Where to Find a Rooster
I decided to write this article several weeks ago when we were given our sixth free rooster. It was getting to be Bethany's Rooster Farm. Fall is a great time to pick up free roosters, because nobody wants to feed them over the winter. Ours were not someone's pet roosters, but Craigslist free roosters and roosters that got dropped off at our house because someone was sick and tired of hearing them crow every morning, feeding them, and not getting any eggs. The Craigslist lady was so happy to see us take her roosters. "Oh my gosh. They're just running around eating feed and crowing ALL DAY, pecking at the hens and I'm just so thankful to see them go."
The Secret Is In the Cooking
Some people think that rooster meat is tough, bland and not good for anything. This might be true. However, I've discovered a wonderful thing called pressure canning that makes meat soft and tender. It literally falls apart when you lift it out of the jar. Rooster then is still not tasty, but you know there is this other thing called taco seasoning, enchilada sauce, salsa... if you use rooster meat in casseroles or other heavily-spiced dishes, you won't be able to tell the difference between that and rotisserie chicken.
Why Doesn't Everyone Eat Rooster?
I'm not 100% sure why other people are giving away roosters instead of eating them, except that it's a bother to butcher only a few roosters, and nobody knows how to do it. It took Hubs and I a couple hours to butcher four roosters the other day, but it was a rainy afternoon and I told Hubs it would be like a date. A bloody, feathery date! I enjoyed spending time with him.
Learning how to butcher chickens is the only thing standing between you and free meat. There are plenty of good chicken-processing tutorials on the internet, so I will let you find one yourself. It doesn't require a lot of equipment to butcher chickens; we did ours with some sharp knives, a pot of hot water and a cardboard box for the guts and feathers.
To preserve and cook the meat, I pressure canned the legs, wings, and necks. The carcasses (breasts and back) were to big for me to cut and fit into jars, so I put those in cheap plastic bags to freeze. I also saved the feet to clean, scale, and make broth with. I love canning meat bone-in because you get such excellent broth without going through the work of making it every week, then dealing with an oily crock pot. In order to make broth, simply fill the jars of chicken the rest of the way up with water. You can put in less chicken if you want more broth. If I have a jar that isn't very full, I pop a few chicken feet in. The broth isn't seasoned, but I use it to make soups that already have spices and seasonings added.
Using the Meat
The frozen carcasses will be slow-cooked in a crockpot with homemade simmer sauce (made with homegrown, free tomatoes!). Add a few potatoes and there's a meal. There is plenty of meat on each carcass for Hubs and I.
To use the canned meat, I drain the broth first into a plastic container, which goes into the fridge. It is liquid at room temperature, but will gel when refrigerated. Then I empty the contents of the jar, pick off the meat and discard the bones. The meat also goes in a separate container in the fridge. One jar's worth of meat can be used for two or three meals. I imagine a bigger family would use one or even two jars per meal.
A Sustainable Meat Solution
The wonderful thing about chicken meat is that it will keep perpetuating itself. While we do butcher Craigslist roosters, I still keep some in our flock to do breeding business. When our broody hen goes broody, she'll hatch out a couple free hens and probably a rooster or two as well. As the flock matures, we'll keep butchering the extra roosters and possibly some older hens as well.
You don't have to have a flock of hens to get free roosters. As I mentioned before, Craigslist has plenty of free roosters. Also, if people know you are willing to take animals, they will drop off roosters because they don't know what else to do with them.
Meat is one of the hardest things to find inexpensively, especially if you want free range, grass-fed, etc. The frugal homemaker would do well to make the most of every opportunity and have skills to be able to do so. By butchering four of our free roosters, we were able to get 20-25 lbs. of free meat in the time it would have taken to watch a movie.
And we are just rookie processors! Imagine what YOU could accomplish!