Chickens: The Basic Difference Between Broilers, Fryers, and Roasters

Get to Know Your Chickens

Broilers: Chickens 6 to 8 weeks old and weighing about 2 1/2 pounds

Fryers: Chickens 6 to 8 weeks old and weighing 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds

Roasters: Chickens less than 8 months old and weighing 3 1/2 to 5 pounds

Stewing Chickens: Chickens (usually hens) over 10 months old and weighing 5 to 7 pounds

Capons: Castrated males that weigh 6 to 8 pounds

Cock/Rooster: Male chickens over 10 months old weighing 6 to 8 pounds

Broilers, Fryers & Roasters

Broilers, fryers, and roasters can generally be used interchangeably based on how much meat you think you’ll need. They are young chickens raised only for their meat, so they are fine to use for any preparation from poaching to roasting. You may need to adjust cooking times or amounts of other ingredients (like stuffing) based on what the recipe called for and the size of your chicken.

Stewing Chickens

Stewing chickens are usually laying hens that have passed their prime. They are older and their meat is usually tougher and more stringy. This type of chicken is best used in stews (as the name implies!) where the meat has time to break down during the long, moist cooking.


Since they’ve been castrated, capons don’t develop in the normal way of a hormone-crazy chicken teenager. They grow more slowly and put on more body fat. Because of this, their meat is more tender and flavorful than that of any other chicken of the same weight. Capons are great for roasting but can also be used for braises and poaching.

Cocks & Roosters

Roosters are tough old birds with low body fat and lean, ropey muscles. They’re rarely found in chain grocery stores, but can be found in specialty markets and many Asian markets. Like stewing chickens, roosters are best used in slow cooked stews and braises, like the traditional Coq au Vin.

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Chickin Sticker Shock

(Yes, I know how to spell Chicken, but that is no fun.)

I am rethinking the value of my little flock. To replace the chicks I paid $3.65 each for last year will cost $4.99 each this year. Both prices are for 25+ chicks. That would be over $125 for 25 day old chicks that cost around $95 last year. That is a 25%+ increase. Can’t wait to see if the price of feed jumps.

There is probably an increase in demand and operating costs for a couple of reasons. Millions of laying hens were destroyed last year over the bird flu hysteria created by 35 reported cases. Your government is protecting you. There is also an increasing demand for local and backyard flocks for food independence and security. Some people are protecting themselves.

The over reaction to the minor threat of bird flu has also increased operational costs to hatcheries. Hatcheries have to be able to certify their flocks are bird flu free to maintain customer confidence in the product. Certifying that condition requires an extensive regime of inspections, precautionary treatments and operational restrictions in handling the birds.

The Bio-Security guidelines for keeping a flock bird-flu and disease free are ridiculously extreme. Essentially you have to treat your flock like a bubble-boy. That kinda throws the whole free range concept in the toilet.

Interesting is how all this works to the advantage of justifying centralized control of food sourcing and production. All this over 35 sick birds.

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