Whether dealing with a hostile rooster, a lack of space, or the desire to eat the animals you’ve raised, you’re bound to eventually ask, “can I eat my rooster?”
Here is everything you need to know about that.
I’ll talk about why people eat their roosters.
I’ll also discuss when you should butcher your rooster, how to do it, the best ways to prepare a rooster for eating, and how roosters and hens taste.
Why People Choose To Eat Their Roosters
Aggressive roosters can become an issue for any chicken keeper, especially for those with small children, unstable balance, vulnerable pets, or hens who are being tormented.
A rooster who insists on chasing you (or your friends and family) can put a damper on the fun of chicken-keeping. Eating rude roosters may make visiting your coop a more pleasant experience.
A word to the wise, though– if your rooster is aggressive towards predators, he may be worth your trouble, simply to ensure the safety of your flock.
Excessive Flock Size
Chicken math strikes again!
Whether you picked up too many chickens at your local feed store (again!) or incubated your own eggs that resulted in a 50/50 split of cockerels and pullets, it’s wise to pair down the flock.
You want to make sure that your feathered friends have plenty of space and resources available to them, too.
Plus, having too many roosters can be detrimental to the health of your hens.
Read about the perfect hen to rooster ratio here.
The rooster makes up half of your breeding stock, so make sure he is worthy of that status.
Poor health, conformation, or attitudes are viable reasons to cull a rooster from the flock.
If he antagonizes people, his offspring may, too.
Conversely, if he is meek or docile towards predators, he probably won’t produce protective cockerels either.
Even if you don’t like his crow, feathers, or coloring, those are all practical reasons to cull him from your coop.
The bottom line is that you should remove him from the flock if you don’t want more chickens to look and act like him.
Roosters are their most productive up through their third year of life.
After that, they often cannot breed with hens, losing their edge when protecting their flock.
Most roosters live to be five to eight years old. After a certain age, their body loses the ability to fight disease, illness, injury, and other environmental conditions.
Like many others, I believe that a swift and painless death in a restraining cone is more humane than allowing nature to take its course.
To make room for a new rooster, prevent fights for dominance, and out of kindness, you may decide to eat your aging rooster.
They’re Delicious Protein
Chickens are high in protein, lean in fat, and full of Vitamin B12, tryptophan, choline, zinc, iron, and copper.
Depending on your operation, roosters can be an affordable food source. Free-range poultry is exceptionally cost-effective in the right circumstances.
Meat Can Be a Viable Income Source For Your Homestead
You can sell chicken meat to bring in another income stream for you and your family.
There is quite a strong demand for pasture-raised chickens that are allowed to free range on pasture where they have plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and grass to roam through.
This demand strengthened in early 2020 when COVID-19 first began, and it has remained steadily growing.
You can capitalize on this need while raising happy animals you enjoy, feeding local people healthy food, and being a good steward of your land.
Are you interested in raising chickens for profit? Read this.
When Should I Butcher My Roosters?
The best time to harvest roosters is when they are newly matured.
For most breeds, this happens around five months of age, depending on the species. However, it’s only six to eight weeks for the increasingly popular Jumbo Cornish X Rocks (also called cornish cross broiler).
The younger your roosters are when they are butchered, the more tender their meat.
Plus, slaughtering birds sooner will cut your production costs and increase overall profitability.
If you have old birds, that’s okay. You can use several great recipes to make the most of your rooster without sacrificing taste or texture.
How To Butcher a Rooster
- Reduce or cut off their food supply six to twelve hours in advance, but continue to give unlimited water access. This will make the processing stage much cleaner and less likely for contamination.
- Lock up the rooster, usually while on the roost for the night. Doing this will eliminate the need to chase your rooster, making you both anxious and his meat much tougher from stress. You can slaughter the chicken in the morning, or you can process him at night, so he is already sleepy and calmer. Nighttime is more peaceful, but the morning has better visibility for you.
- Slaughter the rooster. Though there are several methods, I strongly prefer and recommend the kill cone (also called a restraining cone). Place your rooster in the cone upside down, sticking his head out of the bottom. I like to give mine a moment or two in the cone so the blood rushes to their heads and reduces consciousness. I also like gently covering their eyes with my hand to calm them (and myself) during this time. Next, use a super sharp knife to make a large slit on the front of the neck just below (or, in this case, above) the head. It’s okay to lightly pull down on the head to steady yourself and the bird. You’re severing both of the carotid arteries here, resulting in immediate death. Allow the rooster to bleed for 90 to 120 seconds before removing him from the cone. If you live in a bear country, use a bucket to catch the blood so it doesn’t attract bears to your property.
- Pluck or skin the rooster. Submerge the bird in boiling water, then plunge it into cold water, toss it into a plucking machine, or hang it by its feet to manually pluck. Alternately, you can skin the carcass and miss out on the ability to cook with the skin. Feathers are great for composting because they add considerable nitrogen to the soil.
- Gut the bird. Make a J-cut for small birds or a bar cut for larger ones. Empty the body cavity of the craw, intestines, and organs. Remove the oil gland. Remove the shanks. If desired, you may keep the gizzards, hearts, and livers for consumption.
- Cut and Clean. Scrape the body cavity clean, rinse with water, and check for stray feathers, pinfeathers, blood, and dirt. Repeat rinse as needed.
- Chill. Set the carcass in an ice-water bath. After this, some people choose to freeze the chicken. If I have the space, I like to refrigerate the meat for twenty-four to thirty-six hours before freezing. This added step allows rigor mortis to pass, so the muscles are optimally loosened up. It is especially beneficial for those naturally tough or stringy roosters.
- Package and freeze. Now you may vacuum seal the meat, bag it up in a simple freezer bag, or wrap it in butcher paper before freezing. Don’t forget to label the date and bird type, so you’ll know what kind of meat you’re cooking later.
You can read more about the rooster harvesting process here.
The Best Ways To Cook Roosters After Butchering Them
For young broilers or fryers, you may cook, fry, or bake them like any other chicken in any recipe you desire. These are the best quality and have optimal taste and texture.
Older roosters will naturally be tougher with lean dark meat.
Tenderize the meat as much as possible; I love to soak poultry meat with pickle juice and an egg or two as a homemade brine and marinade.
My all-time favorite use for a tough bird is chicken and dumplings or chicken gnocchi.
Old roosters also go great in soups and stews because the lengthened cooking time helps soften and tenderize the meat.
Crockpot and instant pot recipes are also ideal.
Don’t forget to use the bones and feet to make broth; the quality is still as incredible as ever for broth.
Do Roosters Taste Different Than Hens?
Roosters are generally larger than hens, meaning they will give you more meat per bird. The tradeoff is that the meat will not be as tender as a hen, especially as the rooster ages.
Roosters also tend to be leaner (with less fat) and offer more protein, while hens have a slightly better flavor, thanks to their bodies’ extra fat.
It is nearly impossible to tell the difference between male and female birds if harvested at a young age; their hormone levels are still relatively low.
However, older roosters will have more testosterone, and this testosterone tastes ever so slightly gamey.
It’s not necessarily a bad flavor, but a bit different.
Many, but not all, find it indiscernible.
Can You Eat Roosters? Final Thoughts
Roosters are an excellent food source; removing and eating select roosters from your chicken coop improve the overall quality of your flock, decreases your chicken keeping costs, and makes visiting your chicken coop a more enjoyable experience.
Not only can you eat roosters, but you can also positively impact many aspects. The choice is yours.