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The Chickenator: 1941

August 1941. "The painless killer. Food for Defense program cooperative cannery and hatchery in Coffee County, Alabama." Photo by John Collier, Farm Security Administration. View full size.

August 1941. "The painless killer. Food for Defense program cooperative cannery and hatchery in Coffee County, Alabama." Photo by John Collier, Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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How the hook works

You can see the harness under his shirt that holds it on. When I was growing up, I had a friend whose dad lost his hand in a farming accident. The harness was made with a cable so he could operate the hook to open and close to grab things.


I've only slaughtered about 1000 chickens, so I am no expert. It would have been great to have the tool this man is using to pith the chicken before cutting its throat.

Pithing a chicken involves destroying the chicken's brain. This is a "nice" way of rendering the bird senseless before bleeding them.

I don't think this device spins the chickens to hasten the bleed-out. Rather the round shield probably just keeps the blood from spattering. It must be collected for disposal.

Years ago when I raised my own meat chickens, I used a special pithing knife (about 1/4" wide, stiff and pointed) inserted upwards through the roof of the mouth into the brain. I always had to be careful not to push too hard and stab the palm of my hand.

The tool shown in the photo looks like a better way to go, faster and safer.

I'll have the salad

The more I know about where our meat comes from, the less I eat.

Okay, let's go all the way with this --

It appears to me that something is being inserted to go through what little brain the bird has and therefore kills it? Or am I wrong? As a kid I was witness to the old hatchet and the running of the chicken with his head cut off. Which I assume now allowed the blood to run out of the meat. A friend who has chickens has a conelike contraption where he places the chicken upside down, the head sticks out of a hole in the bottom and he grabs hold of the beak and slices the head clean off with the blood draining away. I don't understand why the head is still left on in this picture although I have certainly seen plucked chickens with their heads on in European markets.

Maybe it does this ...

It looks like it is possibly like a big centrifuge to spin the chickens free from their blood. It looks like they are punctured in the brain first.


I wonder if the supervisor lost his hand in a more-automated machine?
Oh, and that little boy is gonna pay for counseling later.

How does this work?

I can't figure out how this works. The chickens are hung on bent coat hangers from a rack you can rotate inside a homemade metal drum. The man doing the work seems to somehow be securing each chicken for its final ride. The fact he's a black male in 1941 Alabama tells me this is not a pleasant job, regardless of pain not inflicted. The hanging dead chickens behind him are not decapitated or otherwise mangled looking. What killed them?

Oh good Lord! Dave posted the enlargement below to answer my question. He could have just said, "It's a mystery that has been lost to time."

[Click to embiggen. Any colorizers out there?? - Dave]

At least they died happy

The "painless killer" machine reminds me of the Tilt-A-Whirl amusement park ride, the one where centrifugal force pinned riders against the wall, then the floor dropped. At least the chickens had a good time before meeting their Maker.

Most chickens die happy!!

A recent survey shows that 90% of all chickens prefer the Chickenator over the lowly hatchet.

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