How Much Does a Whole Chicken Weigh? A Hefty Guide

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how much does a whole chicken weigh

How much does a whole chicken weigh? This is a relevant question, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd. After all, you need to know how much meat to buy in order to feed everyone. Our guide will answer this question—and several related ones.

How Much Does a Whole Chicken Weigh?

Before processing, a whole chicken weighs between 5 to 6 pounds on average. It may be larger or smaller, depending on the breed—and whether it’s a hen or a rooster. But by the time it hits the supermarket shelves, it usually weighs between 3 to 6 pounds. with smaller specimens being more common.

A Word About Serving Sizes

When serving bone-in poultry, you should plan on buying 1 to 1-1/2 pounds per person.

Since a whole chicken contains a great deal of bone (not to mention skin), we prefer to opt for the 1-1/2 pound estimate. We would recommend that you do the same, especially if you want to plan on having leftovers.

You can adjust this estimate based on the eating habits of your guests, not to mention the nature of your gathering. Little kids, for example, don’t eat as much as adults. There’s no need to plan on 1-1/2 pounds of chicken for every guest under the age of 7.

Daytime events tend to yield more leftovers than evening functions. Most of us are accustomed to enjoying our larger meal at the end of the day, so expect guests to consume more if your party takes place after dark.

The formality of the event is another factor to keep in mind. If you’re serving plated meals, you’ll go through more meat—and you won’t be able to reuse the leftovers. With a buffet, guests will usually take less in an effort to be polite.

How Much Does a Whole Chicken Weigh?

The average weight of a live chicken ranges from 5 to 6 pounds. Of course, there are a number of factors that might affect the total weight.

The weight of a chicken may vary depending on the breed, the thickness of the plumage, and the meatiness of the muscles. While 5 to 6 pounds is a good average estimate, many breeds are either lighter or heavier.

how much does a whole chicken weigh

Food availability is another factor to consider. It stands to reason that when a chicken has access to a hearty food supply, it will weigh more than a chicken that doesn’t have that luxury.

These days, chickens are bred to have more muscle mass than they did 50 years ago. As a result, they weigh a great deal more. Bone weight, which makes up about 30 percent of the total, is yet another contributing factor.

Do Roosters Weigh More Than Hens?

Yes. On average, a mature rooster will weigh 1 to 2 pounds more than a hen of similar age.

Roosters have a larger comb, more elaborate tail feathers, and a visible wattle. You can use these details to determine whether you’re looking at a bird that’s male or female. But the most obvious detail is in the size—roosters are bigger, and therefore heavier.

These body weight differences can begin before the egg is even ready to hatch. Once the eggs have reached the 18-day marker, the ones that contain male chicks are noticeably heavier than the ones that contain female chicks.

How Much Does a Whole Chicken Weigh After Processing?

Now that we’ve established how much chickens weigh when they’re still roaming around the barnyard, let’s get to the more relevant question. How much does a whole chicken weigh when you buy it at the butcher counter?

When the chicken is stripped of its feathers and vital organs, its weight drops by about 25 percent. You can expect a whole chicken to weigh between 3 and 6 pounds by the time it’s packaged for sale.

Of course, there are exceptions. Cornish game hens, a smaller breed, might weigh no more than 1 pound. On the other end of the spectrum, you might find chickens for sale that tip the scales at 8 pounds or more.

How Many Chickens Do I Need to Buy?

If you want to plan on having 1-1/2 pounds of chicken for each person on your guest list, it’s important to check the weight of the chickens you’re buying.

Let’s assume that you’re planning on serving 12 people. That means you’ll need about 18 pounds of chicken. If the chickens weigh just 3 pounds apiece, you’ll have to buy 6 of them. But if they’re larger ones, you might only need to buy 3 or 4.

Again, we would recommend erring on the side of caution when doing your shopping. It’s better to have too much meat on hand than to send guests home with empty stomachs.

How Much Meat Will I Get From a Whole Chicken?

With whole chickens, the bones take up a significant percentage of the weight. Therefore, the total meat yield will be lower than it would be for boneless cuts, such as the breast.

how much does a whole chicken weigh

Also, consider the fact that all meat shrinks down as it cooks, owing to the moisture loss. This isn’t as much of a concern with chicken, as the meat is so lean, but it is a contributing factor.

The total meat yield of a whole chicken should drop to about 45 percent of the weight of the raw bird. Therefore, a 3-pound chicken will yield just under 1-1/2 pounds of cooked meat.

How Much Do Chicken Breasts Weigh?

The average weight of a boneless, skinless chicken breast is 6 ounces. This should yield about 4 ounces of cooked chicken.

Some smaller specimens weigh as little as 3 to 4 ounces before they’re cooked. If the breasts are on the smaller side, you might want to plan on serving 2 per guest.

Conversely, there are chicken breasts that weigh up to 10 ounces. It’s generally preferable to cut these horizontally to make chicken cutlets, depending on the preparation technique you have in mind.

How Much Do Chicken Thighs Weigh?

Bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs weigh around 5-6 ounces. Once the bones and skin are removed, the weight drops to 3 to 4 ounces. Either way, they should yield a similar amount of cooked meat.

How Much Do Chicken Drumsticks Weigh?

A single drumstick weighs about 4 ounces. Bear in mind that this piece has a low meat-to-bone ratio. The edible meat weighs only about 2-1/2 ounces, and that’s before it’s cooked. Drumsticks are best served as appetizers, or as a supplement to a larger meal.

If you’re buying whole chicken leg quarters, they’ll consist of both the thighs and the drumsticks. The total weight should be about 8-9 ounces per piece. These make for an eye-catching centerpiece, but they can be tricky to serve at buffets.

Final Thoughts

The weight of a whole chicken depends on the breed, as well as the feeding and farming practices. Its weight will drop significantly once it’s been processed, so that’s another thing to keep in mind.

Even then, you’ll need to consider the fact that the meat yield will be about half of the total weight of the raw bird. A per-person estimate of 1-1/2 pounds of raw chicken is a good place to start.

Happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


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