Whizbang Plucker F.A.Q.
Many people have e-mailed me over the years with questions about the Whizbang plucker. Most of them are answered below. If your Whizbang plucker question is not answered here, please send me an e-mail (Herrick@PlanetWhizbang.com). I will do my best to answer it. Please Note: Construction and troubleshooting questions are nearer the bottom of this page.
1. How does the Whizbang plucker work?
The plucker consists of a tub with a circular, motor-driven plate in the bottom. The plate (called the “featherplate”) is studded with rubber “plucker fingers.” Turn the motor on, and the plate spins. Drop one or more scalded birds into the tub, while spraying them with a garden hose. The critters tumble around while the fingers flail the feathers off. In about 15 seconds the chickens will be plucked clean. It’s truly amazing. It’s one of those things you have to see to believe. There are numerous YouTube videos of the Whizbang plucker. THIS ONE is 27 seconds long and shows one chicken being plucked clean in 14 seconds.
2. Can the Whizbang Plucker really pluck all the feathers off a chicken in 15 seconds?
If you scald your chickens properly, the Whizbang will, indeed, pick the feathers off in 15 seconds (20 seconds at most). Scalding means to dunk the chicken in hot water. This loosens the feathers. It is not hard to do and This Essay tells you how.
Virtually all the bird’s plumage will be mechanically picked off. Pin feathers will be removed too. 99.9% of the feathers will be gone. The few odd feathers that don’t come off during plucking can be easily rubbed or pulled off with no trouble prior to eviscerating.
Better yet, a Whizbang tub plucker will pluck two, three, or even four chickens at once, just as quickly. In fact, you will get a better pluck if you pick at least two chickens at a time.
3. Are the bird’s dead when you pluck them in the Whizbang plucker?
Yes, very dead. All birds should be dead, bled, and scalded before going into the plucker. You should never pluck live birds.
4. Can you dry-pluck birds in a Whizbang plucker?
Nope. That doesn't work.
5. Don’t the birds bruise from all that tumbling and finger flailing?
No. There must be blood in the bird for bruising to occur. If you kill and bleed out the bird prior to plucking, there can be no bruising.
6. Do the birds ever bounce out of the tub when you are plucking them?
No. The plucking action does not bounce the birds. They tumble from side to side.
7. Where do the feathers go?
When the feathers are slapped off the bird’s carcass, they spin out to the sides of the tub and are washed down, through a space between the tub and featherplate, to the ground under the plucker. Then you rake the feathers up and put them on your compost pile. Poultry feathers are a great compost ingredient.
Some people opt to have a bottom on their plucking tub, then cut a feather discharge opening in the side. This idea is worth considering and is discussed on page 58 of the plucker plan book.
8. Did you invent the chicken plucker?
No. The first automatic chicken plucking machine was invented by Andrew Toti and Kent Tomlinson back in the 1940s. Commercial tub-style plucking machines have been in use for many years. The unpatented, expensive, stainless steel, commercial pluckers were my inspiration for building the Whizbang. There were other homemade pluckers out there but I was the first person to develop comprehensive plans for an inexpensive, remarkably effective, homemade poultry plucker that can be built with common materials and basic handyman skills.
9. Will the Whizbang pluck birds other than chickens?
Yes. Whizbang tub pluckers are being used to pluck turkeys, geese, and ducks too.
Turkeys up to 40lbs have been successfully plucked in a basic Whizbang (the exact unit I tell how to build in my plan book). Such large birds are plucked one at a time and they tumble better if the feet are cut off prior to plucking. Even still, you may have to manually help the big bird tumble in order to get the best pluck. Turkeys will take longer than 20 seconds to pluck, but not a lot longer (maybe 45 seconds)
Ducks and geese do not pluck as easily and completely as chickens and turkeys. But they pluck a whole lot better by machine than they do by hand. Click Here for some good advice on how to best pluck chickens and ducks in a mechanical plucker.
10. Can you pluck quail in a Whizbang plucker?
The basic Whizbang I tell how to make in the plan book will not pluck quail very well. However, the design can be easily modified to pluck small, thin-skinned, game birds. To do this, you will need to install MANY more plucker fingers in the “featherplate”.
If you are looking to build a quail plucker, I strongly recommend that you contact my chicken-plucking friend, David Schafer, maker of the Featherman Plucker. David makes a plucker specifically for game birds. He can answer questions specific to making a game bird plucker.
11. What’s the difference between a homemade Whizbang plucker and David Schafer’s Featherman plucker?
Both machines do a fine job of plucking birds. The Whizbang plucks a bit faster and can be made for less money. It will also easier to repair if any components someday fail in the future.
