This horrific-looking, chicken-devouring contraption is the E-Z Catch chicken harvester. It swallows up live chickens like feathered Reese’s Pieces. Fair warning: Watching the video might ruin your lunch. But that’s not the whole story.
Harvesting chickens by hand is back-breaking work—often called the worst job in the poultry industry. But since the advent of the Bright Coop E-Z Catch Chicken Harvester, life in the hen house has improved dramatically — for everyone but the chickens. The E-Z Catch works just like a traditional finger-type cotton harvester — three vertically rotating drums at the end of a swinging collector head employ long soft rubber fingers to pull chickens past them and onto an accelerated conveyor belt. Once on the belt, the hens are moved 11m up the line to a crawler at the rear of the machine and loaded into industry standard, five-tier by three-drawer packing modules — about 300 birds per module — for transport to a processing center. When a module is full, a forklift pulls it off the crawler and moves an empty module into its place. Then it moves the full one out to the transport, coming back with a third empty module to replace with the now-full second one — thereby minimising the amount of collecting downtime. Up to 5000 birds an hour can be moved in such a fashion.
This machine is designed to reduce the strain on human chicken-catchers as well as the chickens themselves. A human catcher will lift, on average, between 5 and 10 tons of chicken per shift. As a result, back strain and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is rampant and the turnover rate is enormous. With an automated chicken catcher, only half as many hands are required and they’re required to perform less strenuous activity. Even the chickens benefit (in the short run, at least) by suffering fewer bruised and broken legs and wings than by being captured by hand.
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