We have been growing on our heavy breed cockerels for some time now and processing them for the table. They make an excellent table bird. Our cockerels have had the opportunity to free range: they run around developing muscle and graze on nature’s offerings of bugs, worms and lots of greens. When they get to a good size and have had a good life (8 to 10 months) we prepare them for the crock pot or the freezer. They make a delicious meal and the following night we have chicken soup for dinner. Homegrown chicken cannot be compared to the tasteless, white watery chicken bought at the supermarket. The meat is full of goodness, darker in colour and rich in nutrients and flavour.
We are finding more people are enquiring about growing on their cockerels for the table. Keeping a pen of cockerels alongside your layer flock is a good way of running birds for both meat and eggs. Unfortunately crowing cockerels cannot be kept in town so this is a practice best left to lifestyle farmers. Each season when you hatch out your chicks, approximately half with be pullets (your future layers) and the rest will be cockerels (your table birds). This is how man has done it for centuries but modern man and his obsession with mass production and cheap food has lost sight of natural processes and quality food. Eating chicken that has been grown naturally under the sun in a happy healthy environment will be much better for you nutritionally than commercially grown chicken. We recommend rhode island reds, sussex, dorking and plymouth rocks as ideal table birds.
There are also Cobb meat birds available to be grown on and enjoyed on the table. These can be purchased as day old chicks and reared in a brooder set up. These chicks grow fast and if you are happy to process your own then definately worth doing.They are more economical to do than the heritage cockerels but you will personally need to weigh up what process you prefer. The Cobb meat chicks grow abnormally fast (too fast!) bulk up too quickly (faster than their legs and hearts can cope with!) and we have personally experienced that they do not cope well with free range (unless you restrict feed intake!). We have found that once they get passed the energetic, cute chick stage they bulk up very fast and then only have the energy and mindset to move between the feeder and the drinker. They can be processed at 8 - 10 -12 weeks from day old. When processed some of the dressed carcasses are similar in size to those of a turkey! The average processed weight of these cobb meat birds is around 2.2 (size 22) – 2.4kg (free ranged) around 8 to 10 weeks. The taste and flavour is good and far exceeds the bland taste of supermarket bought chicken.
For more information on meat birds read our news article.