Should You Skin or Pluck Your Home Butchered Poultry?

Skinned ducks vs Plucked chicken

For a complete tutorial, check out my post on How to Butcher a Chicken. Read my instructions on How to Skin a Chicken!

Plucking Vs Skinning Your Poultry

I’ve noticed that there are two camps when it comes to removing the feathers from your home butchered poultry. Some folks are adamant about scalding and plucking their birds, while others feel it’s a waste of time and it’s better to remove the skin entirely.

I’ve used both methods and each one has pros and cons. Knowing how to do both comes in handy depending on the circumstances.

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Plucking Black Broiler for roasting.
Plucking a Black Broiler for roasting. It can be difficult to get all of the feathers off the carcass…especially on a dark colored bird.

Pros and Cons of Plucking


  • You save the skin. Cooking a chicken with the skin produces a juicier bird.
  • Less waste and more nutrients gleaned from your home raised poultry.
  • Feed the skin to your pets or chickens if you don’t want it.
  • Goes pretty quickly once you get the hang of it.
  • Scalding and plucking is good for butchering multiple birds.
  • Keeping skin on helps prevent freezer burn on meat. (You may remove freezer burned skin prior to cooking.)
  • Fat isn’t wasted.


  • Scalding pot takes a while to heat up.
  • You’ll need an outdoor outlet and electric burner, or a propane burner, to heat pot.
  • Cleaning up pin feathers and feather shafts from carcass can be time consuming.

Note:  A poultry plucker will speed up the process…if you have a lot of birds to pluck you might be interested in a professional style plucker. You may be able to rent it out to help pay for the expense. A more economical option is a drill attachment plucker.

Pull the skin back as you use the knife to separate the skin and muscle tissue.
Skinning an older duck to avoid the chore of removing the down.

Pros and Cons of Skinning


  • Some people don’t like to eat the skin.
  • Less fat in cooked meat.
  • May be faster, once you practice.
  • No picking feather shafts from skin.
  • Good for when you butcher only one or two birds.
  • Don’t need to preheat scalding pot or have special burner.
  • May be easier for ducks, especially older ones that are harder to pluck.


  • Wastes the skin and fat.
  • Difficult to remove skin from wings.
  • Bits of feather fluff tend to stick to meat and are hard to clean off.
  • Meat is more likely to freezer burn in storage. Use vacuum seal or shrink wrap bags.
Ducks, skinned and ready for the freezer.
Ducks, skinned and ready for the freezer. I vacuum sealed these to prevent freezer burn.

Which Method is Right for You?

I’ll leave that decision up to you. You may wish to try both methods. Who knows, you might want to keep both options open. For me, both methods have their place on my homestead.

When Do I Skin My Poultry?

When I make the decision to butcher quickly, I usually skin the bird. For example, if one of my birds is injured or sick (but still edible) I have to do an ’emergency butcher’ session. This must be done swiftly, leaving little time to heat up a scalding pot. I just sharpen my knife, grab a pot, and get to work so the bird doesn’t suffer.

You can pluck a duck more easily with duck wax…

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Other times I will decide, last minute, to butcher a couple of old stewing hens. Maybe the weather breaks, giving me a chance to process in temps above freezing. Quite often I have a lot of other plans for the day too, and heating up a scalding pot doesn’t fit into my busy schedule. If I need to butcher older ducks (more than 8 weeks of age), I prefer to skin them rather than plucking, because the down is so difficult to remove. I skin the birds on these occasions and get the chore out of the way.

Should You Skin or Pluck Your Poultry? - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
When butchering broilers, it is well worth the time and effort to pluck your birds.

When Do I Pluck My Poultry?

If I’ve been planning a butcher session in advance and I have a few (or many) birds going in the freezer, I take the extra time to get my scalding pot ready. This might be a day when I process a batch of meat birds, or maybe a bunch of my old laying hens needs to make way for youngsters. Sometimes I have a group of young cockerels that are ready for processing. In these cases, I find it easier to scald and pluck the batch rather than skin each one.

Nothing is Set in Stone

And, of course, there are no set rules on my homestead when it comes to skinning vs plucking. If I have the time and inclination, I’ll get the scalding pot out to pluck a couple of old laying hens. You just gotta go with whatever works best for you.



  1. Pat Thomas

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