12. How much does it cost to build a Whizbang plucker?
Using all new materials, you can build a Whizbang Plucker for around $500. But the Whizbang design is “salvage friendly,” which means you can easily utilize some salvaged components and save yourself a lot of money. For example, if you can find a second-hand electric motor that will work, you can save around $150. I’ve heard from people who built their whole Whizbang for as little as $150.
13. I Don’t have a lot of carpentry experience. How hard is it to build a Whizbang Plucker?
It is very easy to build your own plucker. Most people who read the book come to realize that it is something they can do. Many readers who are not “handy” have written to tell me they got the plucker made and they were very pleased with the results.
Some people have a more handy friend or relative help them with the project.
14. How long does it take to build a Whizbang Plucker?
If you purchase a pre-made, pre-drilled, featherplate with a pre-mounted-and-perfectly-centered driveshaft from me (Click Here for Parts information), and you have all your other parts on hand, you should be able to assemble the plucker in a day. Figure a couple days (maybe longer) if you make your own featherplate.
15. Does your book tell everything I need to know to build a Whizbang plucker?
Yes. EVERYTHING is in the book. Nothing is lacking. My plan book is also very easy to understand and follow.
16. Where can I get a copy of the Whizbang plucker planbook?
Click Here to order a copy of the plan book.
17. Is there a Canadian source for purchasing the Whizbang plucker plan book?
No. Canadian plucker builders may purchase a paperback copy of the book at the link in the previous question (or a PDF copy is also available at that link).
18. Do you sell the plucker plan book to people outside North America?
NO. I prefer to have people outside North America purchase the PDF version of the book At This Link.
19. Do you sell completely assembled Whizbang pluckers?
20. Do you sell any plucker parts?
Yes. I sell the harder-to-make-or-find parts needed to build a Whizbang Plucker. You may read all about the parts At This Link
21. Do you sell complete plucker parts kits?
No. I only sell the harder-to-make-or-find parts. You may purchase a "Shebang" kit with these parts. Click Here for details about the Shebang plucker parts kit.
22. I’m in a big hurry to build my plucker. Can you overnight parts to me?
Sorry but no. I typically ship plucker parts out the day after I get your order and I ship them via UPS Ground. Please do not procrastinate about ordering plucker parts.
23. If I buy the plucker parts you sell, what else will I need to get to make my plucker?
There are several other things you will need to get. CLICK HERE for a complete Whizbang Plucker parts list.
24. What kind of plucker fingers do you recommend? And where can I get them?
For general purpose plucking I recommend only the Kent C-25, medium durometer natural-rubber plucker finger. These fingers were designed by Kent Tomlinson back in the 1940s. They are widely used and highly regarded for their plucking ability and durability. You will not find a better quality, longer lasting plucker finger. Click Here for more details about these remarkable plucker fingers.
25. I bought 125 plucker fingers to make my plucker and followed your book, but I ended up needing 13 more fingers. What's that all about?
You are short of fingers because you missed a critical part in the "finger layout in the tub" information shown on the bottom of page 35. It is important that you lay out the finger holes 2.25" apart diagonally, as the diagram shows, not in a straight line. If you don't lay the fingers out diagonally you will need more than 125 fingers.
26. Can I save money by substituting something other than rubber plucker fingers to do the work of plucking?
Not that I know of. There is no substitute for a good plucker finger.
27. Do black rubber plucker fingers leave black marks on the birds when you pluck them?
No. I’ve never seen it. This is an unfounded sales pitch made by a company that sells yellow plucker fingers. (BTW, I’ve heard that yellow plucker fingers leave yellow marks on the birds.
28. Can I use an old washing machine to build a tub plucker?
I used to tell people it can't be done. But then I saw This YouTube Video. So the answer is now "yes." But I don’t know how it’s done and I can’t imagine the finished result is nearly as simple, easy to make, and effective as a Whizbang Plucker made according to my plan book.
29. What kind of motor do I need to power a Whizbang plucker?
In my book I recommend a 3/4hp, 1725 rpm, Farm Duty motor.
30. Will a 1/2hp Farm Duty electric motor work?
Yes. But a 3/4 hp motor gives you a little more uuumph!, and I feel better recommending a motor like that.
31. Will a 1hp Farm Duty motor work?
32. I already own an electric motor but it isn’t a “Farm Duty” motor. Will it be good enough?
It might be. I hope so. Give it a try before you buy a new motor. I’m no expert on electric motors. All I know is that you can’t go wrong with the power and features found in a Farm Duty motor (and I do discuss this in the plan book). There are probably other motors that are comparable to the Farm Duty units.
33. Where can I get a “Farm Duty” motor?
Lots of places. Check out Electric Motor Warehouse. And don’t forget to see what’s available on Ebay.
