tough birds?


9 Years
Feb 24, 2010
Lat year we did meat birds for the first time, I believe they were Cornish rocks or whatever those fast growing special bred meat birds are. We fed them organic chicken feed made by Blue Seal. They had a run to go out in to, but not much in there as far as grass growing, so I can't say they had anything fresh to eat. I found that the breast meat was kind of tough and chewy, which was a huge disappointment considering what we ended up paying out in feed to do it all organic. I couldn't believe how much food those birds ate. They were like machines.
Okay, well the questions is, why would the meat be tough? Is this typical? Are other breeds better ? When it was all said and done I felt like I probably could have bought decent organic chicken somewhere at the same price it cost me and it would have been better tasting and a lot less work.
Of course, I feel compelled to try again, but I could really use some advice!

The reason they were tough and chewy is because you let them run around. It makes meat tough if it is exercised. Beef is the same way, if you let them run around, you will have tough beef. Please don't give up yet, try again just keep them inside a coop. You only want your birds going from the food to the water. They lay down the rest of the time. We raised meat birds for 13 years. They were delicious. We kept ours inside their coop except for one year. We decided to make an outside pen for them and man were they tough. Never again. I hope you will try agin.
Letting them move around is not the only thing that will make them tough. I've cooked birds that free ranged almost a year and were very tender. You may have to adjust your cooking methods for your birds vs store bought.
Not letting them rest after processing will make them tough too.
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I disagree about letting them run around- sure, that can be a factor, but I keep my birds in a tractor, and they run around all day. My question is have you had home raised chicken before this? Chickens you raise at home will always have much firmer meat than those purchased at the grocery store, which may be mistaken for toughness. How old were they when butchered?
It's called, substance, and the presence of more flavor.

Soaking in brine for a couple of days before freezing helps. Some people will soak in milk, something I haven't tried.

I now prefer the home raised over the textureless and tasteless store bought mush.
Store bought birds are raised so tightly packed togother they hardly get any exercise. They have also had plenty of time to rest after butchering allowing natural enzymes to begin breaking them down (anyone ever seen a date stamp saying what day or even month a store bought chicken was butchered on?). They may have also been frozen and thawed once or twice which also helps with the toughness.
Best advice I could give is never attempt to eat a home grown bird within 3 days of butchering. I soak our birds in a salt water brine for a minimum 2 days in a spare fridge in the garage and then cook slow with low heat.
Hi all
Thanks for the replies. I don't think these birds got much exercise, I don't think that could be why they were tough. We had 50 of them in a pretty small space. We did put them in the freezer as soon as they were butchered, not letting them rest. That might be more of the reason. I have had other peoples freshly butchered chickens before, and they never seemed tough to me the way these were.
I cooked them about the same way I do regular birds, I tried different ways but it didn't seem to make much of a difference in toughness. It was the white meat of the breast that was tough. Kind of stringy. I can't say the flavor was really something to get excited about, either.

I'm thinking of trying some Red Broilers and trying to get them out on the grass a bit. I really felt that the Cornish Rocks were really gross and smelly and it seemed kind of inhumane.

Any comments?
if you order more meat birds and don't free range them , try pulling long grasses for them to eat, or grass clippings - if you don't have any insecticides or poisons on your lawn/ fields.

I feed mine a combination of flock raiser and the grasses - seems to make for a juicier bird.
The major problem that I can see is the Organic feed that you fed them. It may not have enough protein in it. Also keep your birds past rigor mortis and it may also help to let them rest in a refrigerator for at least 24 hours ( longer would be better) prior to freezing. I have raised hunreds of these birds using 22% protein from day one to slaughter. Full feed them for the first 3 weeks, then limit their feed to 12 hours on full feed and then 12 with no feed per day but give them water at all times until ready to butcher. I have experienced no leg or health issues and are tender and very tasty.
The reason i raise meat birds at home is to escape the industry raised and slaughtered birds and their not so perfect living conditions, and if i have to eat a tough bird now and then as a price so be it. If you lock your birds up in the coop nearly the entire point of raising birds at home will be lost, they will have no fresh air, no exercise, no bugs or grass to pick at, and less sunlight. The industry may say that less of these things is better but i just don't believe it. I raised my cx's in a large tractor last year, 72 sq ft for 9 birds. The birds got tons of exercise, chased each other, moved with the tractor each day and in general acted like normal chickens, even after all this the meat was still firm, but not tough, the way chicken is supposed to be. In my opinion the organic feed is just a waste of money, its just got different chemicals and a label on it.

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