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Cornish Cross Chickens are not the Answer

 
Adam Klaus
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Allright, I feel like I gotta get this one out there, as folks are thinking about ordering their chickens for the spring.

Do Not Settle for Cornish Cross Chickens unless you want to produce poor quality meat, just like the supermarket. PERIOD.

Cornish X birds grow fast, requiring commercial corn/soy chicken food. You are what you eat, and so are your chickens. When they eat the same thing as industrial birds, they are the same thing as industrial birds. Dont kid yourself that they are eating a few snips of grass each day and that somehow that matters nutritionally. Compare your 'pasture raised' Cornish X to a bird from the supermarket. There is no difference, because there is no difference!

Heritage birds grow slow. This is good. They assimilate much more minerals and nutrients in their lifetime, which makes their meat dark, nutritious, and flavorful. They are fundamentally different from supermarket birds, in a completely superior way.

Slow growing birds can grow healthily without soy. You dont want to eat unfermented soy in your diet, and you dont want to eat chickens that ate unfermented soy either. Whole grains, like wheat and organic corn are much more nutrient dense than chicken mash, so your chicken meat is more nutritious too.

Please check out my thread, Why Slow Growing Heritage Chickens Work for Me-
http://www.permies.com/t/25111/chickens/Jersey-giants-heritage-meat-chickens
You dont have to use Jersey Giants. I recommend White Rocks to newcomers to the game. Much better genetics there, in general, from a wider range of hatcheries.

It is an embarrassment to permaculture that we are using factory farm genetics on our farm. Like putting lipstick on a pig. Its not fooling anybody, and it is more placebo effect than reality to think that somehow OUR Cornish X are different and better. We can, and should do better.

We dont discuss using pesticides more effectively, or healthy ways of growing GMOs. We shouldnt be apologizinig and justifying the growing of Cornish X chickens either. We can do better. There is a way. Knowledge is the key.
 
John Polk
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As chicken breeder Kelly Klober likes to say "Cornish Crosses were developed for the McNuggets market."

 
Cj Sloane
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Adam Klaus wrote:
Do Not Settle for Cornish Cross Chickens unless you want to produce poor quality meat, just like the supermarket. PERIOD.


Can't wait for Paul to chime in on this one! On at least one podcast he proclaims them yummy.

I personally have done the slow-crosses & I think they're pretty good. I didn't give them food 24/7 & they took longer till harvest - maybe 16 weeks and still 4 lbs dressed, that's fine for me. No broken legs or anything. One did escape the fall cull and lived till the spring cull so it's not like they'll just up and die of a heart attack like some have suggested.

I tried regular Cornish birds this year (dual purpose) in a quest for a heavier breed that wont fly over 4' electro-netting. I started them in late July so I wouldn't need too much supplemental heat (I'm off-grid). I think they're just starting to lay. I'll cull most of the roosters for passover. I'll keep 2 for breeding.
 
Matu Collins
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Chicken is yummy in general.

I agree that Cornish crosses are a sad sack breed. Here's my impression of them:
"I guess I'll eat some kibble. Poop. I guess I'll sit down for a while. Poop."
No personality, and they flop over from their massive yummy breasts that are so tender because they have never used those muscles. Yikes!



I would never have them on my farm, just like I won't ever shop at Wall Mart or eat a fast food burger. Ick. But I understand why people do.

I hope lots of you prove that selling other meat birds can be profitable and post about it here in permies so more people can and will do it.
 
Su Ba
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Well, I might suppose they are not the answer for some folks. While most of my chickens are assorted laying breeds....and we use the males and culls for eating, I do raise some Cornish crosses for roasting. My finished birds are very, very tasty.

My Cornish crosses are raised primarily on young pasture grass with grain. The grain is locally homegrown, although not all entirely on my own homestead. My goal is to grow all my own grain, but I'm not there yet. Some day. In addition to all the young grass, I also supplement them with clipped herbs, purslane, and assorted sprouted seed. Grain wise, they get whole wheat, rice, cooked soybean, cooked assorted beans, peas, corn, flax, buckwheat, sorghum, job's tears, and sunflower. Plus waste macadamia nuts. No, I do not feed them commercial feed.

I have to agree that they have very little personality. They basically eat and poop. Eat is something they do as often as they can. I've seen them have full crops and still try to cram another mouthful in.

Once butchered, they are soaked in brine before going into the coldest part of the refrigerator for 3 days. Once finished, they are the best eating chicken I've ever had. Very worth the effort!
 
Adam Klaus
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Matu Collins wrote:Chicken is yummy in general.


Agree completely! Add in the placebo effect of putting your heart and soul into growing them, and boy, they must just be the best!

