One of the hardest parts about keeping laying hens is the act of culling them.
No matter how intentionally we began on this path of keeping chickens or how many times we think about or talk about the process, it just doesn’t get any easier.
I know I have said this before, but I do believe that this is how it should be. It shouldn’t be easy to cull any living being, let alone any animal you’ve raised and loved.
But this post is not about the love and intention that goes into a laying hens life, it is about the care that goes into turning that life into a delicious meal for our family.
A traditional meat bird (also called a broiler) is culled at 6-8 months of months of age. They’re bred to grow quickly and put on as much weight as possible within that short window of time. Their weight is nice, their meat is tender.
In contrast, an old laying hen could be anywhere from two to five years old (sometimes even older) when it is culled and processed. It can weigh anywhere between 5 and 8 lbs (on average, depending on the breed) and their meat gets tougher and tougher with each year of their life.
So, once you cull an old laying hen, what do you do with her?
Well, first you want to let her rest for 4-5 days in the fridge before cooking or freezing her so her body can go through all of the processes that a body must go through. Then, you can either wrap her up tight and put her in the freezer until you’re ready for her, or you can cook her up.
Keeping in mind that older birds equal tougher meat, the age of the bird must be considered when you’re planning your meal. So far, we have found two cooking processes that work for us:
- First is the all-day-long stove top method I talked about here in relation to making chicken stock.
- Second is the option to cook your chicken in a pressure cooker (this one was given to us a few years ago).
- 1 chicken/old laying hen (rested or rested, frozen, and then defrosted in the fridge)
- 8 cups water
- 1 large green onion
- 4 celery stalks
- 1 TBSP dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp crushed cayenne (black pepper or crushed red peppers work, too)
- 1/4 tsp celery salt
- 1/4 tsp marjoram
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Place everything in your pressure cooker
- Put the lid on it
- Place it on your stove over high heat and bring it to pressure
- Cook for 45 minutes
- Turn off heat and allow pressure to release
- Remove from your pot and eat with your favorite recipe
Easy enough, right?
When you pressure cook an old laying hen it allows you to prepare a meal much quicker than if you were to cook it on the stove all day (and it saves on gas or electricity, depending on your set up). It also gives you delicious, tender meat from that old laying hen without a ton of effort.
Now, please share your insights and experiences around cooking up an old laying hen! Any tips, tricks or insights you can offer?