Can You Eat Roosters? How to Make the Most of an Unpopular Bird

If you have backyard chickens, you’ve probably encountered a…well… rooster problem.

Often, these result in the rooster’s demise.

And now you’re left with the age-old question… should we eat it?

rooster in barnyard crowing

Can you eat roosters?

Yes, you can eat roosters. They are suitable for human consumption.

You probably have eaten them, in fact. Why? Most commercial chicken is slaughtered before sexual maturity, and roosters are indistinguishable from hens at that age.

Large-scale poultry breeders raise a large flock of Cornish X chickens and butcher them all. About half (naturally) are roosters.

However… eating your badly tempered backyard rooster is a different matter. Generally, 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 what you’re used to. Butchering and properly cooking them tends to be more difficult than it’s 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.

And roosters can be very agressive with hens, chasing and attacking them.

They may even attack you when you try to enter the coop or approach your flock. Ours have been especially aggressive with small children.

It’s scary and unpleasant. It’s not just a matter of them hanging around and not laying eggs.

Why roosters aren’t commonly eaten?

Roosters are from traditional breed chickens, and rooster 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. (I truly can’t emphasize this enough. It is not what you’re used to.)

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 personally 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 done 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. You’ll go killing off your laying hens.

2. Typically, a flock raised for meat and a flock raised for eggs will be different breeds. Either way, you will 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 separate operations. (Unless you develop a taste for older birds, which some people do!)

Here’s an excellent resource for getting started with raising your meat. (It’s one of my favorite homesteading books!)

More on backyard chicken keeping:

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!

Can You Eat Roosters? How to Make the Most of an Unpopular BirdCan You Eat Roosters? How to Make the Most of an Unpopular Bird

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  1. I’m pretty sure no doggie is going to care whether you’ve cooked it a stew of cockerel or a stew of pullet … so letting chickens develop until gender is easily IDed is not wasteful … just use the cockerels for stock and for dog food, if not for Sunday coq-au-vin …

  2. Animals bred for sustenance is a part of life.
    I have chickens and because I have been reluctant to deal with some violent roosters in the coop because their pretty, I now have a dead hen. This hen came to me everyday just to cuddle up.
    So the roosters go today.
    Either caught and given away(nobody wants them).
    Let out so the fox can eat them
    or I eat them.

    1. yes. i’m so sorry. a lot of people say things like “why cant you just rehome the rooster?” but no one wants an aggressive bird that serves no practical purpose. i know it’s hard. good luck. ❤️.

    1. Democrats should be the only ones to deal with all the BS CCP tactics THEY voted for 🐥🐔🐓 no real meat for you !

      1. absolutely. they should be forced to live in a 1 bedroom with weekly shots and mask requirements. they should be forced to sleep with their beloved masks on

    2. What a sadly hate-filled person you are. More of the fascist politics that calls other citizens less patriotic and less human because they have different opinions. Even on a cooking post, you have to barf up political hate for people who are also patriots, also loyal, and also want a better country. Just….sad and disappointing.

  3. Roosters may not be a popular choice for consumption, they can be eaten and made into delicious meals with the right preparation. Slow cooking and using them for stocks and soups are great ways to make the most of this underappreciated bird.

  4. I mean… I eat meat but not a lot and not all. I prefer veg but can’t do fake meat because most is soy based but the way this talks about animals.. mannn… some could make the argument about the tons of useless humans we have on the planet or humans that we allow to be aggressive with our children and females buf we are against the death penalty… yup keep those human roosters alive at useful humans expense but not those pesky animal roosters. It just astounds me how casually humans talk about animals as if they are pesks to be eradicated and like.. how dare they even have a right to exist on this planet, they should only exist to benefit us. It’s revolting really. How dare HUMANS exist on this planet actually is the more fair statement

    1. Lola, I also would not permit an aggressive human around my family or pay to shelter and feed them. So perhaps we agree after all. Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your opinion.

      1. Agreed Tracy B! My 5 cockerels attack my hens as a pack. Grabbing them by the combs to get them to submit, then mounting one after the other! The poor girls just lay there like they’re dead, even after they move on!

    2. Humans are on the top of the food chain , like we are all animals you ever see how a rooster takes it when he wants it , brutal ,so huwomen should be happy they don’t get it like that . And for the eating of meat or veggies eat what you want ! Most Alfa men eat what they want , kill what they want and that’s why we are the BOSS !! So please go lick a carrot or something!

    3. first off, the only reason animals are here with us , they are for us …. and you Lola will fit in perfectly with the plans for the near future …. until. then. . this should clear it up a bit …….
      Romans 14:1-23 ESV
      As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind
      Mark 7:19 ESV
      Since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.
      1 Corinthians 8:8 ESV
      Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do