Permies likes chickens and the farmer likes making the best of raising cornish rock cross permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies | World Domination!
Register / Login
permies » forums » critters » chickens
Bookmark "making the best of raising cornish rock cross" Watch "making the best of raising cornish rock cross" New topic
Author

making the best of raising cornish rock cross

Lloyd George


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 159
we have raised a dozen of the beasties this year, with no mortality..my oldest daughter seems to have a way with birds..they are pastured in a chicken tractor, and fed crumbles and corn, plus whatever they scrounge...

honestly I don't care for them much, when I was little we raised fryers for Tyson...about sixty five thousand birds at a time...a growing boy can get sick enough of white chickens to last a lifetime. Ironically, I think that is what led dad and I to the organic/sustainable world...
L. Jones


Joined: Apr 29, 2012
Posts: 80
Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)


Jay,

Great stuff here, and much happier than the CX someone I know raised. I'll have to drag them here. Can you describe (or point me to someplace that describes) how this waterer is built? Does it just drip, or is there some "clever hole size thing" that makes it only drip when pecked, or what? Cleaning out trough waterers gets old - they nearly always manage to kick some poop into the trough every time it's cleaned out - this looks a lot cleaner.

In reading through what I can find on fermented feed in old threads, it's basically just soak (prepared feed and/or grains) in water for 12-24 (perhaps more?) hours? Lactic (or malo-lactic) acid bacteria on the grain being activated by water, if I recall what the sour beer brewers describe correctly (since i haven't seen any detail of what's really going on here?)

Muddling towards a more permanent agriculture. Not after a guru or a religion, just a functional garden.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
This waterer is made by drilling a hole in any old bucket(preferably not the kind I have used here because they flex with the temps and cause leakage during hot temps)and inserting poultry nipples. You can even set up a PVC waterer that attaches to the garden hose that will dispense fresh water. The one you see here was just for when they were new chicks but they love it so much I couldn't put it away, so I leave it outside where they can access it without going in the coop.

You can buy a pack of 5 on Ebay.com for $3.64 and free shipping. They are a miracle and I wish I had found out about them years ago...no more dirty water, no more waste, just fresh water. These CX started using them the moment they hit the brooder and didn't require any training. An older bird that hasn't used such a system might need a little training on them. The nipples are red and the chickens peck at them and they release a drop or rivulet of water that runs directly into the beak. No dripping from the nipples if they are inserted in harder plastic like a 5 gal. bucket or PVC.



You are correct on the fermented feeds....just soak, leave some air flow and wait. I jump started my fermentation with mother vinegar and I also use mother vinegar in the waterers. I keep the same fermentation going from the original start(called back slopping) so that the cultures remain strong in the solution and won't have to regrow each time.

In the past 7 wks I've used approx. $100 in feed for these birds. They are about a week behind the hatchery preferred weights schedule, which suits me just fine....I want them to grow slower and have a more compact frame than those that are confined to a tractor or pen and fed continuous high pro feeds.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Here's a few videos of how well these CX do on forage....they are simply amazing in their diligence to foraging! I can't really claim a 0% mortality rate on this bunch because at 3 wks the young adult rooster I had smashed one in an attempted mating and he also taught them how to get up on the side of the dog's bucket for water and three of them drowned that day. So, I've lost 4 CX to freak accidents and killed and ate one White Rock rooster during this batch of Cornish Cross. Other than that, no losses to health reasons.





Milo Jones


Joined: Dec 27, 2010
Posts: 85
    
    2
Great pictures and video Jay, thanks for posting them. Do you have an estimate of the number of ounces of your grain mix you will end up feeding them when they are finally put in the freezer?
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
I have bought a total of 600 lbs of feed thus far and still have about 150 of that left to feed. I expect it will take me through to butchering time and maybe even have some left...time will tell. I usually don't measure in ounces when it comes to livestock but I do in pounds....feel free to do the conversion.

