Saturday, August 22, 2015

Capons

First of all, what's a capon? I'm not going to assume that people nowadays known that term. A capon is a young rooster that has been castrated. He's neutered. 

Why bother neutering a young rooster? Because as with most neutered meat animals, the meat is nicer, tastes better, and often more economical for the farmer. 

Many a year ago when I was still in elementary school, a special meal at home was roasted capon. Back then we didn't have those big cornish crosses that produce those monster sized rotisserie chickens. The capon was the closest thing to it. The roast bird was big (really big), plump, tender, juicy, and absolute heaven as far as we were concerned. A real gourmet treat. 

Nowadays the capon has pretty much disappeared. Those super sized Cornish crosses have taken its place. But although I haven't seen one in a store here in Hawaii, I told that capons still can be purchased in select stores or by special order. By the way, what is listed as capon on restaurant menus, I'm told by restaurant owners, usually isn't. 

So what's a capon have to do with homesteading? Well there's are a few benefits that a small farm could use with caponing. First of course, is a tasty, tender, roaster for the table. A typical sized roaster could easily be 8-12 lbs. But capons can offer another valuable service -- foster mother. It was noted that a capon was better at mothering and protecting chicks than a hen. For real! An old Frenchman chicken farmer I met decades ago kept capons for rearing replacement chicks. He'd go buy a box of chicks at our local hatchery and graft them to a group of capons. Those big capons not only mothered those chicks, but they fiercely protected them from the hawks. 

Decades ago I was taught how to castrate a young rooster to turn him into a capon. It was a rather quick and simple surgery, and frankly, I was quite good at it for some reason. But not everybody in my class was. When learning how to capon successfully, the class ended up with a large number of soup carcasses. In plain words, they killed their roosters. The birds were 5 to 6 weeks old, so they were big enough that they didn't go to waste. But the aim wasn't to have soup birds or mini-fryers. No, it was to have a capon that could be raised for several months. Why did their birds die? They bled out. The chicken testes lies very near a major blood vessel. It is extremely easy to nick or cut that vessel, thus killing the bird. So if you plan to try your hand at caponing, it may be a good idea to have someone show you how. There are videos on YouTube but I've been told that they aren't real detailed. But they may be worth looking at if you plan to try it yourself. 

I happen to have two young roosters that I plan to caponize soon......as soon as I have a little extra time. 
(Above, the two boys are on the left.)

So I'll be posting some photos soon. I haven't caponed a chicken for many a decade, so I hold no promises to my success this time around. But if I fail, I'll post a nice recipe for using a mini fryer instead. Deal? 

1 comment:

  1. Deal! I would like to know how to do it so I'll look around or ask my egg producer friend. My husband who has worked cattle feedlots years ago and has castrated many a bull calf showed me how to do that and I did it. Blood and gore and miserable calf (temporarily) so I think I could learn how to caponize. I hate to have them go to the crab pots. But someone has to do it. This is a good alternative to keeping them down on the farm.

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