Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Raising Meat Birds

This years egg layers with the Cornish Cross chicks

This year, we decided to purchase some new baby chicks to eventually add to our flock (better known as the Egg Brigade). Because we have a flock of birds already, we knew we didn't have a need for 25 egg laying chicks, and 25 chicks is the minimum order with many hatcheries. We thought that we'd just make up our remainder of birds with Cornish Cross birds to butcher this summer.

I feel this was a mistake.

Now, I'm sure that many people don't mind raising this little chirping freaks of nature, but I am not one of them. While my egg laying chicks are thriving, these creepy hybrids are not. We had the experience of a few of the Cornish Crosses having heart attacks--at one week old. We have had to remove their feed from them for 12 hours at a time, as a way to help prevent their over eating. These birds have been bred to have a drive to eat this much, and it seems sad that something would be bred to have habits that will kill it if they go unchecked. Aside from the depressing eating habits, their feather growth cannot keep up with the body growth, and they almost seem bald in spots at times. Finally, they defecate so much that they seem (and smell) like very dirty birds.

Once these chicks are grown out and butchered, it will be the last time Cornish Cross birds are on our homestead. If and when we place another order for chicks, we will make up the remainder of the 25 chick requirement with cockerels (most likely Buff Orpingtons, but any dual purpose cockerel breed will be fine). I would much rather spend a bit more time growing out roosters that can free range, then deal with the sad excuses that are Cornish Crosses.

I also wanted to note, I've heard great things about Freedom Rangers (a slower growing meat bird). This would be a great option for those wanting a larger number of meat birds to butcher.


  1. Interesting observations on your 'little freaks of nature' chicks. I don't blame you for not wanting them again.

    I look forward to reading of your adventures!

  2. We are trying freedom rangers this year. We've butchered dual purpose birds and it wasn't quite what we were looking for. We've never tried Cornish X for the reasons you mentioned.

  3. We had 25 cornish x last year & will never get them again! It was just not natural how they grew/ate.

  4. I wonder if you could order 25 chicks together with 2-3 others, so that all get some 5-8 hens in the end?
    And have you thought of getting a "chicken nursery"? Allowing one or two hens to actually sit on the eggs and create the chicks themselves? You have a rooster.