34. The tub I intend to use for my plucker is bigger than the one shown on page 30 of your book. Will the 20-1/2” diameter featherplate you sell work in a bigger tub?
If you are using a 55-gallon plastic drum to make your plucker, the 20-1/2” featherplate I sell will probably work just fine. But I don’t guarantee it will. I suggest the featherplate gap (space between the outside of the spinning featherplate and the tub) be between 1” and 1-1/16”. Even a gap of 1-1/8” will work. But I’m hesitant to recommend a bigger space than that. With those measurements in mind, a tub with an inside diameter up to 22-3/4” will work. This is discussed in the book.
35. I'm having a hard time pulling the fingers into my tub and featherplate. Is there an easy way to do this?
Yes, Jim Stachoviak's Amazing Plucker Finger Puller, as shown on page 63 of the plan book, makes the work of pulling fingers into place very easy. It's an easy device to put together. Check out This Photo Tutorial for a visual explanation.
36. I made the Stachoviak Finger Puller and every finger breaks apart when I stretch it out. Why is this happening?
You are using cheap, synthetic rubber plucker fingers. They do not have the durability or longevity of the natural rubber Kent C-25 fingers that I recommend.
37. Wouldn’t it be better to have almost no gap between the featherplate and the tub? Won’t a bigger gap allow legs and wings to fall into the space?
Errant poultry appendages will, on occasion, slip down into the gap, no matter what size it is. If the gap is small, wings and legs will get pinched, stop tumbling, and the fingers will beat the chicken unmercifully (until you shut the machine off). This is a sure recipe for broken skin and bones.
On the other hand, if the gap is bigger, and part of the chicken happens to slip down into it, the spinning featherplate and fingers are not as likely to cause damage. They may even slap the bird right back out before you get the machine shut off.
38. My homemade Whizbang plucker lacks power. What’s wrong?
Chances are you are using too long of an extension cord and/or the cord is not heavy enough. I recommend an extension cord with 12-gauge wire, and try to keep the length under 50 feet. That should solve any lack of power problem. It will also ensure that your motor has a longer lifespan.
Also, if the motor you are using is not a Farm Duty or comparable motor, that could explain the lack of power. If, for example, you use a 3/4hp motor that is engineered to drive a fan, it will not have the power needed to drive a chicken plucker. All 3/4hp motors are not created equal. But all Farm Duty motors are pretty much the same.
Another reason for what appears to be a lack of power is a slipping belt. Slipping belts happen for four possible reasons: the belt is getting too wet (or icy in freezing weather), and/or it is loose, and/or the drive pulley is so small that the belt is not getting sufficient contact on the pulley, and/or you are not using an idler pulley. See the next question for more about the importance of an idler pulley.
If none of those solutions solve the problem, chances are that you have wired the motor incorrectly, or the motor is defective. Contact a professional electrician for his advice.
39. Do I really need the idler pulley? Can't I just make the belt tight between the two pulleys?
I sell a lot of idler pulley kits to people who made their plucker with a tight belt and no idler, only to realize after some use, that the belt is difficult to keep tight, or the belt is slipping, no matter how tight they make the belt. Idler pulleys serve a very important function...
A pulley-to-pulley tight belt will stretch, loosen, and age prematurely. It will also put more stress on the motor bearings. But the most important reason for an idler pulley is that it allows for more "wrap" on the small driven pulley of the motor. As a result, the belt is in contact with more surface area of the pulley, which equates to better power transmission. The photo at the bottom of this page shows an idler pulley set-up with a nice amount of wrap on the motor pulley.
40. How Long of a V-belt do I need for my Whizbang Plucker?
If you are using a 2.5" drive pulley on the motor, and a 16" driven pulley on the featherplate shaft, and you have made your plucker to the dimensions given in the plan book, a 64" V-belt should be exactly what you need. A 64" V-belt will give you a nice amount of slack for the idler pulley to work with.
41. I built a Whizbang plucker and have used it to pluck chickens. I’ve been getting a lot of broken wings and legs. What’s wrong?
Some leg and wing damage is normal and to be expected in any kind of a tub plucker. But if more than 4 percent of the chickens you pluck are coming out with broken bones, something is wrong. You may be plucking too long. Be sure to read, How To Properly Pluck A Chicken.
Also, it is very important that you position the featherplate so that the outside row of fingers in the plate are just touching the bottom row of fingers in the tub. This is shown in the illustration on page 36 of the plan book. If the fingers are not just touching, there is a greater chance of the birds falling into the featherplate gap. When that happens, they are more likely to be damaged.
42. I'm confused about how the idler arm is supposed to be installed. Can you provide a picture?
Here are two pictures showing the concept. The one picture shows parts labeled on my original Whizbang plucker.. The other shows a Whizbang-inspired plucker with a different configuration that serves the same purpose.