The fresher the better. I pick them as soon as I find them as long as they are bright in color, not dried out or infested with bugs. But the older specimans do make good giv-aways. Chickens are not one of my favorite edibles mainly because I havn't figured out cousin Ruth's recipe and secret style of frying them, even though I watched her do them many times. Old folks and their bacon fat, I guess there just is no subsitute.