All that feed cost me $143 at the local feed mill and has fed 55 for 3 wks, then 50 chickens for the past 7 wks and will finish them out to 10 wks.

wayne stephen
steward

Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 1694
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
    
  91
I raise cornish rock for meat because they are tasty and make amazing stock. I have kept one from last year to see if she would lay eggs . I can attest that she lays 4-5 extra large eggs a week , is as big as a turkey, and can barely get on the roost sometimes. Bertha is her name. I will not save anymore for this purpose because my hens are free ranged and she is fair game for predators - she has just been lucky. But I am now down to about 5% mortality on these birds. Three factors I believe help : purchasing day olds a little later in year - after spring rush - as the brood hens may be laying their first clutches { always less vitality there}, smaller population in the pens and brooder house , and especially keeping the protein ratio at 18-19 % . The meat bird crumbles at 22% ARE what cranks their growth to turbocharge . The slower growth is better for them and they are still large at slaughter time . I might get a few pounds less but worth it in lost birds. They still eat their share of grass and clover - just not as much as other breeds . Right now I have them in a pen with Isa Brown pullets , 2 tom and 1 hen turkeys . I believe the crosses are a bit livelier when with more active freinds - aren't we all .


Permaculture is CPR for the planet !


Travis Charlie


Joined: Jun 04, 2012
Posts: 21
I'm glad to see other people like raising these birds too. I read so many things about people who hate raising them because they are a pain in the butt. My two experiences had been great. My first batch I ordered 20 CX and 5 RI reds. Big mistake! I didnt realize how fast these things grow and they trampled all but two of my reds in the first week. Lesson learned. Still though I ended up butchering I think 15 out of that first batch. Also I skinned those (very fast) but its very hard to make a good gravy with a skinless bird. This time I got smart and bought my laying birds a month before my CX. Much better turnout. I bought 25 three weeks ago and I'm down to 20 now. I've been feeding them twice a day and I'm getting good results but how do you know if you are feeding them too much. I've heard so many different feeding programs I don't know what's what anymore.

also Jay Green, you mentioned a local feed mill. Are you meaning a feed store or an actual feed mill? I wonder how much cheaper it is and if there are any in my area.


A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, And the recompense of a mans hands will be rendered to him. Proverbs 12:14 NKJV
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
They are just feed stores but they mill their own feeds so it's fresh and hasn't been sitting in a bag in some warehouse/stores for months.

As for feeding CX.... I treat them just like any other chicken, appetite be darned, and give them enough each feeding for their crop to get full and with a little left over for nibbling on later. Just because they eat like pigs doesn't mean we have to feed them up like a pig.

Folks that feed them free choice don't stick around to see if and when they get full enough to walk away from the feeder, so they have a hard time gauging how much it takes to fill them each time. If you start out having specific feeding times, it becomes easier to see how much they eat each time and adjust the feeding amounts accordingly.
Lloyd George


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 159
So, out of our Dozen cross rocks..one finally keeled over...looked like a blocked crop...he was delicious...the other eleven are going under the knife tomorrow...I don't know if we are going to raise this breed again...I may do a batch a year for roasters..maybe two...I am thinking about some of hte heritage meat breeds...might be worth brooding our own chicks.
Travis Charlie


Joined: Jun 04, 2012
Posts: 21
Folks that feed them free choice don't stick around to see if and when they get full enough to walk away from the feeder, so they have a hard time gauging how much it takes to fill them each time.

ok Jay its time to do a little experiment. You probably right about that so I decided to see what my 20 would do. I built an automatic feeder out a 5 gallon bucket and a planter base filled it and set it out in the run and left them to it. Then I sat at my living room window and watched. As expected they ate voraciously until their crops were full (maybe 10 or 15 minutes) then went back into the coop to rest. After about 30 to 45 minutes they all had fill and went to rest in the coop are wandered around the run to explore for worms in the grass. After only about an hour to an hour and a half after finishing eating the first round they started coming back for more. After that they weren't fighting for space at the feeder anymore but there was almost a constant train to the feeder. I started this at about 4 p.m. and decided to leave the feeder till the next morning. When I went to check on them and the feed situation I found that they had eaten about 3/4 gallon of feed during the afternoon and hadn't eaten any much more through the night. Since then I have been giving them access to the feeder through the day starting at 6:30a.m. until I get home from work at 4:30 or 5 and they are consuming about a gallon a day.

