Is it possible to free-range and have tender chicken?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by tankerman, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. tankerman

    tankerman Out Of The Brooder

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    Is it possible to free-range and have tender chicken?

    Never have raised any birds designated specifically as 'meat birds', pretty much everything is what seems to be referred to as dual purpose.


    I've never had one that was suitable to eat after being roasted. Sure the breast meat is usually tender, but the legs and thighs certainly aren't.....and I'm not talking about old birds, heck culled cockerels butchered right when they start to crow taste that way too.

    Stringy and tough.



    We butcher somewhere between 50-70 birds a year for our family and needless to say, we eat a lot of stewed or crockpot chicken.
     
  2. BCMaraniac

    BCMaraniac Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't have a lot of experience, but I believe you can. I think the trick to having a tender bird is to free range them up until about 2-3 weeks before they are butchered, then put them up where they don't do a lot of moving around and finish them off. This gives the muscles of the bird a chance to soften, and to accumulate a little extra fat. Feed them free choice during this time. Then after you butcher, let them rest for 3 days in the fridge so that rigor mortis can pass completely. If you don't, the meat will be tough.

    I have caponized my DP males, and there have been slips, which is a cockerel that wasn't completely castrated, and as the testicle regenerates, resulting in development of the males characteristics. Those I have killed when this became apparent, and they have been pretty tender when roasted. I haven't butchered a full capon, but I understand that they are quite tender.
     
  3. SunnySkies

    SunnySkies Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The older the bird, the tougher the meat, whether or not it is confined. Has to do with age and hormones and because it isn't really bred for meat, kwim. We tried all kinds of permutations of confining, feeding, etc DP birds when I was a kid -- we had 300 birds at any one time -- and none ever worked. They were always kinda tough and required long, slow cooking to even be chewable.

    Best meat I ever had has been the meat birds I raised and butchered this fall. I did Freedom Rangers/Rosambros, and they free ranged until the moment of death...we walked out into the pasture and picked up the birds as they grazed.
     
  4. tankerman

    tankerman Out Of The Brooder

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    How long it take them to reach butchering size?
     
  5. SunnySkies

    SunnySkies Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My meaties...11 weeks, but we agreed at butcher time (the friends I split the order with and we got together for processing day) that it was a bit too long. They had a lot of internal fat. Next time...10 weeks.
     
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  6. tankerman

    tankerman Out Of The Brooder

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    How much did they weigh after cleaning?
     
  7. SunnySkies

    SunnySkies Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They averaged about 6.8-7lbs. We cut most into halves because they were so big. One was 10 lbs, smallest was like 5. I spares two pullets that just never grew. Even now, one is small, but one might be up a Christmas dinner.

    Too big, too fat, but those FR are awesome eats, way better than my DP roosters. I can roast, grill, pan fry and have a tender juicy meal instead of crock potting that bird and it still being toughish.
     
  8. happydog

    happydog Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So if you have Cornish X do you need to confine them for the last couple of weeks or not? Mine are free ranging over a half acre. Am I making them tough?
     
  9. SunnySkies

    SunnySkies Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nope. Not CX. They will be fine unless you keep them for a long, long, long time (and that isn't easy or often very humane to do with CX) and even then they won't be like a DP bird.

    I was catching my FR right out of the field for processing this fall. They are delicious. I'd let them graze until they are processed.
     
  10. happydog

    happydog Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well that's a relief. Thanks so much! They're almost 9 weeks now and I like to process at 10 weeks. I'd hate to have to keep them penned up.
     

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