Capon: How To Make A Rooster Hatch Eggs Like A Hen


I can hear you now… WHAT???

Yes friends, it is possible to make a rooster think he’s a broody hen.

It’s crazy, I know! It defies all laws of nature. And I’m not sure how I feel about messing with hormones and all. But for informational purposes I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about “caponizing” chickens. Because it’s fascinating to me.

The term “caponizing”, for those who’ve never heard the word, refers to neutering your roosters. I was a little surprised when I first came across this idea. I guess I never thought of roosters as having testicles!

Have you ever seen a rooster’s testicles? I’ve never seen a rooster’s testicles.

Interestingly, you can find them by making an incision between the chicken’s last two ribs where they are hidden among other internal organs. Here’s a link explaining the entire castration process step-by-step: Caponizing Chickens. The best time to caponize is between 6 weeks and 3 months of age, depending on the chicken’s weight and breed.

But why would one want to do this to a rooster, anyways?

Actually, neutering roosters isn’t really done with the intention of producing surrogate mothers. Broodiness is just a side-effect of the hormonal changes the rooster experiences after losing his testicles. (He will also become less aggressive and will even crow much less often!)

Caponizing became popular thousands of years ago when it was discovered that roosters would grow up to 50% larger when neutered, making this a great way to turn an otherwise scrawny rooster into a large and quite flavorful meal. The downside is that most of that extra weight is fat instead of meat, although some say this makes for a delicious and juicy bird unlike any commercially grown chicken. This practice has fallen out of favor as larger meat breeds which have been engineered to mature in as little as five weeks have been introduced to the market.

(If you are interested in raising your own meat birds, but don’t like the idea of using Cornish Cross hybrids, you might consider raising capons!)

There are several methods of caponizing, ranging from buying a professional kit to diy improvisation. According to a fellow homesteader named Gypsy,

An old method of caponizing chickens involves a straw with a horse hair running through it in a loop to lasso the testicle. Other methods of caponizing involve cutting a “V” into your pinkie fingernail and hooking them that way.

Not that I’d recommend either of these methods. 

It is a minor surgery which does carry risk, so experts recommend you practice the procedure on an already dead bird before performing the surgery for real.

The benefits of caponizing are worth consideration:

  • Delicious, juicy meat
  • No more fighting, aggresive roosters
  • Save money by ordering straight runs and caponizing any baby roos
  • Use a capon as a surrogate to hatch out and adopt chicks while your hens continue laying eggs for you to eat
  • Get more meat out of your extra roosters

I’m not so sure I could do minor surgery on an awake chicken, but hey, if it was survive or die I could get over my squeamishness in favor of a heartier meal.

Here’s another very interesting read on the subject: Caponizing: Reviving a Lost Art, if you’re interested in reading more.

What do you think? Is the idea of raising capons cruel, or cool?


Kendra
About Kendra 1104 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

13 Comments

  1. Extremely cruel article. Playing veterinarian is just plain stupid along with being very irresponsible. Very sad to see this article is online.

  2. why so cruel? cant you leave the way they are?………sorry…..you tend to feel thid way when you have a loving rooster as a pet not food…….

    • Don’t you neuter your cat and dog? Do you have qualms about eating steaks from beef steers or barrow pigs? If so, I’m sorry and withdraw my reply. If not, then this stands.

  3. I think this is a fantastic article. Our family has worked very hard to change our impact on the animals who sustain us. To make this possible it is necessary for our farm to pay its keep. This involves selling meat to the public, and the public isn’t interested in our 3-4 lbs bony, dark meat, heritage breed roosters. They want a fat juicy bird for the table and that is something they will pay for.

    For anyone who has the remotest sense of compassion for animals, and has raised CornishX you must know how heart wrenching it can be. They live 8 weeks, they are unwell, overweight, under feathered and even given access to free range often won’t choose it. I look at caponizing as a life saving solution. Who here wouldnt undergo surgery to double their life span and allow them the freedom to enjoy the great out doors? It allows our birds quality life, the ability to live naturally, live longer, and serve a greater purpose as the meat itself will be far healthier then any cornishX could hope to be.

  4. I have to agree with Caroline and other commenters who question the humane aspect of this practice. A live bird like a rooster is not an earthworm. They are entitled to either be allowed to live and crow, fight and strut, or be killed quickly and humanely. Farm people must be ready to capitalize on suddenly available foodstuffs, but this crosses the line in my opinion, into needlessly cruel practice. Even a rooster is entitled to humane treatment from his guardians.

  5. Humanely raised pastured birds is part of our reason for raising our own. Caponing is far too cruel to even consider on our farm. More fat for more food is not much of a deal compared to spending another dollar to buy another chick. I can’t really understand why anyone would want to “revive the lost art”. Let’s just forget it like other poor animal husbandry practices of the past.

  6. Very interesting! I never knew that this could be done. Like you, I’m not sure we would do this, but it is great to know that the option is available.

    We have 14 chicky-babies that are just now 3 months old. We are hoping to keep several of the hens, butcher some of the chickens and keep a Roo or two. This is the first time that we’ve hatched chicks from fertilized eggs this past summer when a hen went broody, but we are looking forward to doing this more often for meat.

    This may seem odd (please remember, we are newbies!), but even after 3 months, I cant tell which are the hens and which are the roo’s. I have a feeling I know which are the roo’s, and if I am correct, we have 4 of them out of 14, but how do you determine which is a hen and which is a roo before maturity?

    • Meg,

      Don’t feel bad. I still can’t tell the difference between the roos most times until their combs develop or they crow, lol! It can be hard to tell, though sometimes you can figure it out by their behavior. If they act aggressively or want to fight other males, then you know for sure you’ve got a rooster. Good luck to ya!

      • Check out the tail and posture not to forget the bill too. If the tail seems to grow longer and narrower in shape it’s definitely male. Check out it’s posture while walking. A male has a more erect posture when walking about than a female one. The bill of a male chick on most occasion tend to be bigger.

  7. I’ve seen rooster testicles! They’re on the inside (err, yeah, right where the diagram says to cut). They’re surprisingly big for the size of the animal. Whenever I butcher a rooster, the testicles are a treat for our dog.

    Note that opinions vary quite a bit about some of those benefits of capons, like the broodiness and crowing less. Some people don’t see any broodiness or reduction in crowing at all, others swear by it. I think they also eat more (hence the additional fat they put on), which might make them less economical for meat production.

    Personally, I think caponising is a lot of effort for very little gain, and I have questions about whether the procedure might be considered cruel. I just raise baby roosters along with their sisters, and kill and butcher them as soon as they start causing trouble.

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