All About Capons

Dateline: 24 April 2015

The above picture comes from the 1914 booklet, Caponizing, by George P. Pilling. Here is an excerpt from the book:

"A capon is a male bird (cockerel or rooster) from which the testicles have been removed. As in other animals—bull, horse, boar, etc., this operation changes his nature entirely. He has only one function in life, to get fat. The growth is more rapid, the comb and wattles cease to grow, the bird is lazy, his plumage is heavy and very beautiful, the spurs do not develop, neither hen nor rooster has any further use for him, and he seeks the company of the little chickens, brooding over them at night, and leading them about during the day. In France, the capon largely takes the place of the mother, the hen confining herself to laying. 

To the poultry producer of today the capon is an absolute necessity, if he intends to stay in the business and make it profitable. He makes quick meat, tender meat, and much of it, and, best of all, he makes the highest priced meat in the market.

The uncaponized rooster runs his flesh off; he is always in trouble. When Mary E. Wilkins made one of her characters say "Chickens allies die in debt," she was, no doubt, thinking of the rooster, for he does usually die in debt; his feed bill is never settled by his carcass; he is a nuisance any way you take him.

Caponize this good for nothing fowl, all legs and appetite, and, presto, he is changed into the quiet Capon; his mission in life is now to convert his owner's food into the delicious and highly profitable meat."

My interest in learning about caponizing is not to produce profitable meat for sale, or even to produce superior tasting chicken (capons are, by all accounts, remarkably flavorful) but to produce meaty birds for my own family, using common breeds of chicken, instead of depending on a far-away hatchery in another state to supply me with the common hybrid Cornish-X chicks (preppers, listen up).

If the idea of being able to raise your own high-quality meat birds, using the cockerels (young male chickens) of standard egg-laying breeds, intrigues you too, I recommend that you first educate yourself in the old, and mostly forgotten, art of caponizing. You can do this by reading articles on the internet, and by downloading the four inexpensive caponizing resources I have just released at Agriphemera.com.

The following pictures show the covers of the four caponizing books. You can click on the title under the pictures to learn more about each...

Capons and Caponizing

Producing Capons in Pennsylvania

Beuoy Bow Capon Book

The Pilling Caponizing Book

I have yet to caponize a cockerel, but I am confident that, with the information in the above resources, I'll be able to do the surgery. The confidence comes, not just from the books, but from the fact that I've butchered enough chickens in my life to be familiar with, and comfortable around, the bird's internal organs. 

I don't know if I'll caponize some chickens this year, but I'll acquire the tools this year, and, eventually, I'll get around to the task. Sooner or later, I get around to actually pursuing something that interests me, but it begins with learning all I can about a subject first.

With that thought in mind, I'm wondering if anyone reading this has personal or offhand experience with raising or eating capons. If so, please share what you know in the comments section below.

Thank you.


dfr2010 said...

Well, this post just saved me the effort of linking all four! I have a caponizing tool set, and last evening put another three cockerels into isolation to once again try caponizing tomorrow morning.

RonC said...

I became interested in capons when you mentioned caponizing a month or two back. I just hatched out a batch of Buff Orpingtons so now I will order the Caponizing tools from eNasco and try my hand at this in a few weeks.

I was not impressed with the Cornish Cross Broilers last year. They are a bit flavor challenged compared to the Buff Orpingtons. The Buff Orpingtons are tough by the time they are worth butchering though. Caponizing the BO Cockerels sounds like the best way to go.

The other problem with the Cockerels is that 10 acres just isn't enough room for two roosters once they are mature.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Hi Herrick,
Back in the good old days, my mom and her classmates were let out of the one room schoolhouse a couple afternoons every year to hold down birds to be canonized at a local farm. Practical science class!

Best Regards,
Richard Grossman

Marcia in MT said...

I haven't raised capons, but did caponize chickens when I was in school (for an experiment on the diuretic effects of caffeine). It's not a hard procedure, but it can be a little daunting at first since you need to go into the bird's body cavity.

This was 30 years ago, but I doubt the procedure has changed much!

Herrick Kimball said...

Practice makes perfect, or so I've heard. Let us know how your caponizing goes for you.

Excellent. I'm interested to know how your caponizing efforts turn out.

Interesting. I have read that 4H used to have a capon program that was popular.

Also interesting. I would never have associated the word diuretic with a chicken. I suspect the caponizing procedure is exactly the same... open and remove. :-)

P.S. dandelion root tea is very diuretic.

Steve Vornov said...

Thanks! My wife and I enjoyed your post. My late father in law raised and caponized roosters as a side business. My wife remembers the bird as a Christmas centerpiece. Our problem now is where to find them. Can you give us some help?