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Processing and plucking a chicken at home provides complete control over the meat and butchering conditions, but can be messy, unpleasant, and hard to do. Chicken plucking becomes a simpler process if the bird is brought to the correct temperature before any feathers are removed. Younger chickens tend to be easier to pluck, and make a good choice for beginners. For large batches, mechanical pluckers can make the process easier, but some hand plucking is usually required.
Plucking a chicken for butchering is time-consuming and can be difficult. Many people who raise their own chickens or purchase poultry from local farms must clean and pluck the birds themselves, first immersing the dead bird in boiling water, and then pulling the feathers out by hand. Inadequate soaking makes the feathers hard to remove, and can leave behind small feathers or pieces of larger ones. Oversoaking cooks the top layer of skin, causing it to discolor and pull away with the feathers.
The process of plucking a chicken gets easier if the bird is already warm before it enters the boiling water. If the chicken cannot be plucked immediately after bleeding, it should be brought to room temperature, then scalded for a short period in very hot water. Longer soaks at lower temperatures increase the chances of overscalding and produce a higher risk of skin tears while plucking.
Older chickens tend to be harder to pluck, while young birds have less solidly-attached feathers. Cooks should scald young chickens at 125° to 130° Fahrenheit (52° to 54° Celsius) to for 30 to 75 seconds, while older birds require temperatures of up to 140° Fahrenheit (60° Celsius). Plucking should begin immediately after the bird is removed from the water, with rubber gloves as protection from the feathers. If the feathers become difficult to remove, the chicken should be briefly scalded again.
Not all chickens must be plucked by hand. Plucking a chicken on a case-by-case basis works well as a manual process, but mass plucking for storage can be exhausting. Table-top or tub-style chicken pluckers use stiff rubber fingers to catch the feathers and remove them from the softened, scalded skin. Both methods may leave behind a number of small or broken feathers, as well as fine pinfeathers, which must be removed by hand.