I initially published this review in April of 2012. By the end of June 2012 I had a more informed opinion of my gear. Much of what I said below is still helpful but the updated review should be considered.
My thoughts on my Featherman equipment shifted several times today. We were so successful working slowly on Thursday night I really wanted to turn up the juice. I was anxious to test David’s claim that this could handle 200 birds/hour.
It can’t. I did get to 80 birds and I believe that’s pretty sustainable. The scalder is the limiting factor.
Here are some notes on each item then I’ll go into the process that I found works best.
Kill 4 at a time. This equipment is best-suited for batches of four 4-pound birds. My only real complaint about the kill cones is the difficulty cleaning the base when finished. We scooped out 10 gallons of congealed blood with a cottage-cheese container before washing it. The base is heavy and difficult to pour into another container. This is a small complaint.
The scalder nearly convinced me to write a strongly-worded letter to Featherman. I do not believe it is capable of more than 60 birds/hour on a 45 degree day (this morning), though 80 birds is manageable if the weather cooperates. It just doesn’t generate enough heat. 60 birds/hour sounds like a lot unless you’re processing 300 at a time and have other things to do with 5 hours of your day. I bought this equipment under the impression that it could manage 200 birds/hour, 150 anyway. I do not believe the scalder can go beyond 80/hour. Be sure to keep it filled with water.
Another strongly-worded letter opportunity. Thursday we were plucking four birds at a time each dressing out at 5 or 6 pounds. That’s more weight than this little rotisserie motor can swing. Birds that will dress out at around 4 pounds are perfect. You have to keep the load balanced and the scalder full (more on that later) for this to work but it can work for you. Also, we found the birds inch along head-first as they turn in the dunker and their heads will stop the rotation. We also found that putting the heads toward the center wasn’t a solution because the feet would drag the rotation down. The solution appears to be pulling the heads off of the birds before you put them in the dunker. This way they will work across the cylinder and drag their necks against the sidewall without their big head being in the way of the rotation. 2 headless birds, facing the same direction, appears to be the way to go. I also found it was best to flip the birds over halfway through their scald. The roto-dunker doesn’t totally submerge all birds so you can end up with a feathery patch that will need to be hand-plucked. Finally, there are a number of sharp edges on the roto-dunker and my fingers are pretty shredded. Gloves maybe?
The plucker is terrible at plucking a single bird. My whizbang did a far better job. However, if you put in three or four birds at a time it does a great job.
My wife gives these 5 stars. She says, “You just line them up and cut, cut, cut then gut, gut, gut. It’s much faster than laying them on the table and better on my back.” I agree. They are easy to load and handy to use. Highly recommended.
This little beauty doesn’t hold 200 5# birds. It just doesn’t. It is nice though. Very nice.
There is a pattern I found in the afternoon that kept the scald water hot, kept my wife busy eviscerating and cut through the birds at a reasonable pace. First, the scalder has to be full. Full. The roto-dunker doesn’t work if the bird isn’t totally wet.
I’ll start at the end. Take the birds, one at a time, out of the roto-dunker and place them in the plucker. Turn the water on, start the plucker and step away. Grab the hose and refill the scalder to about half an inch from the overflow. This little bit of water makes a big, big difference. Keeping the scalder full makes or breaks the plucker.
I’m assuming you have a helper monitoring the plucker. If not, put the hose down and go empty the plucker. This gives time for the scald water to warm up again. Now, go kill 4 birds. While they finish up, grab the 4 birds that were already dead in the cones one at a time. As you grab them, remove their heads. You’ll need two full rotations to load four birds in the roto-dunker. Both birds go in facing the same direction.
Once the scald is complete (8 rotations or so), unload them one at a time into the plucker. Just like loading, you’ll need two full rotations to unload the roto-dunker.
You may feel like you’re standing around quite a bit in this process but believe me, it’s the right pace for this equipment. I may find ways to go faster. I may develop more comfort with the gear but at this speed the burner never shuts off.
David won’t be getting a strongly-worded letter from me. I had to adjust my expectations. Initially I was disappointed. My scald was pretty awful. But once I settled into the pattern above I found we could manage quite well. I don’t think 60-80 birds/hour is a bad pace for 3 people. And, for the price I could run two roto-dunkers and still save money over the Ashley or Poultryman scalder. If one broke I would still be in business.
We have 50 birds left to process. I have little doubt that we can finish them up in an hour plus cleanup time.
Also, everything fits in the scalder when cleaning. That’s pretty handy.
These are my thoughts after one solid day with my new equipment. My thoughts may change as I settle in more with the gear. I’ll keep this post up to date.