Observation #1: I can get them to eat the same amount per day that I was feeding prior only if I remove the feeder in the late afternoon and return it in the morning.

Observation #2: The fatter birds tend to eat their fill then rest in the coop of worse rest their fat butts down AT the feeder. The slimmer birds foraged more even after having unlimited time at the feed.
Travis Charlie


Joined: Jun 04, 2012
Posts: 21
I just read Raising Chickens 2.0 and it really changed my outlook on raising chickens. I have an acre that is fully fenced so I will try to do the pasturing as soon as I can separate my yard into a few pastures. Anyone have ideas on what are the best fences to use. I saw a reference to electric but I'm not too keen on that since I have young kids and I really don't think stringing extension cords all over my yard would be a good idea. First things first I need to take down my temporary coop and turn it into a mobile coop. If I think about it I'll take a few pics as I'm building. I'm going to try moving the coop around on my property as well as the feeder and see if I can change where they like to hang out.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Electric paddock fencing for poultry works best if you just have a simple solar charger...so no extension cords are needed.
Lloyd George


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 159
X-rocks went bye bye yesterday...well...into the freezer anyway...not doing that again...they are too stupid to forage much, and by the time they get close to freezer weight can't get out of hteir own way...the meat is wonderful, but they really are no fun for me to raise...

Besides, my daughter and i talked it over..we are going to start pasturing the chickens in net enclosures so they do not have to move as often...
Matt Riggle


Joined: Jun 09, 2012
Posts: 1
Hi all, I am new to here, but I am in my second year of raising cornish x. Last year I used a chicken tractor and raise 25 birds, by the time I butchered I had 19, neighbors dogs got 4, lost 3 to crushing. it was alot more work then moving the pen every day etc.
this year, I got 50, actually 52, so far no fatalities, I built a permanent run for them, it is quite large. This years birds didn't grow as fast, not sure why, they do forage better, I think it is because I am not feeding as much, I only feed once a day. I buthchered 12 over the last few weeks a few each day and 16 today so I have 24 left. I am going to keep the food the same to see if I can get the rest to put on a little more wieght. mostly all hens left. Last year I butchered at week 10 or 11, this year I tried to butcher at week 8, to small, week 10 still smaller but ok, now at week 12 they seem to be just right, the hens i will butcher in a week or 2, this is longer but I have only been feeding once a day at about 12 to 15 lbs of food each day. Currently I am using 20% layer crumb, I wish I could use something else that was cheaper to feed twice a day. but this year I have no leg issues and all are healthy. Do you all have any ideas or what do you all use for feed, and what kind of price are you paying per 50 lb. currently I pay 14.50 per 50 lb bag.
Alexia Allen


Joined: Jul 23, 2012
Posts: 2
Well, I love 'em... and they scare me. Really, do I want to eat something that looks like a cross between a velociraptor and Jabba the Hutt? But they are hard to beat for feed conversion as long as I am willing to buy or grow and then haul feed out to their pen.

Their carcasses look like the chickens people are used to eating so they are a good "gateway butchering experience" for people. They serve my purposes well enough now, on a small suburban farm with lots of pasture and a big freezer.

Without those things, I would be running a small flock of egg layers and eating roosters and culls. Banties have proven their worth as broodies for hatching out fertile eggs. I prefer the taste of stew hens myself.


Alexia
Kevin Longeway


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Hey Jay, could you explain how big you have the holes in the water container? We have the on the ground kind and our meat chicken always crap on it and we have to clean it every couple days. Your way looks much better.
Shelly Randall


Joined: Jul 04, 2012
Posts: 73
Location: Central Valley California
    
  10
My friend jokingly refers to them as corporate chickens. We had to rush to butcher them too soon before they had heart attacks. Too much pressure for harvesting on time.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6523
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
In my opinion, the Cornish-X is a commercial chicken...about as far away as you can get from permaculture/sustainable as you could possibly get. They are the poultry industry's equivalent to the corn industry's GMO crops. If profit is your only goal, they will fit the bill.

