Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Alive!

We went back and forth on the issue of raising Cornish X chickens for meat before we decided to give it a go.

There are several issues of contention here;

  • Frankenchickens as they are often called, are hybrids.  This means that I can't take two Cornish crosses and mate them to produce a new CX.  Decades of breeding have made this chicken and I can't just take two other breeds to make this chicken either.  So, if I want to raise meat chickens I have to buy new chicks every time.
  • They can be disturbingly non-chickeny.  They've been bred to grow fast (8 weeks to butcher) so all they do is sit in front of their food bowls and eat. 
  • Fast growth has a downside.  Chickens can die of heart failure before you get a chance to butcher them yourself.  They also suffer from leg issues which result in limping, leg dragging birds.
So why would we raise these birds for meat?
  • Expense.  They are in and out in 8 weeks.  The feed to meat ratio is higher than for heritage birds which can take 6+ months to reach a decent size.  At the butcher date the heritage bird is still going to be smaller than an 8 week old CX.
  • Customer demand.  People have a bit of a thing for big boobs.  Your grocery store chicken is a CX and they have giant breasts.  Heritage birds make up for their A cups with larger thighs. CX are also going to be more tender because they are so young.
We reluctantly put in an order for 50 chicks which arrived today.  Some farmers have been free-ranging their CX with success so we are going to attempt the same.  In the next couple of weeks Limey is going to build a chicken tractor which will house the birds and allow us to move them around the yard.  By removing feed for 12 hours of each day, hopefully they will look elsewhere (the ground) for food.

Here are some pics in black and white because I suck at taking photos with the heat lamp on.

Eventually we're hoping to breed a decent sized dual purpose bird (Orpingtons). For now we'll give Frankenchicken a try.


  1. I've been using Frankenchickens for years now. One year I decided to just let them eat grain instead of that super feed I call it.

    At 12 weeks most barely dressed at 3 lbs. Many died. I don't know if it was a bad year, the feed or just bad luck.

    I hate the darn things. They're disgusting. They eat, drink, sleep and poop. I try and get them in my freezer as fast as possible. So I give them the grower. So far I haven't lost more than a total of 11 or so when I use the grower and I've been doing this for a long time.


  2. I have to say I'm with Lisa, I really hate the things too. I have heard people raise them on pasture, Joel Saltin included, however it was a miserable experience for us. They eat and poop SOOOO much, they really don't forage and just tramped down the grass. After 24 hours there was an unbelievable amount of poo on there. We had to move them into the woods, and hose and rake it off. The area was dead the rest of the year. We lost 30% of them last year. I have raised them the past 2 years, but I won't do them again. We are attempting to hatch our own dual purpose birds this year. So far our first attempt was only fair and we only have 10 birds, barred rock and barred rock mixed with australorp, orpington )and ameracuana for eggs). We'll see how it goes, if it doesn't go well I guess we'll be going chicken free this year. I don't' mean to be negative, a lot of people raise them and are happy with what they get.

  3. We have 16 nasty meatkings on the go, they are at 4 weeks and I hate going near them. Alas, hubby works away and I am stuck filling their feed bins and water buckets. He tells me the chicks hatching now are going to replace these meatkings forever. He thinks he has come up with a Cornish cross that will pasture graze and have tender meat. Hmmm, not sure about this but am very hopeful!

  4. We've raised Cornish X on pasture for 8 years with great success. They grow faster and pluck easier.

    We get day-olds for $1 or less from a semi-local hatchery (about 45 minutes away) in IA. We brood them, then turn them loose in the 'play pen' (a larger brooder) until they are fully feathered.

    They then go out in the chicken tractor. We contain them in the tractor for about 2 days so they know where their food and water supply is.
    We move the tractor one tractor's length each morning and let them loose. They roam the pasture eating bugs and all the loose grain they can scratch out of the horse/cow manure. We give them feed at night and lock them back in the tractor.

    They act like normal chickens (except they grow faster.) We do not feed any higher protein grower mix, just the same bulk mix we give everyone else. The only animals that get 'special' food is our layer flock.

    Our birds are always tender when slow roasting. If I need to cook them quickly, they are placed in a brine solution in the morning.

  5. i have 3 week old Frankenchixs too... 22 of them in fact started with 25 but 1 died of pasty butt, and two more well their lovely siblings stomped on them and I'm guessing squished and broke their necks .. A friend free ranges his and they dress out for the Roosters at 12-15lbs and the hens at 10-12lbs which are the size I need for my family .. Best of luck we will be free ranging ours it just takes a little longer to meat them up instead of processing at 8 weeks we do ours at 14 weeks