Heritage meat chickens - hens or roosters??

rainy day ducks

In the Brooder
8 Years
Apr 28, 2011
Southeast Alaska
I am sure this topic has been exhausted before. Please bear with me.

I am planning on raising some chickens for the first time this year. I would like to raise heritage chickens for meat in a enclosed big pen. I will likely keep them until 16-20 weeks of age. I am looking for great tasting meat for the freezer. Should I get straight run, just hens, or just roosters? I have read that roosters can be tough. Are they tough even at 16 weeks? I like the idea of getting more meat off of them than hens.

Any suggestions would be helpful! Thanks!
I raise Barred Rocks for meat & eggs. Not a lot of white meat on the Heritage breeds, but the roos make great chicken salad & noodles & legs for frying.
The roos are no tougher than the hens. I cull at about 6 months. What makes a bird tough is improper aging. The bird needs to be iced for 3-4 days before frozen to let the muscles have a chance to relax. If Hubby gets my new coop up, I am going to try one of the Ranger breeds for meat this year.
Personally I disagree on there being not much white meat, it's all about how your birds were bred before you got your foundation stock, but, -

Dual purpose is about either gender, really, but mainly the extra males, then the old hens. It's about breeding them yourself too, not just buying new each year.

Roosters are no tougher or more tender than hens, the age of butchering is best around 18-28 weeks. But honestly, I've done in a 10 month old pullet and she was still nice and tender. The secret is often in letting the carcass sit, frozen or not, at least 12 hours before you cook it.

Roosters do get more meat than hens though, especially larger breeds. If you want a good satisfying carcass from a dual purpose breed, honestly, your best bet is to NOT order from hatcheries or feedstores, and instead look more for specialty or show-bred stock. They actually have more meat on their bones, and some, like French Marans, can grow at a great rate.
X2 Dual purpose means hens for laying, surplus cockerels for roasting. All old birds for stewing. Superior flavor in all cases. It's a complete package, and there's the beauty of it.
hello, hey I hear people say alot that if you want good stock for dual purpose birds you should not get them at hatcharies but where should you get them then. I have been thinking about buff's as a dual purpose bird, what do you think and do you know where I could get some good stock eggs? sorry to chime in I am just in the same spot..
Your best bet, from what I hear, is to get in touch with breeders who specialize the particular birds you're looking for. Those will tend (overall) to be maintained to a much better standard. You might contact the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy for a start. They should be able to connect you to someone in your area (or someone who could send you hatching eggs).
When I was married and the kids were still young I would buy just roosters, usually 25 at a time, several times a year. #1 they are cheaper then straight run, have more meat and if the hatcheries don't sell them they are destroyed, so why not. I always liked to mix mine up 5 of this 5 of that. Different breeds grow at different rates so it spread out processing time a bit It's been 15 years so I don't remember who grew at what. I do remember I always got Deleware and Brahma roos in every order.
I always like to process before or at 16 weeks and let them rest in the extra fridge or ice chest at least 48 hours before cooking.
One of the favorite meals of the kids was to simply split the bird down the middle and BBQ.
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If there is a specific breed you like and are interested in, I would suggest that you go to the breeds section of this forum and check out if there is a thread for the breed. I am sure there would be alot of information to be gleaned from there and maybe a breeder in your area could be found. I am doing this with the dual purpose breed that I am interested in and I hope to be able to contact a couple of the breed enthusiests from there when I am ready to get into chickens.
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