Chicken meat is a healthy and classic family (and farm) staple! But rooster meat has a reputation for being inedible, chewy, bland, and not worth eating.
Is that true? Can you eat a rooster? Or not?
The confusion between chicken meat origin is because female chickens are much more straightforward and less troublesome to rear in large numbers.
Female chickens are also much more desirable for the commercial egg industries. The same may be true for small homesteaders – such as yourself!
If you’re breeding your chickens for eggs, it is often the case that you end up with too many males. Dealing with these (potentially) unwanted roosters is an unpleasant reality of backyard chicken keeping.
So, whether you are interested in trying something new, or wondering what to do with your spare roosters, let’s find out if you can eat a rooster! (Or not!)
Can You Eat a Rooster?
Yes! And – contrary to popular belief, we find that roosters taste great. Male roosters have meaty chicken breasts, wings, and thighs like hens. Although roosters aren’t reared that often for meat, many farmers still eat them. And they are perfectly safe to eat! We sometimes find the flavor of a rooster is richer and more intense than hen chicken meat. And sometimes it needs cooking slowly, as the substance can feel tough – or stringy.
Then why do many farmers and ranchers claim that roosters aren’t good for eating?
The reputation for roosters not being edible most likely comes from the commercial egg industry. Commercial egg producers have no use for baby male chickens. As a result – the male chickens often have a brutally short life. They are sometimes discarded shortly after hatching.
(In fact – National Geographic cites that hundreds of millions of male chickens get discarded every year. Frightening! And – even though the egg industry made claims previously to reduce the culling of male chickens – we’re not so sure that it’s happened yet.)
Thankfully – movements like the Egg-Tech Prize are trying to make egg production more humane. The aim is to reduce the unnecessary culling of innocent male chickens. One of their goals is to determine whether the chicken is a male or female before it hatches!
That way – commercial egg facilities could sort the chickens more efficiently – and reduce the need to kill the poor male chicks.
Are Roosters Safe to Eat? Are They Edible?
Yes. Absolutely! Roosters are safe to eat and are packed full of nutritional goodness – and nourishing protein. There is a good chance that eating home-raised roosters may be healthier than store-bought chicken – especially if you provide your flock with an all-natural diet and a healthy lifestyle.
The nutritional value of chicken meat comes down to the differences in the way roosters are reared compared to commercial hen enterprises. Meat chickens are often fostered in a large flock, often inside a barn throughout their lives.
Some low-quality flocks may suffer from an insufficient food source or poor living conditions and do not have the opportunity to forage for food. Providing a single food source is a cost-effective and efficient chicken rearing strategy.
But, supplementing their diet with forage or grains (in addition to an adequate supply of feed) can help them stay healthy and gain weight faster.
If you are eating a local rooster from a nearby farmstand – he is more than likely to have been reared in a natural environment. Roosters kept in confined spaces will fight, so it is better to let them roam around over a larger area.
Giving more space for your birds to flock also provides the chance to forage for different food sources, such as weeds, herbs, grubs, and insects. We also believe allowing your coop to free range can increase the quality of life for your roosters.
We love these natural chicken treats! We think your flock will, too! They contain organic cracked corn, dried mealworms, sunflower seeds, rolled oats, buckwheat, kelp, air-dried alfalfa, and more!
Don’t forget about the cleanliness of your rooster’s environment. It’s key! Keeping your rooster’s living quarters clean is a great way to ensure quality and safe meat.
- Keep the coop free and clear of litter and droppings!
- Wash all equipment periodically efficiently. Use pressurized water and clean deeply!
- Seal your chicken coop of all entryways for rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, pests, and creepy crawling vermin!
- Give your flock plenty of fresh feed and cool drinking water!
- Place fresh straw or wood chips routinely so your hens can cleanly nest – and rest!
If you follow those tips – there’s an excellent chance that your rooster will be safe (and delicious) to eat.
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Why Do We Not Eat Male Chickens?
We’ve noticed that roosters have an unearned reputation for being poor meat candidates! We think the main reason for this is that, commercially, roosters are not as desirable (or as easy) to rear as hens. Roosters are boisterous, whereas hens tend to be calmer and more docile.
We discussed how the egg industry loathes male chickens. But – we also think that roosters are tough (challenging) to raise compared to hens.
When chickens get farmed en masse for consumption, a group of roosters will inevitably start to fight with each other.
This undesirable behavior mimics their natural behavior – after all, you’d never find a group of roosters living together in the wild! So, the only way to rear roosters for meat is to keep them in small groups. Or even on their own.
But if you’re a homesteader or backyard chicken breeder, then it is inevitable that you will end up with some roosters! If this is the case, you might wonder what to do with them.
If we look at how farmers did things in the past, most of the chicken eaten came from rooster meat. Many families kept a flock of hens for eggs, and they would regularly rear clutches of chicks.
