Plucking a chicken is one of the trickier aspects of dressing the carcass at home. Mother Earth News advises a tried-and-tested method of first scalding the carcass and then rapidly chilling it to loosen up feather follicles before plucking.
Prepare hot and cold tubs
Fill a pan with enough water to submerse an entire chicken and heat it to around 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Have another pan full of slightly chilled water nearby. When feathering indoors, spread out newspaper or old towels to keep the feathers contained.
Scald the chicken
Dip the chicken carcass in the hot water for 5 to 10 seconds. Keep hold of the bird's feet and swirl it around slightly while it is in the water to make sure that the heat penetrates between all the feathers. Pull the chicken out quickly to keep the skin from cracking.
Pluck the Chicken
Hold the chicken by the feet and begin pulling out the feathers, starting with the legs and working down towards the head. As long as the skin is still warm, the feathers should come out easily. If the skin begins to cool and feathers are difficult to remove, dip it back in the hot water for a few seconds.
Scrub the chicken
When you are finished plucking, dip the chicken in the cold water and scrub it briskly to remove loose feathers and small hairs.