Printer Friendly Tell a Friend

Picking / Plucking Feathers

Picking / Plucking Feathers

Picking / Plucking Feathers

Once a chicken is killed, the next step in the meat bird process is to remove all of the feathers. Many people refer to this process as “plucking” the feathers. More seasoned poultry folk call this process “picking”.

The first important thing to know is that you do not want to delay the picking process. That is, you should plan to move immediately from killing a chicken to removing its feathers. If you wait too long, the chicken will get stiff making the plucking and butchering process more difficult.

To ensure you do not have too much time between killing and picking, here are a few tips:

  • Only kill as many birds as you pluck before stiffness sets in (e.g., 2-4)
  • Have your de-feathering gear ready to go before killing
  • If planning to scald, have your water boiling before killing

There are several techniques to removing feathers. We will cover the three most common non-commercial techniques:

  • Dry Pick
  • Scald and Pick
  • Waxing

Dry Pick

It doesn’t get much simpler that this approach. To “Dry Pick” a chicken, all you need to do is:

  • Ideally, start when the bird is still warm
  • Wear rubber gloves or rubber “fingers” to help you grip the feathers
  • Pull the major feathers out with your hands
  • Use tweezers to grip and pull out any stubborn remaining feathers

To have the dry pick technique work well, we can’t emphasis enough the need to move quickly from killing to picking. Otherwise, if you wait too long, it will be too difficult to get the feathers out by hand.

This process is unlikely to remove 100% of the fine hairs and small feathers. If you plan to serve your chicken with the skin on, you may want to use a kitchen torch to quickly singe off the hairs and feathers that remain. If you plan to remove the skin before cooking, there is no need to worry.

This technique takes longer than scalding or waxing, so it is best suited when you are only processing a couple birds.

Scald and Pick

This technique is probably the most common non-commercial way that people remove feathers. It is very similar to the dry pick technique; however, a brief dunk in hot water helps loosen the feathers. The process includes the following steps:

  • Fill a large stock pot or lobster pot 2/3 full with fresh, clean water
  • Do not over fill the pot with water because you risk spilling when a bird is dunked
  • Heat the water to desired temperature:
    • 125 – 130° F: Semi-scald keeps skin intact and has minimal impact on meat tenderness
    • 138 – 140° F: Sub-scald loosens feathers better, begins to loosen skin, toughens meat slightly
    • 140 – 150° F: Full-scald loosens feathers most, likely to tear skin and toughen meat
  • Optionally, add a dash of dishwashing soap to help water penetrate between feathers
  • Hold a chicken by the legs
  • Dunk the chicken completely under the water
  • Continue to move the chicken up and down, around the pot, for around 30 seconds
  • Test one of the larger feathers to ensure it pulls out easily, if not dunk a little longer
  • Move the chicken into a cold bath to cool down the feathers
  • Pick the feathers out by hand as described in the dry pick technique

As you practice this technique, you will be able to determine the best temperature and timing for your needs. The hotter the water, the easier the feathers are to pull out, but the more the skin and tenderness may be affected.

This process is unlikely to remove 100% of the fine hairs and small feathers. If you plan to serve your chicken with the skin on, you may want to use a kitchen torch to quickly singe off the hairs and feathers that remain. If you plan to remove the skin before cooking, there is no need to worry.

It is possible to heat the water on your stovetop, and it is possible to pick a chicken in your kitchen. Our advice, however, is not to do this process inside your home. Instead, we recommend using a camping burner or turkey fryer outside so that you can avoid plucking birds where your family lives and eats. The process is messy, and the birds and feathers are dirty, so it’s best done outdoors when possible.


For the female readers out there (and maybe some adventurous male readers), the idea of waxing may be familiar. In the same way that applying hot wax to ones leg is a quick way to remove unwanted hair, you can also apply hot wax to a chicken to help remove unwanted feathers.

For this technique, paraffin wax is used, which can be purchased at a local specialty store or online. You will need about ¼ pound of wax per bird, and it is advisable to use this technique when you have more than one or two birds to process. The simple fact is that it only takes ¼ pound of wax to coat a chicken, but it takes more than ¼ pound of wax to fill something large enough to allow you to dunk the chicken. If you only process a couple birds, you will need more than ¼ pound of wax per bird, and that may make the process a bit more expensive.

The process includes the following steps:

  • Fill a pan with wax
  • Place the pan containing the wax into a larger diameter pan
  • Fill the larger diameter pan with one to two inches of water
  • Warm the larger diameter pan on a moderate heat burner unit the wax softens
  • Prepare a third pan or sink with a cold water bath
  • Hold a chicken by its legs and dip it in the hot wax
  • Ensure all feathers are covered in wax
  • Dunk the chicken in the cold water bath to harden wax
  • Peel off the hardened wax, which will in turn remove the feathers

After peeling wax and feathers from a chicken, you can add the hardened wax back into the hot wax. Feathers will separate from the wax allowing you to recycle the wax and limit waste.

This process may be more complex than the previous methods, but it will ensure even the most difficult feathers are removed. For this reason, wax is commonly used on other foul like ducks where feathers are harder to remove than from chickens.

You may also be interested in reading:

Article isn't rated yet. Write a review.

Important Information

About DIY Chicken Coops

Like you, we decided that the benefits of raising chickens and eating fresh eggs are too good to pass up.

DIY Chicken Coops is family owned, which means we get to play by our own rules and focus on our  customers.

If you have questions, concerns or suggestions, please Contact us.


Sign up to our newsletter!


In-stock items ship out within 2 days. We will call you about larger items like chicken coops to coordinate delivery. More

Free Shipping

Orders over $150 SHIP FREE to continental US. Surcharges apply for large items like chicken coops.

Return Policy:

Unused merchandise may be returned within 2 weeks for full refund by requesting a return authorization num. More

Privacy Policy

We will never share your information, and we will only contact you about orders and our special site promotions. More

Payment Options