Getting started. Why raise chickens? 0/3
Requirements (parts list) for raising chickens 0/4
Basic breed types and their characteristics 0/2
Purebred flock vs. assortment 0/1
Incubators and hatching chicks 0/3
When things go wrong and predators too! 0/5
Processing birds 0/4
Eating Old Birds
On Eating Old Birds
If one is raising chickens and intends to maintain a long term flock, it is necessary to do something to get rid of old birds when their productive life is over. For high powered laying breeds this is often right after their second summer. This is to say that the hens lay reasonably well for two seasons (summers). After that the diligent poultry raiser will switch them with young birds and start over with high egg production. Most of the dual purpose breeds can be kept over to perhaps the third or even fourth season. But then their egg laying will be quite sporadic.
“Old bird” is any bird over a year old.
Store Bought vs Home Raised
Home raised chicken is usually a lot firmer than store bought chicken. Even the young birds (fryers) have much firmer meat than store bought birds. A commercially raised fryer is only 4-6 weeks old when butchered. The absolute earliest a home raised bird is butchered is 12 weeks, and that would be a Cornish cross meat bird. Because the bird is older, and also, in part, because it is able to move around more than a commercially produced chicken, it develops muscle, which is firmer (tougher) than the flab of a commercial chicken. This requires a different approach to cooking. The main difference is that home raised birds need more time to cook. Dual purpose breeds are generally no where near ready to butcher for meat until four to six months of age. They have much more time both to develop muscle, which is firm, and flavor, which tastes good!
How Old is Old?
Any chicken older than one year is considered an old bird. Old birds are tough if cooked like a young bird. But old birds have amazing flavor, much more than young birds!
There may be some differences between breeds. Experiment to see what works best with your birds and your environment. After a year of age I find that the best thing I can do is put a bird in a large crock pot and slow cook it for at least 5-6 hours. After this the meat will be falling off the bones. The meat’s flavor will be wonderful. The broth is precious. This broth makes the very finest soups. I tend to agree with many thousands of Jewish grandmothers, that this kind of chicken soup has medicinal value in fighting colds.
If one slow cooks one of these old birds, it is possible to shred the meat, deboning it, and adding it back to the broth. Add more water, potatoes or noodles, vegetables and spices, and have a world class stew. If one wants to take this stew to an even higher level, just make dumplings to set on top!
If you want roast chicken and all you have is an old bird, precook the bird in a large crock pot or chicken roaster. Precook until it is just about tender. The, transfer it into an open roasting pan and finish it in the oven at 350 F. Unless you’ve eaten free range, older birds before, I can assure you, that you will never have tasted such good chicken!
Let Someone Else Raise the Birds
If you hang around enough people who want to raise chickens, but who don’t have the heart to butcher, sooner or later you’ll receive an offer to take a crate of older birds. Your friend will be trying to get out from under a high feed bill and perhaps, from having to hear so many roosters. Accept them. That’s some good eating! And you didn’t pay to raise them!
Old Cocks usually have LARGE spurs