Why do you never hear about people eating rooster? Since they are chickens just like hens, can roosters be eaten or do we just eat the females?
Many people eat roosters, they are the preferred chicken meat in some cultures. Rooster meat is less commonly eaten in parts of the world where industrial/confinement agriculture produces the majority of the chicken raised, which would be layering hens or broilers, not roosters.
Is Raising Your Own Meat Chickens Worth It? will take you through the costs and time involved providing your own home raised chicken.
Why do people not eat roosters?
Many people eat roosters and for some cooks, roosters are the preferred chicken meat.
The reason this is unfamiliar to you is eating roosters is not common in most American households, especially those that do not raise their own meat.
The second reason most people are unfamiliar with eating roosters is that even if you keep your own chickens you only need one, maybe two roosters. The rest of the flock are females.
Even a backyard chicken raiser who has 10 chickens will only have 1 rooster (if any) and that rooster will last for multiple years.
Most people never need to eat the roosters, since they don’t have one!
Why don’t many small chicken flocks have a rooster? Hens will lay eggs without a rooster. The rooster is only needed for fertile/hatching eggs. For eating eggs, a flock of hens only is fine.
Hatch your own flocks have plenty of roosters
People who lived in pre industrial times would have eaten quite a bit of rooster when the family had chicken on the menu.
Before broilers and before the ease of getting chicks through the mail, if you wanted to have chickens you raised them yourself.
This means you picked replacement hens from chicks that were hatched by your flock. Of those chicks, only about half are hens, the rest are roosters.
Even back in the days of keeping a farm flock of chickens, no one needed as many roosters as hens!
The best rooster or two would be kept back and the rest of those guys were cooked for dinner.
Traditional chickens and broilers are different
In the rest of this article, I’ll use the terms traditional chickens and broilers. It is important to know the difference.
Traditional breed chickens are breeds that of chickens that are kept as layer flocks, like Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds.
Think of a small farm with chickens pecking in the yard, traditional breed chickens are this type of chicken.
Roosters would be from traditional breed chickens. They are the male counterpart to the hens.
Broilers are the common industrial chicken. They are fast growing, white birds that go from hatching to ready to butcher in less than 6 weeks!
As fast as these birds grow, they do not have the flavor of a slower growing, traditional breed chicken.
Is Raising Chickens For Eggs Worth It? goes over the costs of getting and keeping a small flock of laying hens, including calculating out how many birds you actually need!
Does rooster meat taste different?
This depends upon what you are comparing it to. Rooster meat is very different from the broiler meat that you are used to eating.
If you are comparing rooster meat to broiler meat, they’ll be so different you’ll wonder if they both are chicken!
If you are comparing rooster meat to stewing hen (laying hens used for meat/broth) then the rooster is just a bit stronger (if it is older).
It’s much more similar to stewing hens than it is to broilers!
Depending upon how you season the final dish, you may not notice the difference between rooster and stewing hen.
Keep in mind the age of the rooster. An older rooster will have a stronger flavor than a younger rooster.
How to cook the rooster so you’ll like it
We know multiple families who prefer rooster above all other chicken, laying hens are second and broilers (common store type chickens) are a distant third.
They feel that a strong vibrant meat animal makes the person who eats the meat strong and vibrant, as well. Makes sense. Now, how do you cook it?
First off, it’s important to remember that each type of bird, traditional chickens or broiler, has a specific best way to cook it.
If you want to experiment or cook your birds in a different way, do whatever you want, it’s your meat.
However, for best results with roosters (and laying hens) keep a few guidelines in mind:
- Use moist heat, do not roast
- Cook low and slow
- Usually the meat is pieced up or shredded in a dish, like with rice and vegetables
Most traditional cooks that we know are putting seasoned, pieced up chicken in water to cook then adding vegetables and rice to make a one dish meal.
Americans, on the other hand, tend to have the chicken separate, like fried or roasted, and have side dishes to round out the meal.
If you want to eat more “American style” chicken, use a broiler.
Using a rooster with this cooking method will get you tough meat and you’ll be disappointed.
If you are interested in more of a deeply flavored, one dish style meal use a rooster or laying hen.
Using a broiler for this type of cooking will not give you the full flavor you are looking for, especially if you get the broiler from the store!
Coq Au Vin is a rooster in red wine sauce recipe, check it out for a French cooking option for rooster meat.
Can you eat layer chickens?
Laying chickens make wonderful, full flavored eating!
All of the classic chicken dishes that are slow cooked are based on using laying hens, more commonly called stewing hens.
Think of chicken and dumplings, chicken stew or chicken stock/broth. Yum!
Only a full flavored traditional breed chicken, like a laying hen will give you the flavor you want.
A broiler from the store freezer case can be used and will be super tender, but flavorless! Truly sad, since these dishes are all about flavor!
The slow and moist cooking will make the stewing hen very tender, you’ll love it!
Any restaurant that makes their own stock wants stewing hens, not broilers. It’s all about the taste.
This is how I cook stewing hens
The best way I have found to cook stewing/laying hens is to cook the whole bird for soup.
Simmer until it is fall off the bone tender, seriously. If you can lift the bird out of the broth whole, it’s not done yet!
The broth should have a lot of color. If your pan is full of wimpy, pale yellow broth, keep on cooking it.
Put in vegetables or spices if you want, or just make the broth with the chicken itself.
I usually put in a few cloves of garlic, since we have plenty, and a bunch of nettles or other high nutrition greens, when I can gather them.
Strain the broth and pick the meat pieces out of the strainer. Now you have some amazing broth and tender meat.
The meat can be used for boneless fried chicken, just bread and fry for a new family favorite! (Try it, we love this stuff! Plus, it’s fast and easy.)
Or cut up the meat and put it in with the broth for soup or stew. Another great option is to shred the meat and add barbecue sauce, nice!
Are most chickens for meat roosters or hens?
Your common meat chicken is a 50/50 mix of male and female birds.
This common meat chicken is called a broiler, which is an amazingly fast growing hybrid chicken.
Broilers grow so fast they are normally butchered at less than 6 weeks of age.
Broilers are all terminal crosses, meaning they are raised to be butchered, only. No breeding stock is kept out of this type of chicken.
Broilers are the type of chicken you get if you buy industrial chicken from the store, frozen or already cooked, all of it will be broilers.
The most common chicken eaten in soups, even canned soups, will be a layer type chicken, meaning female.
The big laying houses do not keep roosters, just hens, so there are only hens to sell.
Unproductive/older egg layers are sold out of laying flocks each year. Since only hens lay eggs, nearly all of the chickens available for stewing are female.
The layer barns do not keep the hens more than 18 months. After that they are replaced and used soup.
While you could roast a stewing hen or use it pieced up for fried chicken, it will not be as tender as the broilers you are used to eating. It’s doable.
It takes considerable preparation to ensure tenderness of the meat and an educated eater who will be happy to experience the difference between broilers and traditional chickens.
Meyer Hatchery is my local poultry hatchery and the best place in our area to get birds. Check out the link to see what breeds of meat birds are commonly available for you to raise.
This is not an affiliate link, Meyer’s is just a nice, family run business that has a great website if you want to spy around on chicken breeds.
Tip: if you just want meat birds, go straight to Cornish Cross broilers. If you like rooster meat specifically, go with the Fry Pan Bargain, the price can’t be beat!