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Looking for advice on a heritage meat bird

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Kylacat, Jul 3, 2015.

  1. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    You can eat any chicken regardless of sex or age and they can be delicious if you cook them right. You can also cook any chicken in a way that they are absolutely horrible, just like anything else. It’s all in how you cook them plus your individual tastes come into play.

    The chicken you buy from the store is around 6 to 8 weeks old. They are extremely tender and frankly pretty tasteless. The dual purpose chickens we raise and eat are butchered a lot older. They have more texture and more flavor. Someone used to the store chicken may not like the dual purpose because of either of these.

    What they eat affects the flavor some but the real difference comes in age. The older the chicken the more flavor it has. The same is true of other meat animals we eat, such as pigs, lamb, or calves. The younger they are the more tender and less flavorful.

    The older the chicken is the slower you cook it and the more moisture is required to take care of the texture. Pressure cookers and crock pots can be used to handle older birds but Cog au Vin is the traditional French way to turn an old rooster into a gourmet meal. Chicken and dumplings is a traditional southern comfort food using old chickens. Many people make stews with them. My standard method for old chickens, hens or roosters, is to bake them. I normally cut it into serving pieces, rinse those off but do not dry, coat with herbs like oregano and basil –use whatever you want, and bake in a ceramic baking dish that seals really well for maybe 4 hours at 240 degrees. I do that also for a fairly young cockerel or pullet but maybe at 250 degrees for 2-1/2 hours. It varies by age.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Mom used to feed a family with 5 kids off of one chicken, even a relatively small hen. Sometimes she’d fry it with pieces like back, neck, gizzard, and liver also on the platter. Sometimes she’d make chicken and dumplings or a stew which really stretches a chicken. If you know how to cook them you can stretch them.

    There are only two of us here. We easily get two meals of off a smaller hen or pullet using just the breasts, wishbone, legs and thighs. Cockerels and roosters go further, I usually have enough left over for a lunch or two. I don’t know how big your family is or how much an individual eats but if you know how you can feed them if you adjust your cooking methods appropriately. I raise mixed-breed barnyard mutts based on hatchery dual purpose breeds, not the broilers or meat chickens. Mine are not that big compared to the meat chickens.

    Plus I use the carcasses to make broth. I use the wings, carcass, necks, gizzard, heart, and feet to make broth in the crock pot. You can find plenty of recipes for broth, I normally cook it in a crock pot for about 12 to 15 hours, basically overnight but start right after supper. Yeah, I know where the feet have been, but if you scald them a tiny bit (don’t overdo it or the skin tears) you can twist the toenails off and peel them. That gets them clean enough for me.

    In addition to getting the broth I pick the meat off the bones, though a lot has literally cooked off the bone. You just have to pick it out but be careful of the small bones. That very flavorful, very tender, cooked meat is great on tacos, in soups, or salads. I often use that meat to make sandwiches for lunch.

    If you eat what you hatch you will be eating a lot of pullets or hens since half of what you hatch are female. There is not as much meat on those as there are on the males but there can be enough if you are a bit flexible.
     
  3. KlopKlop

    KlopKlop Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am with ridge runner on this one. Commercial farming has pushed breeders to create birds that get huge for less feed to be able to make money when people only want to pay $1.29 per pound. Not saying it is bad, but it is the truth.
    If you can adjust your expectations a little and not expect every bird to have enormous breasts like a commercial type broiler you should be fine. It's all about expectations :)
    At a place I used to work there was a poster that read "Fast, Cheap, Good; pick two"
    I think this applies to chickens as much as it does manufacturing. Myself, I am content with picking cheap and good...
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  4. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've raised several batches of Freedom Rangers, a batch of Red Rangers, two small batches of Cornish X and one batch of 18 or 19 Dual Purpose Roosters (White Plymouth Rock, Barred Plymouth Rock, Buckeye mostly I think) as well as processing several of my spent hens. I'm in agreement that any chicken can taste good if cooked properly. My spent hens make some of the most lovely crock-potted chickens after 8 hours of low, slow cooking.