• You cannot breed them to keep your flock going. You need to buy & import a fresh batch each season.
• They do poorly on kitchen scraps and yard waste.
• They are mediocre foragers - much prefer unnatural cereals/grains.
• Their specialized breeding has created an unhealthy breed...expect untimely death/diseases.
• They need to be butchered too early - before they develop flavor.
• Not enough dark meat for my liking - all breast, with scrawny legs. (Useless for soup/stock.)
• You will end up with basically the same thing Wal Mart sells.

If your goal is to have eggs, meat, and a flock that will perpetuate itself forever, I would seriously look for a good old fashioned heritage breed of dual purpose birds such as Plymouth Rocks, or Rhode Island Reds. These are 'Yard Birds' that roam your property, usually finding all the food/nutrition they need to live a full and healthy life. With a minimum of effort on your part, they will reproduce themselves as fast as you can eat them, and supply you with a daily stream of eggs. Surplus layers can usually be easily sold on Craig's Lost, or elsewhere...people are always looking for good layers.

Besides that, they will provide a much tastier chicken dinner than you will get from a Cornish-X.

If you just want meat birds check with many hatcheries for their "Frypan Special". You can get 100 chicks for $27-37 for all males. Most places want $100+ for Cornish-Xs. Do the math for your feeding system.
Meyer's (OH)
Cackle (MO)
sheila mayberry


Joined: Nov 27, 2012
Posts: 4
This is my first time raising cornish cross. I ordered 35 from Schlecht hatchery. I have 29 left of which 28 will be butchered tomorrow. Mine range with the other chickens and aside from them eating alot and very messy, they have been extremly easy. I got mine in September to do a fall harvest of them because we had such a dry hot summer I didnt think they would do good in the heat. I really cant tell you what the feed conversion was as I really didnt keep track, but they have grown relatively slow. They were hatched September 6th and butcher date is Nov 28th. Most I would say are around 5 to 6lbs right now. I do feed them 12 on 12 off. They are all pretty active but kind of ratty looking compared to my layers and roosters.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Kevin Longeway wrote:Hey Jay, could you explain how big you have the holes in the water container? We have the on the ground kind and our meat chicken always crap on it and we have to clean it every couple days. Your way looks much better.


I don't have any holes in my waterer...just the ones made to fit the poultry nipples into.

• They are mediocre foragers - much prefer unnatural cereals/grains.
• Their specialized breeding has created an unhealthy breed...expect untimely death/diseases.
• They need to be butchered too early - before they develop flavor.
• Not enough dark meat for my liking - all breast, with scrawny legs. (Useless for soup/stock.)
• You will end up with basically the same thing Wal Mart sells.


I'd have to disagree with each and every one of these points. These CX are the best foragers I've seen in 36 years of keeping dual purpose heritage breed chickens. I have the video to prove it, if my word is not good enough. One generally gets what one expects from any breed and if you provide continuous feeds and confine these birds or even if you present continuous feeds and free range these birds, you will get mediocre results on foraging.

They are not a bit unhealthy and I have found them to be tougher and more hardy than any breed I've ever raised. They can take grievous injuries and act as if it didn't happen and will heal in a few days until you can't even tell what happened. I've not had a single CX die of unknown health issues...or ANY health issues.

They do not need to be butchered early if their activity levels and diets are regulated and they are treated much like any free ranging flock. I know people who have kept them and bred them into their flocks and they have thrived up to 3 years of age.

They have more dark meat the longer you keep them, the more you free range them, the more you treat them like a dual purpose breed.

If you are doing it right, the meat you get is the complete opposite of anything you will find at Walmart. I haven't seen any chicken this lean and flavorful at Wally World....the birds in this pic were over 11 wks old and still healthy as can be and free ranging daily with my laying flock. Live weights at 10 lbs on average and processed out at 5-6 lbs. Fed layer ration and whole grains once a day and free ranged daily, all day.