For me, it all comes back to 'you are what you eat'. It applies equally to our chickens, and us.

Dark meat = more nutrition. Plain and simple. We can, and should, strive to do better!
 
Adam Klaus
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Public Service Announcement Bump!

Do better folks! Get some heritage birds for your permaculture projects!

that's all...
 
Paul Ewing
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Adam Klaus wrote:Public Service Announcement Bump!

Do better folks! Get some heritage birds for your permaculture projects!

that's all...


If you are doing this commercially be sure to do it slowly. I would recommend doing a small batch of 50 or so and plan to give them away as samples, maybe have a chicken roast dinner for select customers. In most cases you will need to work your customers into heritage breeds or get new customers altogether. The taste and the body conformation is great for those of us that like dark meat. The problem is that that is a small percentage of the market even for "enlightened" people. If you spring $20 3.5 pound rubber chickens on customers used to 4-4.5 pound big breasted birds from you or other farmers, you are in for a big problem. You might have 10% who are overjoyed, but most will drop you like a hot rock.

Also be sure you do the budget on a heritage breed broiler project to be sure you are charging enough. In most cases you will need to charge more since they will cost you a lot more to produce. It will take 20 weeks or so to get to a half way decent dressed weight. This means they will eat at minimum as much as a Cornish Cross does in 8-9 weeks and take over twice the labor time to produce. Plus you are tying up your infrastructure longer. It will take about four weeks in the brooder to get good feathering on most heritage breeds so they can be put outside compared with 2-3 weeks for Cobb 500 birds. Then they are in the pasture for the equivalent of two batches of Cornish Cross.

Combine that with less weight to sell and it means a $5-$6 a pound price point. This is achievable with a small subset of the market, you just need to find them and see if it is big enough in your area to make the effort worth while.
 
Steve Hoskins
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You are making blanket statements that imply the inferiority of all cx.

I don't think it is quite so black and white.

I am thankful that you have shared so many details about your operation on this forum, but was really surprised by the tone here. I don't think you are looking for a discussion; its more like graffiti.

I like hybrid vigor and I am not ashamed by that in any way.

The cx is not perfect, nor is any breed.

Have you had any cx in your system recently?
I find that the same drive that keeps them in the trough (if you let them) will keep them foraging all day.
It sounds to me like they would do well for you, so I'm confused.

Again, thanks for all your posts on here, I don't mean to be mean or anything like that. I have my reservations as well.
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John Polk
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For me, one of the biggest short comings of the Cornish-X is that they cannot breed themselves.

When doing the math to see if the heritage breeds would be profitable, don't forget the cost of mail order chicks each year, versus raising your own chicks.

Another factor is that it is just a matter of time before the post office ceases to accept chicks (or any other living creature) as "mail". Once that happens, sourcing these baby chicks will become a real thorn in the side.

If you cannot raise your own chicks, is it really sustainable?

 
Connie White
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I could not disagree more! Cornish Rocks taste great - the meat is sooooo juicy and plentiful! Just the breast alone will feed a family of 4! I raise all kinds of chickens - layers, meats and good for nuthins! Meat-wise, in addition to Cornish Rocks, I raise Red Rangers and Black Boilers. The reds take 3 times as long to mature and the blacks take forever! vs the cx! Of course, the Black boilers are just delicious but hey - if you raise it, and harvest at the right time, it's good! Yea, the cx stink, have indifferent personalities, but that just makes the kill easier for me. The Black boilers are by far - the best foragers too but they take sooooo long to mature. I got the heritage breeds so that I could reproduce them on the property here but - that's easier said than done as they must be penned off and isolated. The roos weigh sooooo much too.

All my chickens have healthy happy lives and yes - the cx must be fed more of 'something' as they aren't too great at foraging. But! all in all - they are quick to mature and yummie to my tummy! At the moment, I am trying to raise other breeds - just anything that's not a purebred and hopefully has *some* meat chicken genes in it, but they are just taking forever to mature. I have 10 of the juicy little cx's right now. I could eat them now at 1 month as young and juicy treats or wait a while and eat them later.

Hate to join and disagree so quickly but - if you raise it and harvest it in time - yummmmmmie! That goes with my meat ducks too!

Ok - now, back to looking for information on good ways of raising pigs - naturally - wrong forum, i know ~

Connie
 
R Scott
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What is your goal?

Most cx are bred for maximum conversion efficiency and quick PREDICTABLE weight gain. For that goal they excel. If your goal is to put meat on the table or to sell at market for a low feed cost, they excel. Especially if you have to buy feed anyway or limited on space. The fact they cycle through twice as fast really makes a difference in how much infrastructure (pens, tractors, etc) you need.

