Since a number of my readers have asked about the Whiz Bang Automated Chicken Plucker, I’m happy to report that it had its first outing yesterday. (Click on any picture for a larger version.)

The experiment began with that vital first step, so central to all Virginia farm rituals: all the men stand around and discuss the equipment.

From right to left, that’s my twelve-year-old Ben, my father, Shirley (the grandfather of my first cousin once removed), and Vince (our neighbor from across the road). And, in the foreground, the Whiz Bang.

Ben gives it one last once-over,

and then we turn it on to make sure that it whizzes and bangs properly.

Meanwhile, my mother visits the chicken pen to scope out the likely pluckees. I will spare you photos of the execution, but it is quick and painless, and chickens really do run around in circles if you cut their heads off

Here they hang on the edge of the sawmill, waiting for plucking.

Ben is, at this moment, not so sure that he’s going to partake of the fried chicken later on.

The first step in cleaning the chicken is to dip it into scalding water, which Mom has just brought out from the house.

This loosens the feathers. (It also smells revolting.)

Then the chicken goes into the Whiz Bang,

and bounces around in there while the rubber fingers pull off the feathers. After a few minutes it becomes obvious that the water wasn’t quite hot enough to loosen the feathers properly,

so Mom and Ben head back up to the house with the kettle to reheat it. (A golf cart is one of the most useful farm vehicles around.)

They come back with boiling water and a thermometer, so that we can keep an eye on the water temperature, and the chicken gets re-dipped and then goes back into the Whiz Bang.

And this time, when it comes out,

it has been beautifully plucked. With the water temperature kept at the proper level, the next chicken only needs one dip and one whirl in the Whiz Bang, and the feathers fly right off.

By the time my first cousin (not removed at all) drops by, the chickens are almost all finished. In record time.

And here’s the final product, headed for the fridge. My mother cooked one of the hens last night and reports that a two-hour baking time makes them tender, and that the breasts stay juicy. Tomorrow night I’ll be roasting a couple for our dinner.

Now, back to the history of the medieval world…

Showing 22 comments
  • City Girl from Seattle


  • Camy

    Phew! I’m breathless from laughing so hard! First of all, my sister remarked as she viewed this entry, that she liked your dad’s pink shirt (smile). Secondly, I’m very jealous that you have an automatic plucker! My boys (our resident, unenthusiastic chicken pluckers) will be disappointed to know that we do not have a Whiz Bang (love that name). Perhaps your next book should enter the genre of “country living and homesteading.” Have you ever seen the late Carla Emery’s book The Encyclopedia of Country Living? SMILE. I just love this entry, Susan.

    Blessings to you.

  • Lois

    This is too hilarious! I love it. Growing up in China I saw my mom slaughter, pluck, and chop chicken, but of course, we didn’t have a Whiz Bang. I now live in the city with no possible means of having a farm. Your entry brought back some fond memories!

  • Staci in MO

    The experiment began with that vital first step, so central to all Virginia farm rituals: all the men stand around and discuss the equipment.

    That’s not just in Virginia, LOL.

  • Janice in NJ

    Hmmm… I think I like the ones that come wrapped in plastic rather than the wrapped-in-feathers kind. My initial reaction is to stick with those. 🙂

  • Heather in WI

    I can’t believe that it actually worked … that is amazing! Holy cow. I have to tell my mom who grew up on a farm with no whiz bang!

  • Jackie in AR

    I’m so jealous!

    Dh (a town boy) revealed to me a couple of weeks ago that one reason he has always been reluctant for our family to move out into the country is that he is afraid this country-bred girl will insist on raising chickens. Ha!

    One set of my grandparents raised chickens, and I loved gathering those eggs for her.

    That Whiz Bang looks like a great invention!


  • Hope in Chicago

    I can still smell the stink of chicken plunged in hot water……my personal job was hauling the plucked fowl to my mom for cleaning…Ahhh early chilhood on a farm. Thanks for the memories. Tell your Dad congratulations on his Wiz Bang Plucker from the ladies on the board.

  • Ree

    You’re mighty brave for posting such detailed shots of an animal’s afterlife. I’m proud of you!
    I think I’ll post photos of a calf castration on my blog now…

  • Mindy

    That reminds me a bit of the cotton gin that we just read about in SOTW 3! 🙂 I think Eil Whitney needed a catchier name like the Whiz Bang. I think you could revolutionize the chicken plucking industry. 🙂

    Your son looks SO much like you. 🙂

  • JFS in IL

    Wile E. Coyote would be so proud!

  • Diane

    I’m with Ben; I’d almost opt for tofu at this point (-:


  • Charlie

    I’m sorry I missed that! Where was Christopher during all of the fun?

  • Bob

    You should really be doing a TV show! Seriously, videotape it next time.
    Talk about reality TV!

  • Susan

    Aren’t you sorry you missed it? Any memories of the good old days flooding back? 🙂

  • Jill

    I know very little of plucking chickens….but what a striking young man you’ve got there! He is just as cute as all get out! My eleven-year-old boy would *love* to be in the big middle of something like that, lol.

  • Michael in DC

    Shocking. Absolutely shocking. (But I must admit, its way cool!)

  • KaneCitizen

    Hi Susan –

    Not about chickens, but…

    I read TW-EM last year and I liked it quite a bit. At the time, I went looking to see if you had a blog, and I just noticed recently that you have started this one since then. I do have one thing I’ve been wanting to mention to you about your list of video recommendations, and I blogged about it last summer.

    Thanks, and keep up the great writing!

  • Susan


    Imagine my embarrassment.

    Thanks for this. I’ll check w/Norton, but I’m guessing I won’t get to change this mistake until there’s a revised edition. However, that’s one error I won’t make again.

    And okay, it was completely my fault, but why didn’t SOMEONE spot it before the book went to press? Hmm.


  • Nicole

    So, what did the proper temperature end up being to douse the chicken? If we end up with one, I want to make sure we don’t have to re-dip!

  • Joe

    We have 80 3.5 week old chickens in our yard that are headed for “freezer camp” in about 5-6 weeks. Where can I get plans for the Whiz Bang plucker? Was the proper scald temp around 146 degrees? This is the number I have heard works well.


  • Melinda from PA

    This is the first time I have visited your blog and while all of it is interesting, I’d like to congratulate you on the Whiz Bang! The last time I plucked a chicken I was pregnant and the smell nearly did me in. I did only one and left my husband with the rest. I have seen a plucker with ‘hands’ that plucked, you know, fingers and all. My husband always hung on to the chickens instead of letting them flop. I never understood how he could do that, but that is what his grandad taught him to do. I see you didn’t mention gutting the thing! so if you ever get to the bottom of these comments, here are my congratulations!

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