Home Poultry Processing

Home poultry processing might seem like a daunting task to a new or inexperienced farmer, but with the right tools and the right mindset, poultry processing is as simple as ever.  Poultry processing equipment is abundant and there are definitely the right tools out there to help get you started; but like every aspect of poultry farming, knowing your own farm and circumstances is incredibly crucial in finding the correct equipment.


Theoretically, you can process poultry with little or no special equipment at all.  If you only plan on processing a couple of birds, this may suffice, but for everyone else who is reading, you’re going to need some assistance.  Before we discuss equipment further, it’s important to know the federal and state laws in your area regarding poultry processing.  Be sure to to know the rules on poultry processing and inspection in your area before you embark on a creating a processing setup.


When the unfamiliar think about processing poultry, they might be initially hesitant about the process as a whole due to the nature of it.  In reality, it’s a necessary and age-old practice that humans have been using to survive for centuries.  The process itself doesn’t have to be stressful.  With the proper tools and a clean environment, harvesting your birds can be quick and easy.  In this guide, we will help you learn about the various products and steps used in the processing process, as well as list some examples of these wonderful products as seen for sale on eFowl.com.  Hopefully after reading you’ll have a good understanding of what you’re doing and more importantly, what tools and equipment you will need for your farm.  There’s a lot of stuff out there, but finding what’s right for you depends on… well, you!


The Process

The first step of your process takes place in your kill cones and kill cone stand.  A kill cone stand holds up your metal or plastic kill cones.  These cones allow the bird to hang upside down with its neck through the bottom hole, which is then where you cut the carotid artery.  It’s difficult to be able to cut the artery without getting the windpipe or nerve column, but you will get better with time and practice.  The stand usually features a bottom trough where blood is collected for an easy clean-up.  Some stands swivel and some don’t.  Cone stands and the cones themselves also come in various sizes.  


Kill Cones and Stands


*Higher Price Range*


  • Brower Bleed Rack: An 8 cone kill cone stand.  Cones, brackets and poly tank for blood collection are sold separately (holds only 6 XL cones.)




  • Brower Poly Tank: Multi-use tank compatible with Brower Bleed Rack for Blood Collection.


*Lower Price Range*









Now let’s talk about scalders.  You scald your birds in order to loosen their feathers after they’ve bled out and before you pluck them.  Though it’s the 2nd step in the process, the scalder is arguably the most important piece of equipment you will need.  The perfect scald sets you up for the rest of the process because it allows all feathers to easily fall out of your chicken before any other step of the process.  This does wonders for your final product.  What defines “the perfect scald,” you might ask?  Well it has to be not too hot, and not too cold.  If your scald is too cold or short, feathers will be left over and won't fall out easily.  If it’s too long or hot, the skin will tear.  Scalders come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  You can get smaller electric scalders from eFowl.com for under $300, while you can also invest more into gas scalders that range anywhere from $1,000 - $4,000.  It depends on how many chickens you plan on scalding and how often you plan on doing it.




*Lower Price Range*



*Middle Price Range*


  • Featherman Scalder: Scalder with a 65k BTU propane burner. 40 gallon capacity (4 birds at a time.)


*Higher Price Range*




There are also a few add-on items that go with your scalder that aid in the dunking and scalding process.  Dunking is the act of dunking the birds in the scalder and can be done with a manual or automatic dunker.  This is a process that could be theoretically done with a large pot of hot water on your stove and with tongs for dunking.  All things considered, if you plan on scalding often or with a good amount of birds, this more “economical” approach to dunking and scalding is going to set you back hours if not days in terms of tedious work and efficiency.  Featherman Equipment manufactures a few different tools to help you dunk your birds efficiently and safely.


Scalder Add-ons


  • Featherman Roto-Dunker: An automatic dunker that fits on top of your Featherman Scalder.  Features two baskets that hold 2 5-pound birds in each.


  • Featherman Manual Dunker: Manual Dunker with 52” stainless steel arm and sturdy adjustable spring.  Fits on top of Featherman Scalder.


  • Featherman Shackles: Hooks to Featherman Manual Dunker, holds 5 birds of any size. 24" long. Weighs 6 LBS.







After you’ve scalded, you can make the easy transition right from your scalder into a picker or plucker.  A plucker (or picker) is responsible for finally removing all the feathers on your bird carcass.  By spinning the scalded birds around the inside of the plucker tub, the ultra-soft fingers carefully pluck and remove all remaining feathers on the bird until they’re clean and ready for evisceration.


Like the other products, there are many different brands and types of pluckers that are specially designed for different sizes and amounts of birds.  There are game bird pluckers, broiler pluckers, turkey pluckers etc.  Turkey pluckers will be the biggest and most expensive, and though they are designed for turkeys, they can usually handle plucking other birds like broilers and game birds - giving your setup great versatility.  A game bird plucker for example, on the other hand, will not usually be able to pluck a larger bird like a turkey.  Quality pluckers like those from Featherman Equipment will usually run between $1,100 and $1,600, though eFowl.com does offer an economical table-top plucker for smaller operations for only $430.  




*Lower Price Range*



*Middle Price Range*


  • Featherman Pro: Designed for broilers and chickens, this is a very popular choice.




*Higher Price Range*



** Featherman also offers their same line of pluckers but in a non-electric model, should you plan on using the device somewhere without access to electricity.**



The next step is evisceration, which requires a handful of different techniques and methods in order to effectively complete.  Evisceration is the step of removing all the bird’s internal organs and things that aren’t necessarily part of the final product.  This is often done upon a stainless steel “evisceration table” or “gutting table.”


Gutting Table



Some more important tools used in this process include a boning knife and lung remover (or lung rake.)  These are knives and tools specially designed for parts of the evisceration process.  Your boning knife will work in cutting through joints, the tail, and most other parts of the chicken, while a skinner knife is great for parting out your birds if need be.  While job-specific knives aren’t necessary for every part of the journey, Brower and Featherman do manufacture many different types of knives that will aid you throughout various aspects of the process.  Featherman Equipment even offers 6” and 12” Lung Rakes complete with a built in garden hose adapter.  This allows you to rake out the lungs while also flushing the chicken’s insides with water.


Evisceration Tools






Once you’ve completely eviscerated your birds, it’s time to put them in a chill tank.  The chill tank helps the meat stay tender as can be while you process other chickens and as natural bodily functions like rigor mortis pass through the birds.  Many farmers will use two chill tanks.  Using the first one for about 20-30 minutes, the water within this tank shall usually turn a pinkish color while all residual blood left from the birds gets washed out.  The next chill tank will usually see the birds for about 4 hours and should remain clear.  While using two tanks isn’t required, it does help keep your final product as clean as possible.  The chill tank from Featherman Equipment is a large 300-gallon tank with a 200 bird capacity.  At $405 dollars, the tank even has a PVC drain pipe for easy drainage and cleaning.


Chill Tank


Featherman Equipment also produces an array of different sized shrink bags, in which you can shrink wrap your product after the final chill.


Shrink Bags



  • Small Turkey Shrink Bag: 24” L x 14” W shrink fitting bag designed for small turkeys.  Ships in either 25 or 100.


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  • Avatar
    Margaret Eversole

    How do I get this set up USDA approved to sell my processed chickens in Colorado?

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