How old should heritage breeds to butcher?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Katebarnett2289, Jul 1, 2017.

  1. Katebarnett2289

    Katebarnett2289 Hatching

    Jul 1, 2017
    I am trying to gather information before I decide which breed to use for meat. I was thinking of a dual purpose or a meat chicken that is slow to mature, how old are these chickens when they are ready to butcher? Also I butchered some 8mo chickens and they were not so good, stringy an tough. Do meat chickens need to be kept more cooped up in order to stay tender? TIA for any help or thoughts.
    BYCforlife likes this.
  2. BYCforlife

    BYCforlife Free Ranging

    Mar 18, 2017
    Alberta, Canada
    Chickens should be butchered before 12 weeks or else the bones get bigger and they are harder to butcher.
  3. BYCforlife

    BYCforlife Free Ranging

    Mar 18, 2017
    Alberta, Canada
    But, dual purpose are meant to be butchered after they lay eggs for a while. I prefer 100% meat breeds because they have a good feed-to-weight ratio.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Crowing

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Where did you hear that? Before the modern meat bird dual purpose and hybrid birds were used in broiler industry. Butchered 12 to 14 weeks of age. Standard practice at the time.

    To OP, the age of bird denotes how tough it is and method needed to cook it. Hence calling birds broilers, fryers and roasters. These names mean nothing today with the use of CornishX as they are all butchered well within the broiler age limit. A cornishX roaster is just a big bird that still could be broiled as it's only 8-10 weeks of age. A dual purpose bird called a roaster is over 20 weeks of age and you'd not want to try to broil or fry it as the meat is too tough for that high fast heat.
    Fat Daddy and Omega Blue Farms like this.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Egghead pretty much nailed it. The problem with 12 to 14 weeks is that they haven't bred dual purpose chickens to process at that age for many decades. Egghead has a project going to try to recapture some of that breeding, I wish him luck. It's a challenge.

    The difference in texture and flavor in the birds is age. The older the bird gets the more texture and flavor the bird has. You take age into account when you handle it and cook it. Aging in the fridge or an ice chest, maybe with salt water, can really help when you cook it. You can cook and eat any bird of any age but older birds require special treatment. Cog au Vin is how the French turn a several-years-old rooster into a gourmet meal. Chicken 'N Dumplings is a comfort food that can be made from old spent hens as well as younger birds. Old chicken can be used in stews and soups, just never bring it to a full boil, you want a gentle simmer. Old chicken makes the best broth. After I make broth I pick the meat and use that on tacos or just on a sandwich. Some people used to the taste of the store chicken don't like the flavor and texture of an older bird no matter how you cook it.

    From other threads Egghead targets 14 weeks for his birds, I prefer processing cockerels around 23 weeks. We have different ways we cook them, different ways we manage them. We have different goals. I also eat my pullets not just the cockerels, Egghead eats the cockerels and sells his pullets for a nice price. That doesn't make one of us right and the other wrong, it's just the way we do it.

    I don't know what the best age for you might be to butcher. That's going to depend on your goals and how you want to cook them. Your management and set-up can make a difference. Mine forage for a lot of their food so me feed costs aren't ridiculous. If you are buying all they eat feed costs could be a big factor.

    If all you are after is meat, especially if you want to be able to fry or grill it, it's next to impossible to beat the Broiler birds such as Cornish Cross or to a lesser extent the Rangers. They are just so efficient at converting feed to meat the dual purpose can't compete, especially if you are buying everything they eat.

    The more you can tell us about your goals the more specific we may be able to be in providing help, but just asking me what is the best age to butcher is like you asking me what car you should buy based on my goals for a car. My answer may not even come close to suiting you.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: