Dual purpose questions

Jul 3, 2018
I eat all my chickens (except my bantam and favorite) when there done laying and I get broilers. Any chicken can be a dual purpose, when I hatch eggs I eat most the roosters.
How old are they when you process them? Do you have a cooking method preference?


Fragile, Beautiful, Strong
Premium member
Mar 5, 2019
SE Missouri, USA
How long do you grow them out before processing? What is the maximum amount of time before duals purpose birds would be too tough?

There are several variables. How do you plan on cooking them? How important is rate of meat gain compared to feed costs. How much freezer space do you have if you freeze them. Broilers need to be butchered when they are ready, dual purpose can wait a while. How important is size? There are only two of us so we can get two meals out of a smaller bird, some people are fixated on double extra huge or nothing. We are all different in goals, set-ups, management techniques, and so many other things. You need to find what works for you, not what works for me. That's not always easy.

Dual purpose birds never get too tough to eat, it's all in how you cook them. Chicken and Dumplings is a comfort food best made from old hens. Coq au Vin is how the French make a gourmet meal out of a really old rooster, the toughest chicken meat there is. Crock pots and pressure cookers can be very handy when cooking older birds. If they are not cooked properly for their age they can be inedible, but you can ruin a good steak too. How you plan to cook them can determine the best butchering age or the age you butcher can restrict your cooking methods. If you get a tough chicken, it means you did not handle and cook it properly.

If you buy practically all the food they eat you probably want one that efficiently converts feed to meat, which means Cornish X or to a lesser extend, Rangers. If they mostly forage for their food that's less important. Broilers need to be butchered at a certain age so you can raise a big batch in a couple of months and you are done. Dual purpose take longer so it is more of a time commitment.

Some people can't have cockerels crowing or don't like how cockerels behave with the other pullets and hens when they hit puberty. They may butcher dual purpose as young as 12 weeks. Those are really tender but there is very little meat there, would not be worth it to me. Some people like 16 weeks, there is a reasonable amount of meat then. My preference for cockerels is about 23 weeks, they sort of end a growth spurt then. They will continue to gain weight but the rate is much slower. I butcher my excess pullets, usually around 8 months after I've seen them lay and decided which to keep as replacements. And I butcher spent hens, older ones that are going to lay a reduced amount after a molt.

I don't know what is right for you, we all do it differently for our own reasons.

Best time of year to get chicks for maximum outcomes of eggs and meat? Pros? Cons?

It depends. Many people like to get pullets in the spring as days are warming and forage is growing. It's a traditional time of year. It's easier to raise them in warmer weather and food costs may be less. Often pullets that start to lay in the fall will lay through out the winter without molting their first year, though production may be decreased due to severe weather. Others like to get pullets in the fall so they start laying early the next year for that laying season. But brooding can be harder in winter and feed may be more expensive.

For dual purpose meat birds it will depend on your situation. For many people the warmer weather and improved forage is a huge incentive to start them in the spring. One of my limiting factors for meat birds is limited freezer space. I need a lot during the summer to help manage my fruits and veggies that I save for jelly, jam, and to can, let alone save to eat in winter. For example, I may have five gallon bags of tomatoes before I have enough to make a batch of spaghetti sauce. Or three gallons of blueberries and blackberries for jam or jelly, plus various veggies for canning soup. Plus when I butcher I save carcasses to make broth. I'm always canning broth just to free up freezer space. One way I manage this with chickens is to hatch throughout the year so i don't have to use all my freezer space for chickens at one time.

We all have our unique situations that we have to manage. That's why there is no one solution that fits everyone on the planet.

Just curious about how managing a true dual purpose flock goes and if it will fit into what we have going on here.

Exactly. That's the question I'e been trying to address. The more you can tell us about your goals, set-up, management techniques, and all that the more likely we can come up with something specifically for you. At least you told us you are in Ohio. That could be valuable information. But right now I don't know if Egghead's methods would suit you better than mine.

One of my typical suggestions is to try different things, use trial and error to find what suits you best. No matter how much we plan, things never turn out exactly as we plan.
Good info here @Ridgerunner ! Especially helpful to me is the fact that dual-purpse birds don't have an expiration date since I do have crock-pot and we like soup and dumplings!

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