How To Pluck a Chicken: Definitive Guide

How to Pluck a Chicken Featured Image
A chicken can be plucked by hand, using a tabletop or tub-style plucker. After scalding, aim to pull the feathers quickly yet gently to avoid tearing the skin and with regular practice, this skill becomes much easier to master. 

More people than ever are raising chickens with the intent of butchering them for meat. These specific types of chicken breeds are called broilers.

Plucking chickens can seem like a daunting task to someone who has never done it before, but it isn’t difficult to learn. You must familiarize yourself with plucking chicken feathers to obtain the meat of your chickens.

This article covers tried and true methods of plucking a chicken for the first time, whether you intend to hand pluck or use special tools made for the job. We will also cover how best to prepare your own chickens for chicken processing.

How Do You Prepare Chickens for Plucking?

Butchering chickens is the first step to preparing a chicken for plucking.

There are various ways to butcher a chicken – but the most humane ways are:

  • Decapitation – performed by using a heavy, sharp knife in one swing, to fully remove a chicken’s head from it’s body. This is best done with two people with one person holding the bird, and the second person using the knife.
  • Killing Cone – this is a device that can be used on small birds (less than 5kg) by hanging them upside down, placing their neck in a clamp and using the clamp to dislocate a chicken’s neck.
  • Gun/Pellet Gun – You would want to use a .22 at least at very close range, and use the gun to take the chicken out with one shot to the head or neck.
  • Cervical Dislocation – This is essentially breaking a chicken’s neck with a special technique, using either your hands or a broomstick. It is critical that you understand the proper way of doing this – you don’t want the birds to suffer unnecessarily.
  • CO2 Chamber – This is enclosing your chicken in a space with a high amount of carbon dioxide. Your chicken will pass out and die from lack of oxygen. This method of poultry euthanasia is typically only used on commercial farms and you may require licensing and certifications.
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If you aren’t comfortable butchering your chickens yourself, there are places that can process your chickens for you – which includes the butchering and cleaning, but the extra cost and transportation can be a deterrent for some.

Once your chickens have been butchered, you will want to ensure they are drained of blood. Your chicken will need to be hung upside down for at least two minutes to drain the carcass – we recommend using a cone funnel for this purpose.

After they have been drained, you will then need to scald the chicken to easily remove its feathers.

How do you Scald a Chicken?

You will want to ensure you have at least a 5-gallon bucket or large pot of water on stand-by prior to butchering your chickens. The water temperature should be about 145 degrees which is less than the temperature of boiling water, but is hot enough to scald.

After your chicken has been drained of blood, you will need to dunk the whole bird in the scalding hot water. Getting a perfect scald is important as scalding water plays an important part in allowing a chicken’s feathers to be pulled easily from the skin without it tearing.

man scalding chicken
AIm to have hot (but not boiling) water to scald properly.

The bird should be dunked for approximately 45 seconds. Some chicken breeds may need longer – especially older, larger birds.

The best way to tell if the bird is properly scalded is by rubbing a chicken’s leg and seeing if the feathers easily come out of the skin with moderate finger pressure. If the bird’s skin turns white and you see a frothy sort of tinge, you’ve scalded too long and began to cook the bird.

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If this happens, it may be nearly impossible to pluck your chicken, so be careful with scalding and only do it for seconds (not minutes), at a time. You can dunk the bird multiple times without it being problematic.

Alternatively, if you don’t scald the bird long enough, it will be incredibly difficult to remove the pin feathers from your chicken. Getting your scald just right is important for allowing you to pluck your chicken.

How do you Pluck a Chicken?

Beginners should know that plucking a chicken is not overly difficult to do if the bird has been properly scalded ahead of time. It is important to choose the plucking method that you are most comfortable with.

These are the 3 most popular ways of plucking a chicken:

1. Plucking by Hand

This is best performed if you suspend your chicken with a hook and allow it to hang upside down. Start pulling from the wing feathers. Then move forward to other parts of the bird.

plucking chicken by hand
Plucking by hand is cheap and simple but takes practice

Feathers should be pulled quickly but gently so the skin doesn’t tear. Continue plucking out feathers and double check under the wings, between the legs, and remove the tail feathers.

If plucking gets more difficult because the bird has cooled off, you may need to re-scald the bird to open the pores to pluck the remaining feathers. Once the feathers are completely removed, you are ready for the next step.

2. Use a Table Top Plucker

A tabletop plucker is a way of quickly processing a chicken in under a minute. You will need to purchase the machine and prepare your bird by scalding it properly.

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It may take some practice, but you will place the parts of the chicken that you want to de-feather on the fingers of the machine, which will pull out the feathers for you.

3. Use a Tub Style Plucker

Tub-style puckers have a tub with rubber nubs that lay in a circular barrel. It also has an electric motor-driven plate. By switching on the motor, the plate spins.

tub style plucker in factory
Designed for commercial premises, these tub-style pluckers make short work of removing feathers!

You will place your freshly scalded chicken or chicken(s) inside the tub (yes you can add more than one chicken at a time). The spinning takes off the feathers while leaving the meat and skin intact in less than 30 seconds.

The downside of tub-style pluckers are the cost. These machines will cost a pretty penny, but if you process a lot of birds, it may be worth the extra cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some people have asked if it is possible to pluck a chicken without scalding. If you absolutely have to – you can make it work, but only with a freshly butchered chicken.

Immediately after butchering, you will want to drain the chicken of blood and start pulling out the feathers. If the chicken gets cold, the skin tightens up making pulling the feathers out incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

If you are dry-plucking you will want to wear gloves to protect your hands and fingers from injury. Also be prepared for sore arms and shoulders after you’re done!

The best ways to prepare and pluck chickens really come down to you and what your needs and comfort level are. You may need to try different methods to figure out what works best for your flock, and it can take some practice before getting it right, so don’t be discouraged!


A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina recently moved across the globe to Austria, where she bought land specifically to build a small house with room for a backyard chicken coop. Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for a flock of hens owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of chickens, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Chicken Care Taker in 2022.

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