A castrated rooster is called a capon. Capons are rare in today's poultry markets, but they still are available if you have access to a good butcher. The flesh of a capon tastes differently from that of roosters raised to be broiler chickens, especially if it has been raised with care. The lack of sex hormones is the key to the taste of capons.
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A young male chicken is called a cock or a cockeral, while a female called a pullet. To produce a capon, the testes of the male chicken are removed at a young age. This causes the capon to not develop many male traits and be more docile and easier to handle. The comb and the wattles, the wrinkled piece of skin that hangs from a rooster's throat, will stop growing almost immediately, leaving a capon with a smaller head than a normal rooster. The tail feathers and feathers on the back will grow longer.
The effects of castrating a rooster, or caponization, as it is called, are dramatic. The aggression that a rooster normally displays amongst the other chickens is gone, so capons can be kept together without fear of them mixing it up in fights and injuring one another. The energy the rooster would have expended defending its territory is now not wasted and the food the capon eats is more easily converted into growth, meaning a better quality of meat with more fat. The roasted capon will be moist and juicy, and have plenty of fat to act as a basting agent.
Any chicken species can be caponised. Male birds will normally be castrated at 2 to 4 weeks of age. Antibiotics are fed to the bird for up to a week before the procedure and the cock is taken off food and water 12 to 24 hours before the surgery. Commercially grown capons go to the market by 15 to 18 weeks of age.
The average bird weighs about a pound when it is castrated to become a capon. The objective is to raise a capon weighing from 4.08 to 4.99kg., but it can be packaged at 6 to 8lbs. Capons have become increasingly rare as the poultry industry strives to have birds that mature quickly and can be at the market as rapidly as 5 weeks of age. About 1 million capons are raised commercially in the United States each year as compared to almost 8 billion broiler roosters.
Industrially raised capons do not have the same quality of flavour as those that are raised in a more leisurely environment, which seems to make the process rather futile to begin with. The best capons are those that can be purchased through a boutique butcher or from a small farm. A boutique butcher is one that cuts their own meat on site instead of buying it already packaged from a meat distributor.