Renting Poultry Processing Equipment

Reader Contribution by David Schafer and Featherman Equipment
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There was a time, even in our recent agricultural past, when sharing was more common than owning. If your neighbor wanted to purchase a hay rake, he might offer you part of the harvest in exchange for storage in your barn. If you needed to bring in a field of flint corn, your neighbor would take home a few bushels in exchange for her helping hands.  When faced with the daunting expense of equipment, farmers and homesteaders often chose to share, not only the cost, but the benefit as well.

If your household is working to produce most of its own food, you are probably running up against that equipment gap. Processing more than 100 birds for your family’s larder can take quite a lot of time, especially when you’re already racing to put up your garden produce or making homestead repairs. Going into debt to pay for equipment you only use once or twice a year isn’t certainly isn’t an option. The small-scale equipment needed to process poultry — not to mention grain, hay or produce — is out of financial reach for many homestead growers. So why not share the cost? Small scale poultry processing equipment rentals could be your solution.

Featherman Equipment, a poultry processing company located in Jamesport, Missouri, is now facilitating a state-by-state list of individuals and small farms that rent out their poultry processing equipment on a day-to-day basis. The daily cost averages about $60 for a plucker and several cones, and in some states you can find scalders for rent as well.  Check out the stats on sucessful equipment rental programs in the Featherman Equipment press release below. Combine your resources with a few neighbors to purchase the equipment, or buy it yourself with the intention of renting it to the wider community. There is plenty of room for growth in most states. Many rental providers are reporting a significant increase in the number of rental requests they get every season. — MOTHER

Why Not Rent it? A Poultry Processing Success Story

Chickens! Easy to grow, child-friendly, land-nourishing, and you only need seven weeks and a fraction of an acre to raise them. So… what’s stopping you?

Probably the processing, unless you are in the Pacific Northwest, where home grown and backyard chicken raising is exploding thanks to innovative equipment rental programs that put processing equipment within reach of everyone.

“There is a huge gap for small farms to be successful and competitive in harvesting their goods,” says Jerry Tindall of Grow International LLC in Yamhill County, Oregon, “We want to fill this gap by making equipment available to them and to strengthen our local food system.”

“Most of our members are very small and lack infrastructure,” says Stuart Boyle of the Western Washington Poultry Farmers Cooperative (WWPFC) in Kitsap County whose group has grown to own three complete sets of equipment. Like most other groups, WWPFC offers training on their equipment. But a few large scale members use WWPFC’s large mobile unit for which a five-hour training is required. The poultry may then be labeled as state inspected and sold to a wider market.

With rental fees ranging from $5 to $150 per day, the rental programs created by these leading-edge groups create community and bring high quality nutrition to their region. Some groups are membership oriented and actually grow and harvest their birds together. Most have been started by farmers, some are run by county services and volunteers.

The success is told by their growth rates. “We grow every year,” says Michael Baden, Pierce Conservation District Grants Administrator and Assets Management Director whose rental program began in 2010.  In 2013, their unit was rented 94 times by 78 different producers totaling 3,598 birds. (See table below.)

Some savvy businesses have also identified the equipment bottleneck and started their own rental program. Jay Ward of Ward Lumber in Clinton County, New York, is a poultry grower and also sells bulk feed. To bring more locally grown chickens to his region he teaches four processing workshops per year and offers his rental equipment to his feed customers who otherwise would not be raising chickens or buying his feed.

For manufacturer Featherman Equipment, the rental programs solve the problem of how to serve the smaller flocks. By renting, folks find out if they want to commit to owning or not. Featherman encourages listings of rental equipment for free on their website, regardless of make.

Nanette Bolle of Graham, Washington, had chicks as a child and wanted her son Chance to have the same experience but the memory of feather removal by hand was too painful. When she heard of local rental equipment available through the Pierce Conservation Department in 2012 she jumped in — and encouraged three neighbors to raise chickens as well! She now raises two batches per year on her 20 acres and every processing day has 5 to 8 helpers. 

When asked about any problems, Nanette replied, “So many people are asking to buy chickens it is overwhelming!”

Renting helps pay for equipment otherwise not affordable, but the community-building that happens through renting ices the cake.

Featherman Rental Listings

Processing poultry rentals

(Top) Photo by ISTOCK/PixelProf

(Second) Photo courtesy Featherman Equipment

Chart courtesy Featherman Equipment LLC