Broiler Chickens (Cornish Cross)

It’s a little early to be talking broiler chickens, at least in my neck of the woods, but here is an overview of my thoughts on the Cornish Cross. Believe it or not, there is a chicken controversy and I’m about to give my opinion but first a little about the breed itself.

The Cornish Cross (Cornish X) has an interesting bloodline. Apparently there are trade secrets in the breeding stock depending on the breeder. The generally accepted origin is a double breasted Cornish variety male with a large boned strain of Plymouth Rock (Wiki).

The male Cornish X can be dressed as early as 6 weeks with a weight of 3-4 pounds. The females will dress at the same weight about 1 – 1/2 weeks later. Typically these birds are processed no later than 10 weeks as they will reach full weight between 8-10 weeks.

Now for the controversy.

There are numerous blogs and articles, too many to cite here, regarding the ethical concerns of raising the Cornish X. This bird is reported to be intolerant of extreme heat, being extremely susceptible to sunburn and heat stroke. I have read reports that in extreme heat owners have found birds as close as 20 feet from a water source, dead, because they refused to leave a shaded area to get to a water source. There are also reports of skeletal (fractured legs) and cardiovascular issues (sudden cardiac death) due to the extreme weights, and fast growth rates.

Now for my observation.

This year will be my third year raising these birds. Last year I received twenty five newly hatched chicks from a local Mennonite family.  I had to cull one bird in the first 48 hours due to extreme illness to prevent further suffering. I raised twenty four of the twenty five original birds to maturity at 8 weeks. I had these birds processed at a local Amish family for $2 a bird, how can I pass that up. I had no issue with cardiovascular or skeletal pathology. I will admit that at 8 weeks, I noticed some in the flock were slowing down and have had some issue with walking, waddling would be a more accurate term.

I can say that these birds are delicious. I have put several of them through the smoker, and roasted several in the oven.  There is a distinct flavor and tenderness that far outweighs anything I have purchased in the store. I am relatively new to smoking meats, and one thing I discovered is that freshly smoked meat is unbelievable, freshly smoked meats given the chance to mature in the fridge for 24 hours, is even better.

The one thing I will do differently this time around will be letting them go to 10 weeks. When I picked up my birds from the Amish gentleman that processed them, he asked me if I raised them to 8 weeks.  Surprisingly I said yes, and asked him how he knew that. He walked over to another cooler and pulled out a finished bird at 10 weeks and the difference was amazing, it looked like a small turkey. He said waiting another two weeks will give me an additional 1-2 pounds, depending on the sex. So this year, 10 weeks it is.

This year will likely be the last year I raise Cornish X.  My reasoning is not because of some moral high ground, it is simply because I have decided to raise and hatch my own New Hampshire Reds. I have receiving a small run of chicks last year and all of them are laying. My rooster seems pretty active as well, doing what rooster do, so I’m looking forward to seeing if I can hatch a few of these birds on my own.

Last year I tried turkeys as well, but but unfortunately I had an issue with a predator, and these guys didn’t make it past 8 weeks. I’ll be more careful this year as I would like to try again. Ill keep them in a brooder as long as I can and when I do put them out to pasture, I will be sure to have them locked up at night. Whatever this predator was, it didn’t affect my adult birds, but Ill take the same considerations for them as well.

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