Tough Butchered Chickens : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

No matter how we feed or butcher our chickens, they are always tough. Same with the ducks. They aren't terribly old, the oldest were 8 months. We tried to let them "age" in a cool basement a few days, but didn't help much. There must be something we can do. I know in the "old" days, they would butcher a rooster on Sunday for dinner that day, and surely they didn't have pressure cookers, etc. Can anyone supply an answer? They sure aren't as tender as what you can buy in the store. Thanks!

-- Janice Bullock (, January 10, 2000


Janice, 8 months is actually very old for a tender meat bird. Most are butchered at 12 weeks (three months of age). I like to let some of mine go to 4 months, I get a bit larger bird and a fuller flavor.

You have the right idea with aging a few days in a cool place (I age mine in an old fridge in the barn at about 40 degrees for 3 days). But I don't think aging can help a bird grown to 8 months of age.

Birds that old, and older of course, I have to either can or moist-cook. You should be able to take those birds, put them in a dutch-oven type pot with a tight lid, add some water, onions and whatever spices you like and cook it on a low heat for several hours. You'll have tender meat falling off the bone that way. But I don't think you could roast or fry one and not have it be tough.


-- Kim (, January 10, 2000.

Janice Yes, we also, usually can any chicken that is that old, but If I need to butcher one and cook it up, I do. I cut them up and put them in the crock pot covered with salt water and a little onion. (I always add a little onion to the pot when I cook chicken. I don't like how ANY chicken smells when it boils. Chicken smells great when it is roasting, but not when it boiling. Hence the onion.)

I let it cook on low, all night and it is "fall off the bones" tender for lunch the next day. Drain it, coat it and fry it.

You know the saying "do what you can, - with what you have - where you are."

Also, the basic Mother Earth philosophy when baking or cooking: "If you are missing no more than eight of the basic ingredients, - substitute and go for it."

-- homestead2 (, January 10, 2000.

Years ago when we first moved to a farm, I raised chickens and butchered them. They were young but tougher than hell. Well...I went and asked some of the neighbors and here was the solution. We butchered about 20 at a time. After dressing them out we cut them pu and put into a clean garbage can full of cold salt water and let them set until the next morning. It was explained to me that you needed to give the muscles time to rid themselves of the chemicals that caused rigormortis. Who knows? But after that we always had tender chicken, even with some of the old hens. Taz

-- Taz (, January 11, 2000.

I find my chickens, even young ones can be tough because we free range .This year we are going to make a small chicken tractor (a small one )That way they can still free range , but we can control the amount of exercise they get .This should cut down on the muscleing . Hope it may help .P.S. the new chicken catalogs are coming out , start your planning

-- Patty Gamble (, January 11, 2000.

I figured the reason my chicken was not as tender as grandma's was because my teeth were better then! Seriously, one year I bought 25 chicks whose breed was simply listed as "fryer specials" in the poultry catalog. I also bought 25 chicks of a laying breed. The fryer special chicks grew twice as fast as the layers and turned into big hunks that could hardly waddle around. When I butchered them they were exceptionally tender. The excess cocks of the laying breed were butchered at the same time and while they were edible, they were not nearly as tender. This led me to believe that genetics plays a role as well as age, and after care of the meat.

-- Marci (, January 11, 2000.

Thanks to all of you for your responses! I will definitely try some of the those next time, and won't let them get so "old"! I'm learning all the time, and it is fun trying to get back to the "old" ways! Sure don't miss living in the city or all the traffic, congestion, etc!

-- Janice Bullock (, January 12, 2000.

I raise Cornish cross meat birds, and I butcher them at about 8 weeks. I have never had a tough bird. I limit the amout of outside space they have, and I'm sure that helps. By limit, I don't mean I crowd them when it comes to outside space---I just don't let them have the run of the yard. I also butcher some of the birds as young as three weeks for cornish hens, depending on how fast they put on the weight. Any older birds I have, (such as old laying hens, two to three years old), find their way to the soup pot, and provide some great tasting soup.

