Older birds are more difficult to pluck and this issue is not confined to chickens, the same is true for all types of poultry and is a problem whether you pluck by machine or by hand.
Once a broiler has reached 12 weeks of age it will become more difficult to pluck. It could happen as early as 9 weeks for male birds.
One of the reasons for this increased difficulty in plucking is the number of feathers on the bird. Industry research has shown that by the time a chickens reaches 62 days of age it is beginning to grow it's third generation of feathers.
I regularly process older roosters from dual purpose breeds and plucking can be hard work. The same is true of ducks, beyond a certain age ducks can be a nightmare to pluck.
The correct scalding temperature is between 155 and 160°F (68-71°C). Lower than this and the bird will be hard to pluck and higher than this and you could damage the skin.
The reasons plucking older chickens is more difficult:
- The muscles that hold the feathers are better developed in older birds.
- Older chickens have more feathers.
- Cockerels are more difficult to pluck.
- Moulting birds cause plucking problems.
Below: In young poultry the muscles that hold the feathers are smaller and fewer in number.
Below: In contrast the muscle that hold the feathers in older birds are more developed and greater in number.
The muscles around the follicles control the movement of the feathers.
Can you make it easier to pluck older birds.
There are some solutions that might make it a little easier to pluck older poultry.
- Pluck the bird when it is warm.
- Dunk the bird repeatably to get the hot water flowing down to the follicles.
- Skin instead of plucking.
- Scald for a few seconds longer or at a few degrees warmer.
- Use a timer and don't try to guess how the bird has been in the water.
- Dry pluck chickens without scalding.
- Add a few drops of dish soap to the scalding water to break the surface tension.
- Pluck immediately after scalding.
- Get a quality pair of pliers for the hard to get hold of feathers.
Allowing the scalding water to cool to much is a major reason birds become difficult to pluck, it takes some time for the hot water to get to the base of the feathers.
Below: Dry plucking chickens may be answer to older fowl.
The bird will be much cooler than the water and will soak up some of the heat. It can take a little time for the hot water to get to the feather follicle.
Ducks, geese and waterfowl can not really be easily dry plucked as the feathers are very oily and slippery.