Using layers as meat birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Want Less, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Want Less

    Want Less Songster

    Mar 24, 2010
    New Bern, NC
    In the past we've sold/given away surplus roosters but this year we are jumping in and trying to learn about using some as meat birds. For the most part what we raise are dual purpose breeds, but in the incubator mix right now we also have some layer breeds (leghorns, ameraucana/EE, and ameraucana crosses). Is it worth the feed to raise these layer roos as meat birds or are we best off giving them away as soon as they crow and reveal their sex?

    Also, in general, for dual purpose breeds what is the target age/weight we need to aim for? Thanks for any info!
  2. ericsplls

    ericsplls Songster

    Feb 25, 2010
    It all depends on what you want. I ate several of my surplus roos this year. My problem is the line I have matures slowly and by the time they are old enough to decide if they will make it to the breeding pen or freezer they are only good for soup, dumplings etc. Weight isn't as big an issue as age. I can't remember the exact ages now but the term broiler,fryer,roaster are determined by age.
  3. v.cyr

    v.cyr Songster

    May 4, 2010
    Greene, NY
    technically speaking, any laying breed is also dual purpose when it gets down to it, since even old roosters and hens are good for the stew pot... layers aren't particularly good if you want tender, plump young chickens, and there isn't as much on them as there is on meat or actual dual purpose breeds, but its still meat... some of the best chicken and dumplings my grandma ever made when I was growing up was from an old brown leghorn roo... the crock pot is an old birds best friend(sort of)...
    1 person likes this.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    'll give my opinion, which is not a whole lot different from the other two responders.

    If you are providing all their feed, it is more cost effective to get rid of the roosters so you don't buy the feed, and buy your meat at the grodcery store. If your chickens forage a lot so you are not buying all their food, it can be a lot more cost effective.

    Any chicken can be eaten regardless of size and age. Remember, some people raise and eat quail. Toughness is related to age, not size or breed. The chicken you buy at the store is from chickens 6 to 8 weeks old. You won't find enough meat on a 7 week old dual purpose bird to make it worthwhile to clean him, but he would be as tender as the store bought chicken.

    For my dual purpose chickens, I would not dream of butchering them before 15 weeks and prefer 18 weeks, but I don't fry them. I cook them slowly at low temperatures for long periods of time in a moist environment. I also use much of the normal discards to make broth.

    I don't think there si a really clearcut answer to youir question. We all have differenbt set-ups and circumstances and our criteria is different.

    I don't know that a crock pot would be considered an old rooster's friend, but I find them quite handy when dealing with old roosters.
  5. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

    Apr 18, 2010
    I process extra roos at about 14-18 weeks old - by then they're getting annoying and I know who I'd like to keep around.

    On the other hand, I'm the person in the area who picks up other people's extra roosters that are 14 weeks to 2 years+ - for free - and process and eat them. I've gotten a lot of good stock making chicken that way - they're not as meaty or big as CX, but they sure taste like chicken. I now even have repeat "customers" who call me up when they've got extra roos from hatching - they know I'm processing them humanely. Win-win, I think...though they don't know what they're missing :)

    It's a decision - you can feed them and then give away (unless they are high quality roos to sell for a good price) - or you can process and eat them.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Just Because

    Just Because In the Brooder

    Just to add my few cents, I think it all comes down to how long they would take to mature and reach an appropriate age.I know that some breeds can take as long as 6 months to mature where as others as early as 12 weeks.

    Your next question should be is the amount of meat you get worth the time it takes for them to grow and the feed costs over that period. Also a point on what Ridgerunner said, letting them forage does save on feed costs, but it should be noted that it is false economy expecting to grow big meaty birds on grass and grubs. This s seen with people who free-range commercial strains of broiler taking about 8-12 weeks for them to reach full size whereas in the commercial industry,it takes about 40 days.

    By all means let them forage, in fact you'd be in my bad books if you didn't, its just they will take a little longer to grow if that's the way you choose to go.

    And my final thing that I think you should consider is the actually killing part. I don't know if you've ever killed something you've raised yourself but it can be a daunting experience. My first time, I felt like I had lost a friend and was pretty upset. Don't let me put you off if you still want to give it a whirl, it is a rewarding life experience in the long run. Just a couple of things to keep in mind:

    1.Plan ahead, you don't want to be left without something you need.
    2. If you are "chicken" don't attempt anything until you are calm and confident in your actions. Only doing half the job will deeply disturb the bird and you don't want that, especially one that you have raised yourself.

    Anywho, I can't think of anything else. Hope that I managed to provide something useful in all that rambling [​IMG]
  7. Montana-Hens

    Montana-Hens Songster

    Feb 20, 2008
    Buxton, Montana
    I concure with what has been said before, thought I think my rooster meat is a little more stringey that my hens of the same age. Not nasty mind you but definately a little more defined muscles.
  8. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    It depends on what you consider to be of value. If you mean "worth" as in dollars/cents, then you probably will spend more to raise these DP roos than you could buy cheap commercial chicken on sale at the grocery store. But if you factor in the worth of the satisfaction of raising your own meat for your table, the assurance of knowing where your meat came from, the comfort of knowing the good conditions in which it was raised, then you might find it worth it to keep those DPs.

    There's been so much discussion on which is better, the DPs or the CXs for meat. I think there are benefits & disadvantages to both, and everyone should try raising batches of each kind to decide for themselves what they prefer.

    I raise up all the cockerels that are hatched under my hens here, a lot of mixes from my production breeds, even some bantams. I start them on the less costly layer feed when they're about 9 weeks old and let them out to forage for a lot of their own feed during the days. I butcher them when they're between 18-24 weeks old. One of the benefits I like about DPs is that they will wait for you to be ready to process them. I have never had one who was tough or stringy. I let them rest after processing and cook them slowly with moisture, nothing really special, and they've always been delectable.
  9. bluere11e

    bluere11e Songster

    Feb 8, 2011
    West Palm Beach
    The best chicken I ever ate was one Carol raised and helped process. I made chicken and dumplings. The flavor was such that whenever I eat commercial chicken, it's tough, bland and chewy. It's not a good texture and it's a turn off. I 've sworn off eating chicken unless it was raised by me or one of my poultry peeps..
  10. Erica

    Erica Songster

    Dec 5, 2010
    Great thread.

    Just another thought: you can raise them to 8 weeks and then use them as spatchcocks. They're not meaty of course, but will have been through the fastest growth-per-feed period, and will be a little like quail to process and eat.

    This is what I do sometimes if I'm running out of room; otherwise I raise the layer cockerels to a decent size. That way they get to enjoy themselves a bit longer, and have better flavour and texture (and weight of course).

    I feed my chicks a home-formulated diet including soured milk, so I don't feed commercial chick starter. That way they're off medications from day one and don't taste store-bought. Wonderful flavour (and lots of greens in the diet too). However there are plenty of ways to use layer cockerels and I still think it's worth doing up to about 8 weeks of age no matter what you feed them. Just don't compare them to anything else.

    Layers are generally very good at feed conversion up to 8 weeks, and their higher activity level than meat birds makes them (I think) better as table birds despite the far lower quantity of meat.


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