Nor do I consider that these CX are poor foragers....I've rarely seen any dual purpose breed cover so much ground and forage as avidly from daylight to dark as these birds.



sheila mayberry


Joined: Nov 27, 2012
Posts: 4
Jay mine ranged good too. They were let out everyday with my layers. Alot of mine dressed out at 5lbs or more. I didnt have any leg problems or sudden death like alot of people I have read. They were very friendly birds. Kinda made me sad to butcher them I fed mine chick starter for the first 3 weeks then put them on layer mixed with scratch. They also got once in a while pumpkin and table scraps that I would give the layers too. Out of 35 I only lost 6 and those were early on. One was weak at the start and didnt make it 2 were piled upon cause it got too cold one night one got under a big bowl and I didnt know and didnt find it til the next day one was a crooked beak and one I have no idea but thats when they were around a week old. As they got older I found them to be really hardy. They were pretty messy but probably because I had so many. My neighbor and I are going to do some more come spring and see if its easier to do in the spring. This year when the heat stopped it stopped and got chilly pretty quick.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Try fermenting your feed this next time and enjoy the blissful feeling of having a coop that has virtually no smell. Yes, that's right....meaties that do not stink! You will love it! It sounds like you raise your meaties much the same as I do mine...doesn't have to be this sad meat bird story, does it?

The fermented feeds also cut down on total feed consumption by increasing the absorption of nutrients and the availability of same nutrients. The probios from the ferment are also beneficial in so many ways...will keep those chick deaths from happening and will also cut down on water consumption, even in hot weather. The moisture of the feed coupled with the electrolytes of the fermented fluids will keep the birds in fine fettle during heat waves...mine were still out foraging in 98* weathers and high humidity.

I started the chicks on FF as soon as they arrived and within a few days their feces had changed in color and consistency and their water consumption had dropped. They feathered out quickly and were active as jumping beans from the time of arrival until they were processed. All birds were healthy all the way through and the only losses on this batch were three that had drowned in the dog's water bucket as 3 wk olds and one large chick smashed by a WR rooster in an attempted mating. He died the next day and was eaten.

Here's a video showing my fermented feed system....

sheila mayberry


Joined: Nov 27, 2012
Posts: 4
I tried the fermenting when thwy were about 4 weeks old but couldnt get them to eat it. Maybe I didnt do it right. Will you give me your recipe? Maybe I didnt start them early enough or maybe I didnt get the fermintation right, But I will try this again in the spring when we get the next batch. I really would like to use something like this if it would cut down on the smell and the water. Boy did mine drink the water. For raising meaties for the first time, I think I did go. I am amazed at how many post on the losses. I also think that most use the broiler feed for their CX and I didnt. I didnt want mine to grow so fast that they had problems. And I personally think by giving them the layer feed that it provided more calcium that helped with no leg issues. Yes by the time I butchered at 11 weeks they were started to get where they waddled some when they walked, but up til butcher they all were still foraging and running around and even flying some. I even had one guy slam into my leg like he was trying to spur me. I looked at him like really? Now will be the taste test as we havent had any yet. We just butchered yeaterday and by the time that was over I wasnt in the mood to cook a big meal but this weekend we will have the tatse test. I am sure they will be as good as our first fresh eggs. Also next spring I am going to do turkeys. I am leaning towards Midget White because of the size and reported taste and the fact that they breed naturally. I plan on keeping a tom and 2 hens so each year I can hatch out my own instead of buying poults each year. I wish we could do the same with the CX, but they are so inexpensive that the cost are not that bad. I am just trying to get a little more selfsuffient and I detest what Big Ag does to our food. I have had a lot of people at work ask me how I can do this, but I tell them my chickens had a good life that I nurtured them til its time for them to nuture me. The circle of life.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
If CX won't eat something, you can bet something is wrong! It's a pretty simple recipe....feed mix, water and a shot of mother vinegar to get it charged up quicker, plus time to ferment all the way through(couple of days in warm but not hot weather). That's it. The key is to not offer anything else, just the FF. They will soon gobble it like there is no tomorrow!

I agree with the calcium from the layer mash. I also agree with feeding them regular protein rations. High protein really boogers up the kidneys, causes gout in the legs and feet.
sheila mayberry


Joined: Nov 27, 2012
Posts: 4
Maybe I didnt ferment it right be I will try again in the spring. I really like the idea of it and if it will make my birds healthier the better.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Sheila, here's a link I think you will really enjoy....whole scads of folks experimenting with the FF for meaties and for layer flocks. We have discovered a few great side effects of feeding fermented grains....other than the obvious health benefits, the lack of smell in the feces is great and all the yolks from our layers have grown to ginormous proportions! Doesn't matter the size of the egg itself, the egg yolks are all incredibly HUGE.

