Dual Purpose Methods

To me, the reason behind being dual purpose is to give a reason to have hatched male chicks. The girls are going to lay eggs, more often than not. Almost every poultry keeper has found themselves with an extra cockerel at some point. They're not all the best for the table, but at the end of the day, chicken will taste like chicken. There may be differences in texture, size, white to dark meat ratio, skin texture and so on, from one breed to the next. 

Some may say that extra cockerels just aren't good eating. There are certain ways to cook them, based on their age, for the best results.

First though, let me mention why having a purpose for the extra cockerels is needed. For every 10 hens, you only need 1 male. Perhaps a spare, in a small flock. If you aim to hatch your own replacements, you'll need to hatch at least 20 chicks to get those 10 hens and you'll have 9 extra cockerels, give or take. Typically in hatches, the genders fall in with 50/50. You may give those extra boys away, sell them for $5-$10 each (less than their feed expense over 20 weeks), eat them yourself or feed them to the dogs.

When you set out to breed properly for bettering your chosen breed, that takes a lot more hatching than 20 chicks. Your 1 in 100 cockerel will look a LOT different than your 1 in 10 cockerel. A LOT different. I cannot even express that enough, when you look at breed standard versus hatch results, there can be rather noted differences between individuals of a hatch. This is supposing that you're breeding towards breed goals in their aesthetic as well as breeding for their function.

There isn't a flock in the world that doesn't have "cull" birds in it. That margin for loss or error, or those offspring that aren't close enough to the desired result. To cull a bird from your flock can mean that it was terminal or placed into another flock. The cull rate within a flock will be higher in bloodlines that are not stabilized/consistent and in project programs. In well established flocks, uninterrupted by a line cross, the cull rate will be less. All flocks are in a continual state of development and change, based on the eye of the breeder.

So when I decided to breed poultry well and true to purpose, I first needed a cockerel management plan. They were going to be a big part of the hatch, so I needed to make arrangements for them.

We brought in the "tools of the trade", from the plucker to the cone to the knives, shrink bags and the deep freezer. Based on processing fees and the numbers of dinners we've had, plus all of the chicken meat we didn't buy... it's paid for itself. 

I sort through the girls too, you can't hatch from all of your girls and expect the same result from each one. Find your best producing girls and keep them near and dear to your heart. The rest of them can go on to a new flock or accompany some carrots and dumplings. An old bratty hen has the best broth you've ever made.

To me, a chicken must first be a good chicken. From egg laying to a job for the extra boys. Having the ability to utilize every bird in the flock, every bird hatched, in one form or another, has been invaluable to the breeding of them.

We'll bring 150+ cockerels to dinner every year. That's a good supply of cockerels to make breeding choices from, which ends up just making the next generation that much better. It's a win-win!

dual purpose chickens

Same weight, totally different shape! Marans on the left and Bresse on the right.

dual purpose chickens

Both of these are Marans.

Black Silver Marans

A "1 in 100" cockerel, not many of his brothers turned out this way.

smoked chicken

A mix of cockerel types, they gave us 3 weeks worth of shredded chicken to use any which way though!

Heritage Turkey

Turkeys too!!