.com), February 02, 2002.

Well we tried the "hitting the brain" method, and after doing about 30 birds, we still couldn't rely on hitting the correct spot. Dry plucking is hard to do as the skin tears. We just skin the birds and are done with it. We used to use the scald method, but can't take the smell. Ii would be weeks before I could eat a chicken we had processed. So now we just skin them.

As far as plucking a live bird - didn't farmers use to pluck down from geese for feather pillows and they didn't kill the geese either. Just waited for late fall or winter and did the plucking when the down was thickest. Seems I read that in a history book on agriculture of England. Anyway, I don't think they plucked the whole goose, just the down feathers on the breast/underside of the bird. I would think plucking a whole chicken while live would be mean to the bird and hurt too, equivalent to pulling a person's hair out. Yeow that hurts to even think about it!

-- Cindy (colawson@mindspring.com), February 03, 2002.

Everyone still talks about my great-grandma dry plucking live geese. I never saw it but I heard she somehow caught them in between her legs and started plucking feathers off the breast as fast as she could. My Grandma said it was quite a sight. I laughed but she said "don't laugh, we were the only ones around who had feather pillows"

-- renabeth (renabeth@yahoo.com), February 04, 2002.

I think I'll stick to skinning them!!

-- Marcia (HrMr@webtv.net), February 04, 2002.

My dogs are good at it, [pucking live birds that is] but they slobber so much I don't think it counts as 'dry'

-- Thumper/inOKC (slrldr@yahoo.com), February 04, 2002.

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