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Cornish cross broiler pecking issue

 
Lucas Branham
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I'm raising my first batch of broilers. I started with 75 Cornish cross and 25 Rhode Island reds. I had a few losses while brooding. Now they are six weeks old. My problem started a couple weeks ago. I came home to find 4 Cornish pecked on the butt to the point of bleeding. One more was pecked to the point where it had an open hole in its body. I moved the injured birds into the pen with my goats. They are ok. The one with the hole died. I initially thought it was the reds pecking the Cornish. I separated them. Since then the reds have been fine I'm still getting pecking with the Cornish. I've probably got 10-15 with the goats because of injury. I've had a couple more die from pecking. They are in a 13x7 salatin style tractor moved once per day. They have constant access to a 50/50 mix of 9% hen scratch and 23% starter feed. I also toss a couple shovels of compost in every now and again. I went with this feed to slow the growth a bit. They do scratch and forage a lot as well. The ones that I've moved in with the goats have had no issues since. I've searched a lot online and have found no mention of an issue with Cornish and pecking. The ratio of birds to square footage in the tractors with 50 in each is the same as salatin does. Any ideas? What am I missing? Any help will be greatly appreciated.
 
wayne stephen
steward
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Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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In my experience Salatins square foot ratio is too dense . I had much better results doubling the space for each bird . Perhaps Salatins experience has enabled him to nuance more efficient space usage.
Chickens are merciless to any of their flock that are sick or physically weak. I have noted a second wave of die offs at 4-6 weeks with this breed . The first die off being in the first few days . Cornish Crosses are not bred to live much longer than 6 weeks and some have trouble keeping up with the fast growth rates . Leg and heart problems seem to come into play at 4-6 weeks . Perhaps the pecking is a sign of developmental problems that the birds are spotting before you do ?
 
Lucas Branham
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I'm sure that is possible. the last few that died, we did not see before finding them dead. So we don't know how they died. MAybe they were not killed by the other chickens.

At this point, the density is way lower than I had planned. So I hope that is not the problem.

These birds will be processed in about 2 more weeks. I'm trying to decide if I want to try another batch of Cornish cross or if I want to move onto something different. I'm considering the giants like Adam klaus is doing. But if I can narrow down the problem, I would like to try the cc again.
 
wayne stephen
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Partly it may be the line you purchased . I have bought from one hatchery and had excellent results , while another produced much loss . Try different hatcheries until you find a robust line.
 
Lucas Branham
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Where have you purchased birds with the best mortality rate? What have your mortality rates been?
 
Paul Ewing
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Location: Boyd, Texas
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I too would suspect a combination of too dense and the strain. There is a LOT of variation in the strains of broilers. Some are known to have lots more pecking problems especially some of the older strains. I had very bad luck with a batch of Cobb 500 Fast Featherers earlier this year. It was a combination of them being from pullet eggs and that strain not being as strong growing especially on a non-soy feed. I am very impressed with the Hubbard strain I got last week from Myer (not Meyer's) in PA. They are strong good growing birds. Hopefully they will stay that way.

Salatin using 10x12 pens for 75 birds. That is still too tight in my opinion, but those extra 29 square feet mean a lot. Personally I like to do a day ranging system where the birds are in electronet during the day and in a moveable coop at night.

Another thought is bad feed. Check your milling dates and try not to use feed more than a month or two old at the most. The vitamin pack goes old quickly some you might want to add some extra vitamins to the water. Also try some brewers yeast on the feed. Pecking and feather eating may also be a sign of low protein. What percent protein is your feed? I like about a 22% ration, but many people use down to a 19% without problems. Is the enough amino acids like lysine and methionine?
 
Lucas Branham
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I'll take a pic of the tag on the feed. It shouldn't be old. I bought 1250 pounds from a local mill. They said that they bag it as they get orders. It should be around 15-16 percent protein with the mix I'm using. So are most people feeding a starter feed for the entire 8 weeks of life?

