What age to put chickens on the dinner table.

Discussion in 'Egg, Chicken, & Other Favorite Recipes' started by spiral_72, Aug 10, 2010.

  1. spiral_72

    spiral_72 In the Brooder

    Apr 19, 2010
    Chesnee, SC
    I looked around a little. Some of the information I got was conflicting, so I thought I'd officially ask:

    I've quite new to this, I have 4 RIR Roos and 8 sexlink/RIR hens. All are just over 17 weeks old. All seem to be changing in behavior too, ESPECIALLY the roos. None are laying just yet.

    The big, king roo is a BIG bird. He's pretty cocky, but never to me. Yesterday he attacked for the very first time...... at my wife. I stepped in and he calmed down real quick like, but I'm afraid he's going in the oven. All the better I suppose because as it's turns out, I have too many anyways.

    Is there some kind of rule of when to eat chickens? I've heard 7-8 weeks, but mine were still small then, that can't be right! No? Is there a rule, never try to bake a chicken after 10 weeks, or 15 weeks or? after that do we make soup? or is all fair game?

    It's too bad, I was hoping to keep the big Roo. He's serious enough I think he'd protect all the others from some predators..... but I can't have him hurting hurt MY girl.

    Thank you!
  2. KDbeads

    KDbeads Songster

    Aug 20, 2009
    East Central VA
  3. We butchered our first set of sex-links last year and I'd like to tell you not to bother.
    They are Not meaty chickens at all and even simmered all day they were tough.

    I have another 9 this year and when they are finished working they will get to retire until their time comes. Eat and Play. what a life.
    Someone else's results may be different of course.
  4. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

    Apr 18, 2010
    We ate a SLW roo at 15 weeks, he was 3.5lbs and very, very yummy! I cooked him in a dutch oven at a pretty low heat for a while. Once I get a chance, I'll be dispatching at least two more roos, they will be 18 or 19 weeks. They're not nice, but I'm not really having a ton of time right now [​IMG]
  5. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    If you are rasing meat chickens bred for meat production, meaning a cornish x or broiler of some sort, that 7-9 week window will give you a 4-6lb dressed out bird.

    You have layers though, that are in the "dual" category. Roosters here go at between 14-16 weeks usually and are still good eating. Yes, they will be "skinny" becuase they are not bred like meat birds, they are made for eggs.

    If you have a "spent hen" or bird over a year old, this is where stew and soup come in to play. They will give you flavorful stock, but the meat cannot be prepared like you would a commercial meat bird. Traditional slow cook recipes are required.

    I guess I missed the 5-12 month range, but there is where you mileage may vary. I like to let them rest for 3+ days and then take a small piece of meat, like from the back or neck, and cook it. If it is hard and stringy, the body goes to a slow cook recipie, if it is chewable, then stir fry or bake.

    That said, regardless of age, if you hope to chew the meat, you must rest it for a few days OR cook it before it gets stiff. Most people don't get to cooking it before it is stiff so it is easier to let the meat rest. The meat from fresh running birds will always be "tough" when compared to 42day old, stored for a week sitting under plastic wrap post brine, from the store. Most are just not used to the fact that you do have to chew chicken.
  6. arabianequine

    arabianequine Crowing

    Apr 4, 2010
    I heard that any over 16 weeks will start getting tough.
  7. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

    Apr 18, 2010
    If you're worried about tough, treat it like you'd treat any "tough" cut of meat. If one hunts, they know if they shoot a younger doe, they can do more with the meat cooking wise than an old buck. Still can make it delicious!

    Just like any tough cut of meat, brine it and then cook it slow, low and moist. What it takes in time and effort, it makes up for in flavor. [​IMG]
  8. cknhobbiest

    cknhobbiest In the Brooder

    Jul 3, 2010
    No one talks about canning it anymore ... take all the cockrels/old hens you have and skin/debone and can all the meat together
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    As someone mentioned, your dual purpose chickens are not the same as the baby meat chickens you are used to eating out of the store. They are going to be older than those 6 to 8 week old special purpose meat birds when you process them with a different texture and flavor. There is a short window in there when I think they can be fried or cooked with a fairly quick dry process, but people who were raised on the store birds may find that they are always too tough when cooked this way. We've all got different experiences, tastes, and expectations. You can experiment with other methods if you want, but I would suggest you try cooking them with a slow moist method, even if they are relatively young and some of us might try a different method. There are a lot of slow moist methods out there. Cog au Vin is a traditional way to cook a tough old bird but a young bird can also be cooked this way. Mom made killer chicken and dumplings with older chickens. She never aged the meat but did put it on to cook as soon as I brought the cleaned bird to her. Remember, both moist and slow. You never want it to come to a full boil, just a slow simmer.

    One method I've used with a tough old rooster is to take half the rooster, put it in a crock pot with all the water the crock pot can hold, onions, celery, carrots, peppercorns, salt, and herbs like oregano or thyme (whatever you feel like), and cook it on low for hours, then do the other half of the bird the same way. 8 to 12 hours is usually plenty but I recently did one 18 hours just because I was ready to put him on in mid-afternoon and let it cook overnight. That was one tender bird! I picked the meat off the bone, though a lot of it had already fallen off the bone, and use the meat in pasta, tacos, salad, whatever you would use cooked chicken meat in. I strain the broth and separate the fat out. You get some tremendously good chicken broth. Out of that recent old rooster, I got 6 cups of cooked meat and 13 pints of chicken broth. Now I cooked all the rooster I could, back, neck, feet, wings, thighs, legs, and breast meat. I even had the heart and gizzard in there. Not the liver though. I leave the liver out.

    When I process young birds and use the meat parts other ways, I save the back, feet, neck, wings, heart and gizzard. When I have two sets of those, I put them in a stock pot and cook them for at least 4 hours as above. I get cooked meat and broth from them, but to be honest, that 18 hour crock pot tough old rooster was more flavorful and a lot more tender. I don't see how that method can fail if you cook it long enough.
  10. spiral_72

    spiral_72 In the Brooder

    Apr 19, 2010
    Chesnee, SC
    Wow, that's fantastic all.... THANKS!

    It sounds like my Roo is just a little old to be a tender meat. I'm bookmarking all this info for next time too.

    So I suppose I'll whack him, clean him and throw him in the crockpot for a slow cook. This will be my first cleaning of any animal other than fish, so it probably won't be pretty..... I found the step-by-step pictorial on here. It doesn't look too bad, but I'm afraid I'll have the meat all butchered/torn........ A crockpot will probably give me the best chance of success THIS time.

    Thank you for the advice, the recommended ages and the recepies!!

    I'll let you know how he turns out [​IMG]

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: