Ducks and geese do not machine-pluck as well as chickens and turkeys. But plenty of people are plucking ducks and gees in their Whizbang plucker.
The following bits of advice have been gleaned from comments at the Yahoo discussion group, WhizbangChickenPluckers. Together, they amount to a very good introductory education in plucking waterfowl.
If you would like to add your insights to this discussion, please e-mail Herrick Kimball at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following method of plucking ducks has been working well for us with 8-10 week old Pekin ducks - it is a compilation of advice received from others …
- Do a little quick dry plucking of the breast - just thinning the feathers for the water to better get to the skin.
- Scald at about 145 degrees for 5 minutes in water (we use a rotary scalder) with a lot of detergent and a bit of salt added.
- Pluck 3 or 4 at a time in a plucker similar to a Whizbang (enough ducks to rub against each other and tumble well) - about 1+ minute dry; then another minute with hot water spraying from a shower head.
Most of the time, this gets 95% of all the feathers. The one place where I regularly have problems is under the "arm pit". There tends to be fuzz left there that I have to mostly scrape off with fingernails or a small knife.
—David Crank, Oaks of Mamre Farm, Hempstead, TX
Some 'lessons learned' on plucking Muscovy ducks (I do 50-75 per year):
In my opinion, The key is in the scald. You need a fairly large quantity of water. I use a 20gallon tank I made from an old well pressure tank, heated on a propane turkey fryer burner. Herrick's scalder would probably provide better temperature control, but I haven't got around to making it yet.
Put grease-cutting dish soap in the water, I have had best results with original formula Dawn.
Scald at 150-160 degrees, at least a minute. Sometimes two. You’ll eventually learn to tell when it's ready by the appearance of the skin and the legs.
Do lots of swishing and dunking to get the birds thoroughly wet. I also use a long handled ‘back scratcher' to rub through the down and feathers on the breast, back, and under the wings, while the bird is submerged. Anything not fully penetrated will not pluck well.
Pluck one at a time, and make sure to turn the plucker on and get the plate spinning at speed before dropping the bird in.
You'll still likely have to hand-pluck feathers, especially tail and 'cape' areas, but the Whizbang does a great job of removing most feathers, down, and pins.
White ducks are my preference. Probably my imagination...or the amount of visible pins...but they seem to pluck easier than the dark ones.
Sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it still really beats plucking by hand...or skinning!
—Dan O’Callaghan, Irish Hill Farm, Xenia, OH
There are a lot of different methods for scalding ducks and geese, from 150 to 180 degrees and 30 seconds to eight minutes.
I have tried them all and have concluded that pin feathers are right tasty once you get use to them.
Ned and I did four geese last weekend. We used the fingers that were in his plucker, and they seemed to be fine.
165 degrees for 1 and a half to 2 minutes didn't do nearly as good a job as 170 degrees for just over a minute.
Remember to use some Dawn dishwashing liquid in the water, and scrub the goose with a stiff brush to get fresh hot water clear to the skin.
We had one very lame 6-week-old Pekin duck. It couldn't get out of the pond—just floated around by itself looking miserable. We decided not to wait until we were ready to do the whole bunch, but to do this one immediately since he was so miserable. And we liked the idea of having a trial run to see whether it was going to be a nightmare as it was with the last batch of Pekins we did.
It went beautifully using the advice below.
We just used our turkey scalder pot instead of pulling out the big scalder and heated it to 170 on the stove and then took the pot outside. I had added 2T salt,1t Calgon to soften the water, and one 1T Orvus soap.
My husband dry picked the breast for the down and small feathers and then scalded it for about 6 minutes, the water came down to 160 immediately on adding the duck. The skin on the wings was a bit cooked, but otherwise it looks great. They just hand picked it instead of pulling out the picker, and the feathers came out verrrry easily just as they do from a well scalded chicken!!
So now we're looking forward to good duck dinners and another down comforter.
Many folks have discussed plucking ducks and geese. In my business, I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of folks processing birds and I never had a good answer for waterfowl processing until now.
Speaking with an old gentleman in Tennessee who processes an unbelievable number of all types of fowl (25,000 quail per year for starts!) he told me he picks waterfowl, even shot waterfowl, fine with these preparations:
Add 1/4 cup table salt per 20 gallons scald water to help penetrate the oil.
Add plenty detergent. If your water doesn't foam, you have hard water. Soften it or go elsewhere to scald because hard water just won’t penetrate.
Set temp at 165 degrees and scald for 8 - 10 minutes! Sometimes more.
Don't be afraid to re-scald if you see that too many feathers are staying on during picking. Some wing feathers will remain but they are easily removed by hand.
Finally, he runs 90 degree water through his spray ring so as not to bring the temperature down too fast and re-set the feathers.
To me, this information is like gold. Rare as hen's teeth. I'd love to hear stories corroborating this procedure... It puts a lot more emphasis on scald and patience.
—David Schafer, www.featherman.net
It is not very often that I correspond with this group but I truly enjoy reading the daily messages.
We do pheasant, quail, pigeon, chickens, turkey, ducks and geese with our plucker. The smaller the bird the more per run, up to 12 pigeons at a time.
On the subject of ducks and geese, the scald temp has to be increased as high as 160 and, yes, some soap in the water does help. The birds have to be worked up and down in water using insulated gloves for your hands.
We will do on average of 40 to 50 muscovy ducks per weekend for our Asian customers.
Our first Whizbang plucker is still holding together although built in haste, the second one is standing at ready waiting its turn at plucking.
I can not thank Herrick enough for sharing his book on how to build a plucker.