I bought from mt healthy in ohio. I was very pleased with the service they provided. I think I'm going to try something different though.

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I know we're all busy. Hope I have more success on the next batch.
 
Lucas Branham
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Also first post was misleading about the density. they are divided between 2 of the listed tractors. They started out with 50 in each tractor. Once the first seperation happened. There were about 69 Cornish in one and 25 reds in the other. Now there are about 35 Cornish in the tractor and 10-15 in the pen with goats. Found 1 dead today when I got home at 3:30 pm. It wasn't dead or pecked at 12:00 when my wife checked them. I'm starting to think at this point they are dying and then getting eaten. The pecking may have been more of the reds pecking the Cornish?
 
Paul Ewing
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Location: Boyd, Texas
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I would definitely bump the protein up on them. Modern broiler strains are corvettes to Ferraris of the chicken world and need to be fed a pretty high performance feed. I wouldn't have them on anything below 18% for the full run. Like I said, I do a 22% ration the entire 8-10 weeks.

It's good to hear you are using two tractors. That is much better density. I would recommend not mixing layers and broilers in the same brooder/pen though. There is too much difference in size and activity level really. Usually you hear about the broilers not letting the layers get to the food and picking on the smaller layers but there can also be some cannibal issues in the layer strains as well especially if you got Production Reds instead of standard Rhode Island Reds.

I would call the hatchery and see what strain of broilers they sent you and check when you order your next batch and see what they are. There are five or six broiler egg producers that ship eggs to the hatcheries. If the hatchery won't tell you what they are selling I wouldn't deal with them. The sales person on the phone may not know but should go and ask someone. The better hatcheries for broilers that are used to dealing with pastured producers more than the home market will be able to answer the question immediately since it is common. I like the Hubbard strain but Ross is also a good one. Cobbs are more common in production houses but a lot of retail hatcheries carry them. If you are doing a no-soy feed I would be careful because I have had bad experience with that combination and have heard others in the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association also say that they are very finicky on feed being exactly right which a lot of the alternative and small milled feeds have a problem with.
 
Lucas Branham
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Paul. Thank you so much for the generous amount of info you are giving. I will call mthealthy before I order the next batch.
 
Lucas Branham
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Wayne. Thank you as well. I thought when Paul posted that last post that I had been talking to the same person. Not paying attention very well.
 
Lucas Branham
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I just talked to mt healthy and they said they carry the bovan line. any experience with this?
 
Paul Ewing
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Location: Boyd, Texas
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Lucas Branham wrote:I just talked to mt healthy and they said they carry the bovan line. any experience with this?


Bovan was a producer of laying chickens. I haven't heard of them doing broilers.
 
Lucas Branham
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Hmmmm. Maybe it's time to switch.
 
Luke Townsley
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Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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I raised a batch of Cornish X from Mt. Healthy in chicken tractors last spring. I know some people have better luck, and I know ways to improve my experience, but I was so far from being where I wanted to be with them, I said, never again for Cornish X, at least not the fast growing ones.

My feeling is you aren't feeding enough protein, or they are running out of feed, and it is making them aggressive and cranky. Mine were quick to bite out their frustration. You might have better luck in your situation with a different strain. I would suggest trying the Heritage Whites from S&G in Alabama. They are white feathered and dress out a lot like Cornish X, but are generally very robust for meat birds with strong bones and organs. I had pretty good luck with Freedom Rangers too.
 
Lucas Branham
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Luke. How big of a tractor did the rangers get raised in and how many? How long did you grow them out and what was the processed weight? I was looking at them after having these issues. I was worried that they would not do good in a tractor setup.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Location: Augusta,Ks
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I have read other folks on here talk about slowing the growth of cornish x, and I am not sure what the purpose of that would be? I mean, why buy a sports car and drive it slow? I mean these are petri dish un natural, freaks of growth. If you are gonna raise 'em, take advantage of their good points. They got big big breasts and they grow quick. There aint no other good points to them.