As at least half of these chicks would turn out to be roosters, there would inevitably be a surplus of male chickens. Farmers could address the issue by keeping the roosters separately and rearing them for meat.
(The old-school farmers knew that too many roosters weren’t good for the flock. And – they never helped produce eggs for the farm. So – the roosters became roasted chickens – or maybe fried! Male chickens don’t catch any breaks.)
This 6-pack of peanut and mealworm treats will keep your flock entertained - and scratching! Your roosters and hens will both love these treats! Each treat square is 7.5 ounces.
Does Rooster Taste as Good as Chicken?
Hens and roosters might come from the same eggs, but they are very different in taste. Rooster meat is similar to female chicken but is much stronger and more intense. Once you’ve tried rooster meat, you may never want store-bought chicken again!
The meat of an older rooster seems darker and has a stringier texture. Compared to younger broiler hens, rooster meat is more like turkey leg meat than chicken.
This difference in flavor becomes more pronounced as the rooster gets older. If you were to eat a rooster as soon as it reached maturity, it would have a similar taste and consistency to hen meat. Give it another month or two? And you will have almost gamey chicken meat. And it’s surprisingly delicious!
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How Is Rooster Different Than Chicken?
The term rooster refers to an adult male chicken. Chickens, or hens in this case – are female chickens. Your rooster will likely have lived a relatively active lifestyle, and their high levels of activity and organic diet may affect the taste and texture of the meat.
Rooster meat tends to be quite stringy – especially as the rooster gets older. Rooster meat should cook slowly at low temperatures. Don’t be tempted to grill your rooster drumsticks, as they will be chewy and tough!
Roosters also have a different body shape to female chickens. They are taller and have longer limbs, while hens are short and plump. Yet – you may find that your rooster has less edible meat than a hen.
When we have a surplus of roosters, my favorite way to cook them is in a pot on the outdoor barbeque! Outdoor barbeque pots with rooster meat are becoming a regular summer event on our homestead, where we treat our friends to some slow-cooked, succulent, home-reared rooster casserole.
Slow-cooked rooster with a crockpot or in a stew is also an excellent idea. Slow and low heat helps tenderize the meat.
At What Age Can You Eat a Rooster?
The age of eating a rooster is a trick question because young male chickens – are also called cockerels!
Many broiler birds (cockerels included) get slaughtered for meat while only a few months old. After one year of age – the cockerel is referred to as a rooster.
Most breeds of chicken take around five months to reach maturity, and at this age, you will have a bird that is large enough to eat. As a rule of thumb, if your rooster youngsters are starting to terrorize the hens, their days are numbered!
At this young age, the rooster meat will most closely resemble the flavor of hen chicken. As roosters get older, their chicken meat becomes tougher and gets stronger. (And stringier!) It also develops a more gamey flavoring.
This evolving flavor makes the rooster’s meat slightly less desirable. We recommend slow roasting or cooking for many hours in a slow cooker to get the best flavor and texture out of the rooster meat.
Roosters – to Eat or Not to Eat?
Eating rooster is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it can have many advantages to the homesteader. Some of my farming friends say that roosters are a nuisance as they are an unwanted byproduct of rearing egg-laying hens.
To most of us, it seems a waste to kill an egg-producing hen for meat, as does culling roosters when they are chicks. I’d rather eat a rooster that has roamed around our land for five months than a hen that has reared in a large flock in cramped conditions.
So, next time you hatch a clutch of chicks, why not try rearing the roosters for a tasty dinner!
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We feel for male roosters. They have it tough.
We think they have an unfairly-earned bad reputation as troublemakers. And, even pests!
Because – roosters do a lot of good!
They work hard keeping your hens safe, they have loads of personality, and they can also play a positive role in the health and happiness of your flock.
And – they’re also good to eat! We disagree with the notion that roosters are not okay for eating. They make fine meals – and their meat is underrated.
What about you?
Have you ever eaten roosters and male chickens?
Or – do you find that hens taste far better in chicken dishes, barbeques, and chicken salad sandwiches?
Let us know your thoughts!
And – thanks so much for reading!
Have a great day.
Tuesday 22nd of March 2022
One of the recommendations for keeping your rooster’s living quarters clean is:
"Seal your chicken coop of all entryways for rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, pests, insects, and creepy crawling insects!"
Really?! How in the name of Mother Nature can the coop be sealed against insects and creepy crawling insects? Hermetically? Make it airtight? Vacuum seal it? To seal it against all insects, including tiny mites and ticks, it would have to be basically airtight.(What about good air circulation?) Maybe your advice it a little too ambitious? Otherwise thanks for a very good article.
Sunday 27th of March 2022
Hi John! Ambitious indeed - article updated this morning, thanks for the heads up! Sealing your coop against insects is impossible indeed :)