Old Stewing Hens

This past summer I culled about 13 of my older hens. The hens were starting to get some age on them and were no longer laying dependably. A couple of the old biddies had grown cranky and surly in their old age and one or two of the hens had developed the nasty habit of egging picking.
Two of the hens in particular had taken to tag team pecking at me when I collected eggs. Now my husband will put up with that stuff – but you can depend upon it that I don’t.

Buff Orpington Hen

Cranky Buff Orpington Hen

In fact one Buff Orpington hen was so quarrelsome and aggressive with me that I gave up trying to be nice or reasonable with her.
To collect her eggs I would unceremoniously lift her up by her neck and off her nest; and then throw her out the open door.
It never fazed her a bit – next day it was the same routine.

In fact one day I picked her up by the neck – and actually wrung her neck before I threw her out of the hen-house. I was convinced that I’d be dressing her out for supper.
Wasn’t I was surprised to see her strutting about the garden 5 minutes later as if nothing had happened. I guess I didn’t wring her neck hard enough.
Until the day she moved into the freezer she never learned not to peck me.

Winter Hens

Winter Hens

I met up with her again the day before yesterday. This time there was no pecking involved – just my pressure cooker. I thought it might be of interest for some readers to see what a culled dressed out laying or stewing hen looks like.

Stewing Hen

Stewing Hen

First thing you’ll probably notice is the amount of yellow fat around her vent area. Heavy fat accumulation around the vent area is fairly typical in an older hen.

Summer Meat Chickens

Summer Meat Chickens

You’ll also notice the smaller body configuration as compared to a roasting chicken that you would  find in a grocery store.
Usually the type of chickens that are offered sale in grocery stores are a special hybrid chicken like in the image below.That type of meat chicken is bred to make especially quick gains and have broad breasts and meaty legs.
Most standard heavy breed chickens do not have that kind of body conformation.
They are more bone than meat unless they are capons.

When I cook a stewing hen I will usually cook her in a pressure cooker.
I cook her with about 1 1/2 cups water, onions, thyme, chopped celery, garlic, ground marjoram, salt, pepper and fresh parsley for 35 – 40 minutes at 15 lbs. of pressure.

If I know that I’ll be in the kitchen all day and I’m not in a hurry she’ll go in a large pot and stew gently on the stove all day.

Slow Cooking A Stewing Hen

Slow Cooking A Stewing Hen

The secret to a tender stewing hen is slow cooking or a pressure cooker. Because of the excess vent area fat I will skim off the fat once the cooking has been complete. Chicken fat makes a very good shortening for dumplings and in a pie crust for any type of meat pie.


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