If you have backyard chickens, you’ve probably encountered a rooster problem. Often, these result in a rooster’s demise.
And now you’re left with the age-old question… should we eat it?
Can you eat roosters?
Yes, you can eat roosters. They are suitable for human consumption. You probably have. Most commercial chicken is slaughtered before sexual maturity, and roosters and indistinguishable from hens. Large-scale poultry breeders raise a large flock of Cornish X chickens and butcher them all. About half are roosters. As a general rule, any chicken slaughtered beyond 12 weeks of age will be very tough compared to store-bought chicken. So, if you dispose of one or two naughty roosters from a backyard flock, they will be very different from the store-bought chicken. Butchering and properly cooking them tends to be more difficult than worth.
Why do we want to eat rooster meat?
Well, typically, you don’t. You do it because you have male chickens that don’t serve any purpose.
If you’ve purchased baby chicks intending to be laying hens, there will often be a rooster or two mixed in. Even though you can buy already sexed chickens, there is no 100% success rate.
If you buy a straight run, 50% on average will be male chickens.
When they grow up, you have a problem with your hands. A flock of a few dozen female chickens can support one, maybe two roosters before they start fighting each other and getting too aggressive with the hens.
Why roosters aren’t commonly eaten?
Roosters are from traditional breed chickens, and roosters meat is very different from the broiler meat you are used to eating.
Not specifically because it’s rooster meat, but because it is old.
Older chickens and roosters are still eaten in other cultures but are prepared differently. If properly cooked, an older bird can be delicious. Managing expectations
Let’s say you’ve decided to butcher a 6-month old rooster, and you want to eat it. It’s a responsible choice. Many people realize that their roosters are too loud and aggressive to keep but don’t have the stomach to do what needs to be done.
It doesn’t make sense to buy feather pluckers and cones to butcher a few birds per year.
Here’s how to butcher a chicken without fancy tools. (Warning, it is graphic. You need to thoroughly understand what you’re doing before you decide to try.)
As we’ve explained at length, this bird will be tough. Do not expect it to be like any chicken you’ve eaten in the past.
Preparing rooster meat
It’s best (in fact, essential) to cook a rooster low and slow over moist heat. Do not try making a fried chicken with an older chicken. They are also an excellent choice for making chicken stock and broth. Here are some preparation ideas to consider:
If you accept that these dishes will have a more robust flavor and won’t be super-tender, you’ll do just fine.
Note: I understand if this all seems like a lot of trouble to avoid wasting one or two stringy birds. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s much (obviously) much more straightforward. We generally kill and dispose of our roosters without eating them.
Frequently Asked Questions:
So does rooster meat taste any different from hen meat?
You will get varying opinions on this. In my experience, a hen and a rooster of the same age taste the same. Some people say that rooster meat has a stronger flavor and is stringier.
What are capons?
Weird, yes. A capon is a castrated rooster. This procedure is carried out either by hand or chemically before the bird has sex maturity. The meat is also more delicate since capons are less active than other poultry.
Capons are very uncommon in the modern American diet.
Do hens and roosters taste different?
Whether hen or rooster, a bird older than 12 weeks will be tough, any difference between them will be negligible.
What’s a broiler/ fryer vs a roaster vs a stewing hen?
A broiler or fryer chicken is a young bird that has been selectively bred to have large breasts. They are slaughtered at any time between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Most store-bought chicken breast comes from broilers.
According to the USDA, a roaster chicken is a slightly older chicken, between 8 and 12 weeks old and weighing between 5 and 7 pounds.
Stewing hens are an older bird that has reached maturity and needs to be cooked like a rooster.
Why can’t I butcher the roosters while they are young and tender?
Two reasons. 1. You can’t tell which chick is a rooster at six weeks of age. 2. Typically, a flock raised for meat and a flock raised for eggs will be different breeds. Either way, you’re going to have a few roosters in your laying flock that you (likely) won’t want to keep.
So what if I want to raise chickens for meat production?
You totally can! It’s best to understand that laying chickens and raising broiler chicken meat will be two separate operations. (Unless you develop a taste for older birds, which some people do!
More on backyard chicken keeping:
The pros and cons of free-range chickens
Chicken breeds for colored eggs
Roosters can be eaten, but they are not commonly found in the marketplace. The meat is much more challenging than hens because it hasn’t been bred to grow fast and heavy like broilers or fryers. If you decide that rooster sounds tasty, make sure you cook them low-and-slow for best results!