Monday, July 14, 2014

Cooking old chooks

We usually keep around ten to twenty hens for eggs.  Unfortunately, as hens get older, they lay less frequently, and that's an awful lot of hens to feed if they are not producing eggs.  Every year we cull the older hens, but they don't go to waste.  If any are really skinny or unwell, we bury them in the garden, but the rest of them we butcher and cook.  Sure old hens can't be cooked the same as a young rooster, but you can still prepare some delicious meals from them. We don't buy chicken meat, so any opportunity to eat chicken is a rare treat for us and we don't waste anything!

Roast hen - you can roast the hens, but they need to cook for a long time, several hours, in a closed roasting dish with liquid in the bottom so they don't dry out.  I season with herbs and garlic.



Minced hen - we also like to mince the breast and leg meat and make meatballs, this avoids the stringy texture.


Chicken stock - I fill the slow cooker with as much wings and feets as it will fit, top up with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar, squeeze in some onion, garlic, carrot, celery and herbs and cook for at last 24 hours (more slow cooker ideas here).


Don't waste anything - old hens usually have ample fat, and I keep this separate and render it to use for cooking.  I also keep the livers for making pate and I scrub and peel the feet to add to stock.




Do you butcher your old chooks?  Or let them die of old age?  




By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.




What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

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Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor


8 comments:

  1. We eat our own chickens but I've never bothered with the old ones thinking they'd be tough and horrible. Maybe I should from now on! Thanks for the tips!

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  2. Our old ones die of old age or at least they get sick and die from being old. The old birds pretty much stopped laying last winter and our wonderful old rooster died so things weren't looking good. We were given a young rooster that started attacking us so he got shot and then a second rooster was given to us and he also started attacking us and he to took a cock to a gun fight. Anyway after all of this the old hens started laying again, could be they figured they were next or maybe it was just a stimulus of some sort. Some days they each lay an egg and a couple of times around summer solstice one lay two eggs in one day. Strange doings and their replacements should start laying in another month. Long story but chickens are hard to figure sometimes.

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  3. We haven't eaten our older chooks as yet, because we usually have a good supply of younger, bigger chooks for cooking. Wondering, do you pluck by hand or do you have a chicken plucker? We are considering investing in one for at the farm, where we hope to raise more meat chooks.

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  4. We only have five chooks at the moment they are 6 years old and still laying, we get more than enough eggs for our needs, on the list is to get some table birds.
    I like the idea of rendering down the fat, a frien of mine off the forum has been doing that lately, we generaly make stock from anything left over from a chicken.

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  5. {sigh....} we are currently letting them die of old age. We've re-thought that though and may change it up going forward. Mincing the meat is a splendid idea! I hadn't thought of that one. Thanks for the tip!!

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  6. We usually ate our old hens(we don't have roosters). We cooked chicken stock and made pate from liver and my dog ate all the meat(greedy little pig). This year we are left with only 3 old hens.

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  7. I love your waste not attitude Liz, I expect that we will probably do the same once we get established up at the farm. We already talk about doing exactly what you have done.
    We may as well make their stay here on this earth as valuable as possible.
    Cheers.
    Jane.

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  8. We keep hens for two summers of laying. Each fall we raise a group of chicks, roosters become meat birds (unless we need a new one) and older hens get retired to the stew pot. By doing this in the fall the new chicks are just old enough to handle winter and will have started laying before spring arrives.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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