'Chicken Day' at the Farm of Many Faces
(continued from page 1)
 
Right: 16-year old Daniel at the homemade scalder/dunker. At the left edge of the photo we can see the feather plucker drum with its stiff rubber fingers.  

 

There is no stopping the line now. No wasted motion. No idle chit-chat. What little conversation there is centers mostly around the unseasonably cold, breezy weather and the proper techniques for dressing the birds, quickly and cleanly. Everyone is wearing rubber aprons and rain pants to help stay dry. Lucille and Teresa are also wearing hooded sweatshirts -- with the hoods up.

All the action takes place under a processing pavilion that, like most things on Polyface Farm, is simplicity, itself. The pavilion is a simple concrete slab poured around locust posts. The posts and other lumber were cut from trees growing on the farm. The farm consists of about 230 hectares, only 42 of which are open ground. The rest is in wooded hills. The pavilion has a corrugated metal roof and open sides. It is strategically located on the north side of a large shade tree, not far from the Salatins' home. The pavilion has electricity. Ice-cold wash water comes from a nearby well. It is carried to each work station by overhead hoses attached to pavilion rafters.

'I need another crate!' yells Daniel, taking a turn at keeping the killing cones and scalder filled. O'Connor lugs eight more birds in from the stack of crates. They're racing to keep the line going, trying to meet their own deadline -- and beat the arrival of the delivery driver. It's 9:30 a.m. The stack of crates of about half empty.

Once birds have bled out, they're hung upside down in the scalder/dunker. A thermostat and electric heaters hold the water at a constant temperature of 63 C. Four at a time, the birds are gently dunked in and out of the water for exactly 1 minute and 20 seconds. Any longer -- or hotter -- and the skin tears or comes off with the feathers. Any shorter -- or cooler -- and the feathers don't come off in the plucker.

The scalder/dunker is homemade. The foundation is a wooden box built within a box. Salatin added a submersible thermostat and a pair of 4500 watt electric heaters. Then a local metal fabricator covered the whole thing with heavy, galvanized sheet metal and soldered the joints to make it water tight.

'I need another crate!' yells Daniel. It's 10 a.m. The pile of crates is going down steadily, but slowly.


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