I did the math once, feeding breeding stock all winter just for spring hatching doesn't pay the freight either. You need to have a different goal than cheap natural meat.

I agree that for permaculture projects a heritage breed is usually better for any species--back to one that was bred for forage--if (and only if) the particular breedline displays those traits.
 
Serge Leblanc
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I quite like the Mistral Gris birds.
Heritage cross meat bird, good foragers, good hearts & legs.
 
Connie White
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What is my goal? That's a big question but I'll keep it on the chickens only - I do like to have chicken available (in the freezer or yard) whenever I want it - at least 1 per week. I want chicken that I've raised as I love cuisine and want to know where it came from. I have found that it is very difficult to accomplish this without having 30 birds in the freezer!

Right now - I'm out and went by the feed store and the cx were there so I bought 10. They are delicious to me - and my son - frying up those breast are great! I do have the black boilers and the red rangers however - hatching them and raising them takes a LONG time. also - making sure the right roo is with the right hen is a challenge due to my lack of secure pens. Also = the gals free range and it's healthier/cheaper on me. I have 5 acres and am between two larger pastures so space is not an issue. I have 8 hens for reproducing but between them laying, getting a clutch and going broody - well, it's disorganized. I have two hens that finally went broody and they are on duck eggs! Since they aren't penned, I'm unsure of who's egg is who's! One black ranger finally went broody but I've collected the eggs and again - don't have the right roo with the right hen.

So, the goal is to have chicken available anytime but - that is harder than you might think! I did raise 40+ and harvesting them was hell! I do this by hand and have family help but it would be so much easier just to do a couple at a time. Especially in this heat!

I'm thinking about ordering another heritage breed but will be faced with the same dilemma after the roos are 'processed.' Cost-wise, I'm just feeding a bunch of chickens I don't plan on eating! Any advice is most appreciative. I know I need to secure a couple of my horse stalls for chicken breeding! That's the other issue - penning them up is like a predator's dream. There's so much uncertainty!

Connie
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Guard Dog - hardly eats w/o competition
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Feeding time - supplementing food
 
Connie White
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By the way - who do y'all buy your heritage meat birds from? This is the only group I've found- they are close to me so there hasn't been any deaths in transit and the birds I've received have been incredible!
http://www.sandgpoultry.com/

I don't dare buy anything from auctions due to bad past experiences with disease! I bought my black boilers from Ideal Poultry - they are in the south but recently had a big issue with them as they use breeders and I had a batch of cochins with coccily...whatever (blood in stool that kills chicks and is highly contagious) and now am dealing with chicks getting sick....still! As you all know, when you free range, birds eat off the ground and this has been a whammy! Boy - that pissed me off too as I only buy from breeders so I wont have any disease but that one backfired. Not to mention - i got a polish along with the cochins - another good for nuthin bird, named it Fruit Loop! I use the cochins to hatch out 'anybody's' egg. I try to do things naturally!

Connie

 
John Polk
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While sandg poultry do produce some top quality meat birds, they are not heritage breeds.
They have their own proprietary breeds - hybrids - that are commercial meat birds.

I do recommend their product for those that live near them in 'Bama.
Their birds will probably outperform those purchased from outside of the 'humid south'.

 
Connie White
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Where do you order or get your heritage breeds from? And actually - it was their white Heritage chickens that I ordered that were so dang tasty - I hope these cornish x that I got are as good!
Connie
 
Raye Beasley
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Cx don't have the longevity of heritage breeds but they are good for 3 years if raised right. Raised right means free ranged with the rest of them. They must be started "free ranging" no more than 2 weeks of age to make the best foragers. I like to put them under broody hens. I don't feed commercial feed, corn or soy either. They cross very well with Chanteclers and Buckeyes and the resulting chickens are huge, hardy, and long lived. I like to keep a few Cx around for the cross breeding.
 
J D Horn
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Connie White wrote:Where do you order or get your heritage breeds from?


Try the Sustainable Poultry Network. Jim Adkins is working to build a nationwide netowrd of breeders and growers of heritage breeds. The website lists some folks that they have certified.

http://www.sustainablepoultrynetwork.com/
 
Tony Hill
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they are good for 3 years if raised right. Raised right means free ranged with the rest of them.

I must disagree with the opening blanket statements, but agree 100% with the above. Our CX birds have been outstanding in many ways, including foraging and flavor!

We bring in some CX chicks in the spring, and throw them in with the rest of the birds. We do NOT continuously feed ANY of our birds, so ALL of them forage. And the CX chicks are the BEST foragers we have! Probably because they have to support rapid growth, they kill and eat stuff the other chickens are afraid of, including mice and snakes! Of course, ours don't grow as fast as one force-fed to death, but still, they grow much faster than our other birds.

