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When to butcher non meat birds?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by minifarmmom, Nov 6, 2016.

  1. minifarmmom

    minifarmmom Chirping

    Mar 5, 2016
    Not really sure how to word that but we ended up with about 7 rooster chicks in our order. They are ameracaunas- so they are NOT meat birds but from what I've read they should make a good soup chicken?? They're about 6-7 weeks old now and I'm wondering when would be the best age to butcher them? I believe our other hens got pretty big around 14-15 weeks. So that's when I was leaning too. Any advice? Is it even worth it to eat them? I've only had egg layers for less than a year so this is all new to me! Thank you!

  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Just out of curiosity, where did you get them? Not that it’s that important to your question but hatcheries don’t generally sell true Ameraucanas, instead they sell Easter Eggers so you really can’t go by the standard Ameraucana size for adults. Some hatcheries give expected weights of adults with their ads for the birds so maybe you can get some help there.

    Technically a male chicken under a year old is a cockerel, over a year old they are considered roosters. Different cockerels put on meat at different rates too, even the same breeds from the same flocks. So while I’ll talk about ages understand there could be a lot of differences in your individual birds.

    You can eat any chicken regardless of size or sex. People eat quail so obviously you can eat a small chicken. But there are a few things to consider. When they grow they first build a skeleton, then add meat to it. If you butcher them pretty young you just don’t get much meat. The other is that you have to adjust your cooking methods based on age. A very young chicken is tender enough to fry or grill. But the older they get the more you need to use slower moister cooking methods. Coq au Vin is a French recipe that turns a very old rooster into a gourmet meal. Different people have different expectations too. If all you are used to is fried or grilled chicken cooked from the chicken you buy at the store, you might not like the taste or texture of older chickens. The older they get the more texture they can have and the flavor changes. The changing texture is why you have to adjust your cooking methods.

    Most people are OK with frying or grilling a 12 week old cockerel but there just isn’t much meat there. Some people can handle a 15 o 16 week old cockerel fried or grilled but some people would consider that too tough. I think some of that is how you cook them too. If you fry them in a lot of lard at a really hot temperature where you leave the lid on the pan they may be preferable to one fried in a little vegetable oil. I think technique plays into it too.

    Generally I don’t butcher a cockerel until he is at least 16 weeks old and I actually prefer them after five months. By 16 weeks most have put on a reasonable amount of meat though some can still be pretty small. For the next 6 to 7 weeks they normally pack on weight pretty fast, have a growth spurt. But them they greatly slow down the rate that they grow. They’ll actually keep growing for over a year but that rate gets to be pretty slow.

    There are all kinds of ways you can cook older birds: cock pot, pressure cooker, stews, chicken and dumplings, for some examples. I generally cut a 23 week old cockerel into serving pieces, rinse those but do not shake off the excess water, coat them with herbs like oregano and basil, then bake them in a tightly sealed baking dish for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours at 250 degrees. I’ll do an old rooster the same but cook at 240 degrees for at least four hours.

    I save the bones from what I eat and add them to the back, neck, and other parts I don’t serve at the table and cook them covered in water in a large crock pot overnight, usually 14 to 15 hours. I add a bay leaf, a dozen peppercorns, a chopped carrot, onion, and celery, some garlic and some herbs. When it’s done I strain out the liquid and remove the fat. That’s the best broth you’ll ever taste. I also pick the meat out of the stuff I strain off being careful because there are some small bones and use that in tacos, casseroles, soups, any way you might use cooked meat.

    I don’t know the “best” age for you to butcher or for your cooking method, it’s all so personal. But if you really want to eat those cockerels you can.
    lomine and Kzdnae like this.
  3. carternm31

    carternm31 In the Brooder

    Oct 26, 2015
    Yes we have the same problem. Ours are 12 weeks old now and still look Tiny. They are Deleware x SLW I was reading the other day and most places say around 20 weeks. Also get them on a meat bird crumble to fatten them up a bit. You apparently have to just cook a little longer but the meat should still be fairly tender!
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    Just to give you an idea, here are pics of my EE mix cockerels. I think they were right about 5 months at butcher....




    For me, that's about the right time to butcher. the're basically as big as they're going to get, so no real point in feeding them longer.

    Those birds went directly into the pressure cooker, no resting/brining/etc. Cooled and pulled the meat, each bird made a quart bag.

    Other birds I've rested and brined for a few days. Not positive the brining does much, but since I'm resting it anyway I go ahead and throw the salt in the water. Doesn't hurt. Anyway, I do that, then crock pot them all day with whatever flavor/moisture I want. Recently, I added raspberry vinegarette salad dressing, and the meat came out wonderful! Pulled it and used for a casserole and chicken salad sammiches.
    lomine, RUNuts and Kzdnae like this.
  5. Bigshooter

    Bigshooter In the Brooder

    May 9, 2016
    I butcher at 16 weeks. Then let them rest in the fridge for 3 days before freezing. They always turn out good.
  6. minifarmmom

    minifarmmom Chirping

    Mar 5, 2016
    Wow those look great! Raspberry vinnagrette sounds great too. I'll have to give that a try.
  7. minifarmmom

    minifarmmom Chirping

    Mar 5, 2016
    Thank you for all of the info! They very well could be Easter Eggers but they were marked as Ameracaunas. I didn't care either way since I was just wanting them for their varied egg colors. With all of the advice and articles I've read I think will try butchering one at 16 weeks and see how it goes. If there's not enough meat I will wait until the rest are 20 weeks.
    Kzdnae likes this.

  8. Kzdnae

    Kzdnae Chirping

    Jun 6, 2018
    Love this thread! As I consider starting a little chicken operation, I was worried about butchering cockerels. Any of y’all have tips for butchering them myself?
  9. Maeschak

    Maeschak Songster

    Mar 29, 2016
    Maryland, USA
    Start with the jerks! You will invariably have a few annoying cockerels- when you start butchering, start with them. It sort of nullifies the mental anguish at first so you can focus on the mechanics of butchering.
    Kzdnae likes this.
  10. Mosey2003

    Mosey2003 Songster

    Apr 13, 2016

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