-- Dan (, January 14, 2000.

I raise a batch of roasters every year,and I have always found that the key to the meat being tender is after butchering to refridgerate before freezing or cooking for 24 hours. It makes a huge difference. So much for going out and killing the chicken for dinner that night, but it really makes a difference. Good luck. There is nothing better than homegrown chicken.

-- Jenny Pipes (, January 16, 2000.

I remember the first chicken I butchered, many years ago. We cooked it up, I disremember how, with great anticipation. It was so tough you couldn't stick your fork in the gravy! You live, you ask, you learn. Jenny has given you one of the keys - refrigerate for a day before freezing or cooking. That is essential. But there are a couple of other things that I have found contribute to success, whether for meat birds (Cornish Rock Cross), which I butcher at 6 to 14 weeks, depending on size desired, or the cockerels of the heavy breeds which we hatch ourselves. First, I never chop off heads and let them flop around. I hang them by the feet, and with moderate downward pressure on the head, I cut just below (above if you count them being upside down) the LEFT jawbone. This severs the juglar and they bleed quickly and efficiently. You need to hold the head down for @ 20 seconds until they stop struggling, and can then just let them hang for a few more minutes. The next step is to immerse them in hot water to prepare for plucking. I have found, and others may disagree, that dunking at @ 148 degrees for @ 70 seconds is just right. I then hang the bird and pluck it. Then I remove the head and feet and eviscerate. I then take the nearly finished bird and put it in an ice water bath (garbage pail with water and a lot of ice - I freeze 3 gallon buckets before starting). The carcass stays in the bath for the time (10 minutes?) it takes me to get the next bird to that stage. I then place the bird in a food grade plastic bag, suck out all the air with a sturdy straw, and seal the bag. Then into the refrigerator (I have a spare for all sorts of "putting by" uses) for a day minimum, then into the freezer. Haven't had a bad one yet. I sell 1/3 of the birds for $1.35 per pound, which puts the other 2/3 in our freezer just about free, not counting labor. (Never count labor!) Everyone who buys them claim they are the best chickens they've ever tasted! Meat birds are better, but there's not all that much difference with extra cockerels. Hens over a couple of years? Yeah, on those you should cut and can them. The high temps of processing at 10 lbs or higher will make even the bones tender! Good Luck! Brad

-- Brad Traver (, January 17, 2000.

2-11-00 I agree with all the cold water and ageing processes offered above, and have only one other comment to add. No matter what the age of the bird, the method of cooking it has a lot to do with meat tenderness. If you want fried chicken, it's best to use a bird under 6 months of age. It's also best to cook it low and slow (low temp. and slowly). Dunk meat in seasoned flour and brown on both sides at medium-low temp. Then put in the lid and fry at a very low temp, turning once. This can make the fried flour outside part kind of soft. Just put meat on draining platter in oven for a little while at maybe 250 -300 degrees to firm it up. But young Cornish-Rock crosses are the tenderest birds. I do get pretty satisfactory results on egg laying breed fryers using the above method. Hope this helps.

-- Debi Beck (, February 11, 2000.

We also find that chickens, rabbits,etc. are better butchered young. I also can mine, we simply kill, skin, gut, rinse well and stuff into a jar, quarts get 1 tsp. of salt and are pressured at 10 pounds for 1 hour and 10 minutes. This is a great way to get tender meat of anykind. We also do our goats and other meat this way. Just thicken the juices for gravy and pour over noodles, rice or potatoes. It is also great for chicken salad (rabbit salad etc.) Vicki Get your Ball Blue book for complete directions. Keep it clean!!!

-- Vicki McGaugh (, February 12, 2000.

I raise free range birds for meat and eggs. I have found that if I put the birds to be butchered in a chicken tractor for at *least* a week and feed them only corn that helps them to tenderize. Free range birds tend to be tougher from all the muscleing but by putting them in the chicken tractor for a while they soften right up. I have left them in the tractor for up to a month on corn with no ill effects.


-- Diane Smigelski (plantladie@ees.eesc), May 08, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