We have 5 breeds, including some Buff Brahmas, which are excellent brood-birds, besides being delicious meat birds, and laying as reliably as our Reds and Sextons. Only problem with them, is they are so jealous, they will kill chicks that aren't their own, so you have to separate them once they are sitting on a clutch. But the chicks that make it are fast, tough and smart!

Take a CX and let it free-range, and you MIGHT be surprised at how well they range.

-TH
 
mick mclaughlin
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I am still not understanding the advantage of cornishx, if ya don't want a fast growing bird?

Big breasts? I am sure they are tasty if grown longer, but so are heritage birds.

I have had almost 0 mortality with my heritage birds in tractors, it would be zero if not for an over ambitious raccoon. I can not do better then about 10% on cornish x, counting from day 1.

If I raise cornish x, I want em done in no more then 10 weeks, but I wish I didn't have to raise them at all. They are better on pasture, no question, but not anything like a real chicken.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Connie White wrote:Where do you order or get your heritage breeds from? And actually - it was their white Heritage chickens that I ordered that were so dang tasty - I hope these cornish x that I got are as good!
Connie


I strongly recommend Mt.Healthy from Ohio. If you want breeding stock, I recommend sandhill preservation.
 
Paul Ewing
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mick mclaughlin wrote:
Connie White wrote:Where do you order or get your heritage breeds from? And actually - it was their white Heritage chickens that I ordered that were so dang tasty - I hope these cornish x that I got are as good!
Connie


I strongly recommend Mt.Healthy from Ohio. If you want breeding stock, I recommend sandhill preservation.


Mt.Healthy has had too many Salmonella infestations for my taste. The last three years they have been cited for it.
 
mick mclaughlin
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I was not aware of that, only that i have had excellent service and quality chicks.

Where can one get this info?
 
Paul Ewing
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The CDC releases the warnings after the tests come back and are traced. It is getting to be an annual Spring thing with them. Google "mt healthy hatchery salmonella"
 
John Polk
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Mt. Healthy was reported as being the source of outbreaks in 2012, 2013, and once again this year.
Here is a snippet from the CDC report this year:
Mt Healthy AGAIN.PNG
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Antonia Barry
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"Cornish Cross Chickens are Not the Answer"

That depends on the question, I guess.
If you are a someone who is striving to limit the inputs from outside your own farm, I agree that Cornish Crosses would not be the answer. I think Buckeyes would fill that bill pretty well.

However, if you are looking to raise your own healthy meat and get a good bang for your buck, then I think Cornish Crosses are one of the best answers. You don't have to feed them the crap you get at tractor supply to grow them, and if you start them out foraging, they are really good at it, though the bigger they get the less good they are at chasing grasshoppers. But if a bug or tasty clover leaf is close to them, they are on it. They even stay up later and get up earlier so they forage longer each day than the other chickens.

If I get a bunch of chicks in March, and another in July, I have enough chicken to eat tucked into the freezer for the year and don't have to mess with them in the winter.

I feed my Cornish crosses the same thing as my layers. The main portion is what the local feed mill calls 'scratch grains'- a mix of whole grain hard and soft wheat, oats, sorghum, millet and milo, and cracked corn. It has 12% protein. I like that, other than the corn, the grains are whole.
I add a rice pot full of cooked lentils mixed with seaweed powder each day, along with scraps and garden waste and what they forage, and the chickens do well, both my layers and my meat chickens. However, I don't put the chicken's food in a feeder. If the weather is nice, it all gets kind of tossed all over the yard. If the weather is bad, the layers get fed in a bowl in their house, and the meat chickens get fed in smaller increments in their house.

For meat, I've eaten buckeyes and jersey giants as well as the roosters from my laying chick orders. So far the cornish cross have been the best tasting and largest, as large as the jersey giants were at 11 months.
I would agree about the lack of individual personalities. I find them all to be nice and friendly, with not one (so far) being mean or bossy. They like to come over and get a pat and pet when I am sitting in the yard and often, if I am sitting in the grass, one will come over to sit on my leg. And when they run they make me laugh every time, which I find to be an endearing quality. They do poop a lot. If you are able to save and compost it, that can be a good thing if you have a large garden.
The only other drawback I see with them is that they are not as fastidious about their hygiene as the layers. They have no problem walking around with skidmarks that would make a layer blush, and spend almost no time preening. For that reason I house them separately at night, so that I can clean their quarters much more often. Other than that, they spend the day with the layers.

 
Steve Hoskins
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Slaughter day was yesterday, 70 very real cornish rock cross chickens dressed.

I just had one for dinner, and it was delicious... And real.
 
Steve Hoskins
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Lol. Cx are not gmo or pesticide.
 
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