Featherman Initial Thoughts

I’m not ready to give a final review of my new Featherman equipment so I’ll try to make this fast.  We ran 35 birds through tonight in about 45 minutes because we didn’t want our big processing day on Saturday to have any surprises.  We weren’t running at full speed because we had so many changes to adjust to.  I think we’ll be significantly faster as we make some adjustments.

Here are my initial thoughts:
-The kill cones and stand are awesome.  The best thing ever.  Ever.  It could be improved if the sides of the base were higher to catch more of the blood but that’s not a deal breaker.  Next time I’ll put a layer of sawdust around the base and cleanup will be a snap.
-The scalder is pretty darned good.  I’m not sure it generates enough heat to process 200 birds/hour as David claimed but I’m going to try to find out.  After about 15 birds the burner kicked on and stayed on for the duration.  For the most part, the birds came out clean…then I remembered to add soap to the water (blushing).   As I understand it, the scalder was recently redesigned and I have the new model.  I think she lit the burner around 4:30 and it was hot at 6:00.  No complaints.
-The roto-dunker is going to need some getting used to.   There is a youtube video where a user has problems with it.  I can see what his problems were.  I think I have it figured out but we’ll see.  The motor may just not be powerful enough for four giant, wet birds.  It ran flawlessly with only two birds.  I think it is fine though, I just need to load the birds right…and maybe park a 6-year old next to it in case it stops.
-The plucker did a great job.  I bought the gamebird plucker with extra fingers.  By “extra fingers” I mean “extra hard to clean”.  Otherwise it did a great job.

At this point I hand the birds off to my wife and son for evisceration.  The wife gave positive feedback on the shackles saying they will need some getting used to but they are good.  She was working on four birds at a time, making the same cut to each one before returning to the beginning.  Then the birds were handed off to our oldest son for lung and scent gland removal and final inspection.  Ultimately the shackles will hang from chain on a pipe.  For now, we just wanted to verify the hype so I whipped up something quick.

That’s really all I have time to write because I still need to cut and package the birds…after I eat dinner…after I tuck the kids in.  I also have to make plans for a more permanent pipe to hang the shackles from.  And close up the chickens.  And move the cows.  And…

Ah, the joys of being a sundown farmer.

Ghosts of Processing Equipment Past

We have used a variety of homemade equipment for several years.  Today we remembered why we were upgrading away from it.

We use transport boxes and kill cones we got from this APPPA article.  The transport boxes are great.  I cut them out and my then 10 year old son assembled them.  I probably need more than 10 but where do you store empty boxes when they are not in use?  When we were much smaller we used a wagon to tote the boxes around.

The cones listed in the link above could be better.  I won’t say they were awful but they aren’t great.  They served their purpose for two years but needed a lot of attention along the way.  $35 seemed like a lot of money for a cone but I now believe it is worth the it.

We have been using a turkey fryer or the side burner on our old hand-me-down grill to keep our scald water hot.  This could be better.  Normally we also keep several pots of boiling water on the stove so we can replenish the water when it cools down.  Cool water leads to an incomplete scald and and unhappy Steward pulling wing and tail feathers with a pliers.

Then we move to the Whizbang plucker.  Really, this isn’t a bad little unit and can be used to amaze your friends but it’s not good for more than 20 birds at a time.  After about 20 birds you need to move it away from the pile of feathers or the mass of feathers will knock the belt off the drive pulley.  This gets old when you are trying to process 150 birds.  A belt tensioner would be a good addition.

We got a stainless steel table from some friends.  It is awesome and will continue to be a part of our process.  However, Mrs. Steward’s back gets sore eviscerating chickens at this table all morning.  She wants to move to hanging shackles.  Hanging shackles it is.

We needed to find an upgrade solution that was a good value and met our current and near-term production needs.  I am not processing 400 chickens/hour. I just need equipment appropriate to keep three adults and a child or two busy for a couple of hours in the morning.  Something that will get about 80% of our capacity so we don’t kill ourselves.  We are going with a package from Featherman Equipment.  After today’s fiasco I can’t wait for it to get here.  It should arrive Tuesday.  We don’t plan to process until Saturday…if we can wait that long.

I would like to add that we weren’t even considering Featherman Equipment until we met with David (the owner) at a recent conference.  His price, quality and proximity all favored his product.  Plus, the videos he put on Youtube years ago showed us everything that the books couldn’t quite describe.  The videos alone make him a hero in our book.  His prices put him over the top.