    I did keep one rooster and two pullets from my first batch of Freedom Rangers, hoping to see what first generation FRs might be like. It was a failed experiment. The pullets became huge, beautiful hens, but pretty lousy layers of smallish eggs. Plus they were huge eaters and probably ate twice as much feed for the eggs produced than my mixed flock of cold-hearty egg layers. Secondly, the rooster grew to be a monster, both in size and in personality, terrorizing the hens and actually opening up bleeding gashes along the ribs of several of them. So, he was dispatched and made a delicious Coq au Vin. I lost one of the hens to a prolapse during the winter and butchered the second hen in the spring.

    There was one discussion thread here a while back where someone successfully kept some FRs and was pleased with that first generation. Keep in mind that they probably are lousy mothers so you'd need an incubator or some broody hens in order to hatch any eggs. That will be the case for many of your DP breeds as well.

    In all my experimentation with different meat birds, my Freedom Rangers are by far my favorite. I like their activity and their health and have no complaints about the size and configuration of the carcass as an eating bird. Also, if circumstance delays getting all of them butchered, you don't have to worry about them dropping over dead if they get too big/old. The last ones in my most recent batch were about 13 weeks old and the roosters were over 7 llbs processed but healthy and strong to the end. Red Rangers were also active and healthy, but they didn't seem to get as big as quickly as the FRs. My luck with CX was very poor. I think because I live at 8,000ft of altitude it was just too much for their already overburdened hearts and my mortality rate was way higher than in any other type of chicken. The DP roosters will never be done again. 17 weeks or so of care for the little suckers and a scrawney, rubber-chicken of a carcass after all the work. My FRs end up costing me around $2.50/lb (not counting gizzards and other stock making bits) and the DP roosters, even though they are almost free cost something like $4.00/lb.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  5. ade-chick

    ade-chick New Egg

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    We have Processed many different breeds of heritage chickens, and find the Buckeye to be one of the meatier birds. We have found the Standardbred chickens, meaning Bred to the standard of the breed are usually meatier than the hatchery chicks as you buy at the local farm store
     
  6. Kylacat

    Kylacat Out Of The Brooder

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    Good to know, thanks!
     
  7. collie1470

    collie1470 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've heard nothing but good things about DP capons, though. Someone posted a picture on another thread of their barred rock and orpington capons....they were huge. But they let them get to over 6 months of age.
     
  8. BeaverQB

    BeaverQB Out Of The Brooder

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    So, I'm fairly new to chickens, but we also have a desire to find a suitable heritage breed meat chicken (rather than raising hybrids like the Cornish X or Freedom Ranger). As the first part of our journey, we raised 20 White Plymouth Rock roosters last year (from McMurray Hatchery). We butchered about half of them at 17 weeks and the rest at 20 weeks. None of them topped 6 pounds live weight, and we averaged a little under 4 pounds dressed weight. Taste was great -- much more flavorful than the store bought, but can be tough if you don't cook it properly.

    We're going to try again this year, but we'll run some Light Brahmas, some White Giants, and some White Orpingtons to see if we can get more weight.
     
  9. disciple1126

    disciple1126 New Egg

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    When you raised your White Rocks, what did their diet consist of? How much feed did they go through?
     
  10. BeaverQB

    BeaverQB Out Of The Brooder

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    We got a locally produced non-GMO feed (info here). Because we were rookies, we didn't do a good job of tracking feed consumption, but we fed them both dry feed in containers and a wet mash of the feed every day. I would say it felt like we were buying 2-3 50# bags of that feed each month when the chickens were at their biggest. We would supplement with kitchen vegetable scraps occasionally and they scratched around for bugs and worms in a 200 square foot run.

    I am still learning how to supplement their feed towards the end to get them bigger without using a Purina/industrial feed. I'm looking for natural and local if possible. I've heard that they'll drink milk and that might help them get more protein...
     

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