Freezing whole chickens affords you the opportunity to buy in bulk, with the convenience of cooking and eating the chicken at a later time. Whole chickens are best frozen in the manufacturer’s packaging, over-wrapped with aluminum freezer, freezer wrap or freezer storage bags when freezing for more than two months. Once in a frozen state, however, how long the whole chicken keeps varies when it comes to safety and quality.
It is natural to find bacterial microorganisms in living poultry and livestock. After slaughter, this bacteria remains on the harvested meat. Left at room temperature, these microorganisms grow to unsafe levels that result in foodborne illnesses, which may have serious health consequences if you eat contaminated meats. Storing fresh poultry and meats in the freezer halts bacterial growth, keeping them safe for consumption for as long as they are frozen.
Stored in freezing temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit and below, a whole chicken remains safe to eat for an indefinite amount of time, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Safe doesn't mean palatable when it comes to chicken, however. In fact, after one year of freezer storage, the taste and texture of the chicken begins to change, making it less appealing when you add it to your favorite recipes.
When you pop a whole chicken in the freezer, don’t just close the door and forget about it. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a frozen, whole chicken only stays safe to eat indefinitely if the temperatures in the freezer do not rise above 0 F, so monitor the temperature frequently. If your freezer does not have a visible thermometer, set an appliance thermometer on one of the shelves, adjusting your freezer’s thermostat, as needed, to preserve the quality of the chicken during storage.
Once you transfer a whole frozen chicken from the freezer to the refrigerator, the countdown begins. As the frozen chicken begins to thaw and reach temperatures that exceed 0 F, bacteria on the outside of the chicken that freezing rendered inactive, become active again. The bacteria continue to multiply, which means that you only have one to two days to cook the chicken before the bacteria reaches dangerous levels, and you need to throw the chicken away, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.