I have had excellent results with mt. healthy.

I also and would feed a straight grower mix. There are tons of reasons why your feed may be the issue beyond protein as well, but your protein is way, way way too low for cornishx. You might consider buying a commercial feed to get this batch through.
 
Lucas Branham
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Thanks mick.
 
Luke Townsley
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Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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To be clear, I'm not complaining about Mt. Healthy. I love the Barred Rocks I got from them although my RI reds from them pecked a lot too. I think they are a competent hatchery. I'm just pointing out the characteristics of the Cornish X birds I got from them manifested in the environment I had them in.

I had two tractors about 8x16 with 50 chickens each for my meat birds last year. I did Cornish X, Freedom Rangers, and Heritage Whites (in separate batches). Towards the end of the cycle, I had to move them 2x daily.

I'm thinking of moving to a paddock shift system this year for my Heritage Whites. I may do a batch of Freedom Rangers too, but we'll see.
 
Luke Townsley
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Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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mick mclaughlin wrote:

I have read other folks on here talk about slowing the growth of cornish x, and I am not sure what the purpose of that would be? I mean, why buy a sports car and drive it slow? I mean these are petri dish un natural, freaks of growth. If you are gonna raise 'em, take advantage of their good points. They got big big breasts and they grow quick. There aint no other good points to them.

I have had excellent results with mt. healthy.

I also and would feed a straight grower mix. There are tons of reasons why your feed may be the issue beyond protein as well, but your protein is way, way way too low for cornishx. You might consider buying a commercial feed to get this batch through.


Mick, good points. One thing I would do is try to make it so they sleep at night. With Red lamps, they will still stagger around some in the dark, but will definitely be quieter at night. Gas brooders are another option, or when they get a bit older, just turn off the lamps at night if that is a possibility in your situation.

As for the analogy, comparing a super fast sports car to a dirty freak of nature bird that can't walk, fly, swim, or otherwise self ambulate Really LOL!!! I know what you mean, but it hit my funny bone.
 
Lucas Branham
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So I started feeding more starter feed in with my corn/grain and for the most part had no more issues. last Thursday I had 32 of the Cornish processed at about 9 weeks of age. They look great. Many processed well over 5 pounds.

This was my first experience with home raised chickens. I caught one under the pen while moving it a few weeks ago, so I home processed and we ate it that evening for dinner. Unbelievable how much better the taste was. The yellowish color of the skin and fat was neat too. They look completely different than what you buy at the conventional grocery.

Overall. I feel that I learned a lot, will do a lot better the next time around, and I am very happy with the finished product. I'll report back on how the reds are after processing. I'm giving them a little while longer.
 
Tony Hill
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mick mclaughlin wrote:

I have read other folks on here talk about slowing the growth of cornish x, and I am not sure what the purpose of that would be? I mean, why buy a sports car and drive it slow? I mean these are petri dish un natural, freaks of growth. If you are gonna raise 'em, take advantage of their good points. They got big big breasts and they grow quick. There aint no other good points to them.

I have had excellent results with mt. healthy.

I also and would feed a straight grower mix. There are tons of reasons why your feed may be the issue beyond protein as well, but your protein is way, way way too low for cornishx. You might consider buying a commercial feed to get this batch through.


We decided to slow the growth rates of our CX's, The reason we chose to do it that way, was to have the chickens healthier, and so we didn't have to kill them all at the same time.

So instead of constant feed, we feed several times a day. Instead of straight grower feed, we feed a vairety, from grass clippings, to leftovers, and so on. And the results were outstanding. Some still grew very fast, but all of them are very active and strong and FAST. Something worthy of my dinner plate! So the big ones go first. Then a week or two later, another batch. In the end, some of them lasted 5 months, and every one of them was delicious.

This year, we did 18 of them, besides some others. Same pattern as last year, and we are about to process the first 5 or so this week.

Maybe not the best plan for commercial growers, but works great for us who are raising them for food.

-TH

 
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