Dennis, I don't know what your problem is. We do ducks and geese (Some of the geese are near to 30 pounds) in our Whizbang at least 4 times a year (We’re talking 200 ducks and probably from 20 to 30 geese) and don't have the problems you are referring to. We have had times where we have to hand pick some of them after Whizbanging them, but that's a minor thing compared to waxing or hand plucking. I wonder what you're doing wrong? But you are right, the scald is the crucial element.
We have had decent luck with our Whizbang processing Muscovy ducks. We use dish soap in the scald water to help penetrate down and feathers and scald longer and hotter. We were happy with the outcome.
We wax all of our birds after we pluck them. When you pull that wax of of them it takes the pins and the fine hair with it. The carcasses really look nice.
The Dux wax is made, I think, in Wisconsin. I've ordered it from Stromberg's and the address has been a Wisconsin address.
How we do the waxing is I've got a old fashioned Copper Boiler that’s filled to the top almost. We leave about 1 inch from the top so it doesn’t over flow when we start dipping ducks. But we use a large Knipco heater and set the copper boiler on cement blocks and set the knipco heater so it’s centered on the boiler and about 2 inches away. This will melt the entire boiler full of wax in about 1 hour.
We heat the wax until it starts to roll. Then we shut the Knipco off and let the wax cool. This is the trick to using the wax...
- You have to hang the birds so the skin dries.
- The wax has to cool down till it starts to get a light colored haze on the top of it or a light skin. Then you dip the bird at least 3 times to get a good heavy coating on it.
- Have a wash tub full of cold water alongside the wax.When it’s coated, drop the bird immediately in the cold water.This sets the wax and starts it to harden or stiffen up.
Once they've been in the water a couple of minutes, hand them up and start on the neck and just run a finger along the bottom of the neck down the center of the breast to the bottom of the tail. If you do it right, you can take the wax off almost in one piece. Usually the coated legs will crack and you'll have to pull that off separately. But all of the pins should be in the wax. It’s flexible and has great pulling power.
The way we recover our wax (and there's very little waste this way) is we start the Knipco heater back up and start heating the boiler back up and as it warms we throw the used wax back into the boiler. Then you keep heating the wax until it goes through a boil. Once it stops boiling the water is out of it. Then you take a metal window screen and use it like a scoop shovel. Just scoop under the feathers and pins as they'll be floating on the top. Then pull the screen up and let the hot wax drain through the screen. Once it's done draining, then just flip the feathers and pins alongside on the ground. Keep doing this until there's no more pins or feathers coming to the top of the wax. Once nothing is left, just turn the heat off and let the wax harden up for next time. Once the skimmed pins and feathers harden, you can pick them up in one piece and throw them away.
One bit of advice though is start out with a large volume of wax like a copper boiler sized tub or tank. You have to have a large capacity to be able to get a good dunking and a thick covering on the birds.
We've used this Dux Wax since the 70's and I wouldn't butcher waterfowl without it.
—Rodney L. Haefs, Henderson, Minnesota
APA and ABA Lic. Judge
I have found that young ducks pluck very clean, while mature drakes do not. Mature hens pluck a little better than the drakes.
I don't think it works well to try to do more than one duck at a time.
I added soap to the water.. that did not seem to help.. I was told to add vinegar to the water.. I have not tried that yet.
I took ducks to the processor who has a large plucker. It did not pluck the ducks any better than my small whizbanger did.
I watched a documentary on the History channel about processing ducks. Their plucker did a somewhat better job. BUT… they still waxed the ducks afterwards to get the final feathers off. That procedure would be the way I would recommend.
Initially duck wax is quite expensive, but it can be recycled and lasts a long time.
The ducks need to be done around 150 degrees and dunk them tell you can just start to pull the back feathers out by hand. then throw them into the plucker. I have done it from 145 to 155 and not on purpose but had trouble regulating the heat on my water. The man thing is dunk them tell you can just pull a few of the hard feathers by hand then they are ready for the Whizbang plucker. I have done over 400 Muscovy ducks in mine.
We raise Pekins, which might be different, but this is what we've learned after doing a few hundred.
- Process ducks before 9 weeks or after 16. Between those ages, they grow new feathers that make plucking nearly impossible.
- Plenty of Dawn in the scald water.
- Scald at 158 degrees for 155 seconds. (We have an automatic scalder.) The important point though is that a lower temp and more time give better results than a higher temperature.
I haven't tried the Dux wax, but plan to next year.
With the above steps 90% of the birds come out very nice. There is almost always some hand work needed on the back and wings, but the breast and legs are really the most important parts of the duck.
—Erika, Northwest Pennsylvania
My scalding tank holds 40 gals of water. So I just pour a generous amount of Dawn and Vinegar in it. We don't measure, just pour. I ran my tractor at PTO speed which was 540 rpm on the tractor with a 1:1 gearbox.
What I found was with only 1 duck there's not much tumbling action. If the birds don't roll and tumble they don't seem to pluck well. We ended up with 1 duck at the end and when we plucked that one, the plucker didn't do as good of a job.
We’ve plucked Cayugas and Black Swedes and they seem to pluck easier than Pekins or Aylesbury's. I started out helping my Grandparents and Mother plucking ducks, geese and chickens by hand in the late 50's. and when I was older in the 70's I bought a Schweiss Rotary plucker which worked good.
Now we’ve up graded to the Whizzbang and that's worked the best by far. We've used it for geese too and mine will handle two larger geese at a time with no problem. I think using roller chain and sprockets like I used is a better way to go. No slippage and that means allot with doing a good job of plucking.