How to be a right ‘plucker’

The first few hatches of the year are about due for the table now and a question I’m frequently asked is about plucking the birds and the best way to approach it by hand so here goes.

Removing the feathers from a chicken is best done as soon after despatch as possible. This is because the carcass will still be warm, meaning the feathers will come away more freely.

1. Hang the bird upside down against a wall, as this will help stop the bird swinging around as you work on removing the first set of feathers.

2. The extremities (wings and tail) will cool fastest so feathers from these areas should be removed first with a sharp downward tug. It can be hard work on these areas, and gloves may be required to ensure grip is maximised.

3. Once those feathers are removed it is often easier to have the bird hanging from a ceiling hook, so it can be turned freely.

4. Next, remove the thigh and breast feathers being careful not to tear the skin underneath.

5. Finally pluck the back feathers out. The resulting carcass will probably still have a slightly ‘hairy’ look due to the presence of fine feather filaments; these can be removed by singeing with a cold yellow flame.

Now the bird is ready for dressing and roasting… if however you don’t intend to roast the bird whole or in parts then don’t bother plucking it, just skin it instead. And again unless you are planning on portioning it then avoid the need to eviscerate by simply scooping of the breast fillets and removing the legs, thighs (and wings if you want). This can be a little wasteful however it does save a lot of effort.

20 week old Ixworth cock (and just about ready for the pot)

20 week old Ixworth cock (and just about ready for the pot)

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3 thoughts on “How to be a right ‘plucker’

  1. I love your blog and i thought you were great on Radio 4 recently but this plucking post had the immediate effect of my cutting off some broccoli and fushia flowers (their favourite things) and feeding them by hand to my hens…..some of us are vegetarian and have hens to ensure that the eggs we eat are from really very happy hens. I know we are not all veggie but had to say please could you bear me in mind! My hen purrs when on my lap and i stroke her head. She won’t get off my lap!!!

    • No problem at all Sharon. Incidentally I take veggies into consideration every day, I’m married to one who has been veggie for 40 years. Just for the record though, I don’t eat hens or pullets, they lay eggs and live out their full life. I do however breed birds and so I have to ensure I have a plan for the male birds rather than pointlessly destroying them on day one which is what happens to commercial laying birds, hybrids and autosexing breeds. They serve a purpose that way rather than being a useless by-product of the egg production. A question worth asking is what happened to the brothers of the hens anyone owns?

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