All the studies done on it reported a weight gain of the eggs but I never knew why and the studies didn't detail this....but we soon found out it was because of more overall yolk to white ratio in the egg and yolk just weighs more. We can't wait to see how this pans out on spring hatching and if it will mean better nutrition for the chicks.

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/644300/fermenting-feed-for-meat-birds
Tony Hill


Joined: May 26, 2013
Posts: 40
Newbie here. Saw this and wanted to chime in.

We have a small flock of 30 mixed birds. We decided to add a half-dozen CX meat birds.

To our delight, these birds are hardy, FAST GROWING, very friendly, and love to forage. We have a cicada hatch going on, and you will find very few on our acreage less than 5 feet from the ground!

But we only feed a 20 oz cup of crumbles about 3 times a day for all 30, so they HAVE to go find food, and they do!

Our CX are 8 weeks old, and are probably about 6 lbs or so. Very healthy, too fast to catch easily, and very sweet-tempered. So gentle, in fact, it will be hard to kill them.

But thanks to all for posting so much helpful information. We need all the help we can get!

-TH
Tabatha Mic


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: North Central Mississippi
I'm ordering my 3rd batch of cornish cross late this summer. We've done 2 sets of 25 each. The first round we lost almost half. Crowding under the lights, flip, etc. The second round we lost 3 and they didn't look good when they got here. I believe they were older chicks. We counted them as packing peanuts since we actually received 3 extra.

We still have 5 of these ladies awaiting butcher. They are in with my laying hens and get fed scattered feed twice a day with the others. No mass feeder filled up unless we have to go out of town and must confine them. They have full freedom of our lot and they DO walk around, scratch and chase bugs. They are 7 months old, almost the size of turkeys and waddle just fine. Their legs are further apart than my laying hens, hence the waddle. But they are quick on their feet! And no gross leg bending! They don't deal with the heat as well if they are confined, but give them a cool shady spot to access and they will use it. When we want to process one, we just go grab one and stick her in a cage with fresh water for a night.

The second batch we used 2 lights on opposite sides of the brooder and gave them yogurt mixed with crumbles right away. I also mixed ACV with the mother in their water, just a glug in a 3 gallon waterer.
The other thing we did was encourage their "chickenness". We scattered feed on the floor and ground for them right away and let them outside (protected) from the time they had decent feathers. We brought them bugs and let them chase them. We cut down to twice a day feeding at 2 weeks and fed only fermented mash. I just used a mesh strainer to let most of the liquid drain out and dumped it into a standard trough feeder. We also gave them layena from time to time.

Their poops did NOT smell any worse than my layers and as long as we kept the brooder clean, it was just like having "normal" chicks. Except for the growth rate!
So I wanted to agree with Jay in that, if you treat them right, culture their guts and encourage them to be chickens, they are just fine. Darn tasty too

Funny story, my roofer cage raises CX every year, 2 batches of 50. He's raised almost 1000 of these guys. He saw ours wandering around and asked "What kind of chickens are those?" When Hubby told him CX, his jaw dropped and he say "How'd you get them to WALK?!?" We made em act like chickens!
Adam Klaus
pollinator

Joined: Apr 16, 2013
Posts: 851
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
    
  49
I posted this in its own thread, but given the better traffic here, I though I would repost. Here is a perspective on meat chickens that goes against the CX mindset-

I like slow-growing breeds for several reasons. Slow growing birds have lower daily energy and protein requirements, so they are not nearly as dependent on processed and soy-based feeds. Their lower energy requirements allow them to make better use of low energy/ high nutrient food sources, such as what is readily available in a range setting. I am to raise my chickens in the context of 'natural farming', and slow growth makes this more realistic than breeds that were developed for rapid growth with factory feeds.

Mortality is much lower with birds that are growing slower, and are under less nutrient stress. Last year, we harvested 63 birds from 65 day old chicks. That low mortality is crucial for the commercial viability of our operation. Amortizing the costs of mortality, including the feed consumed before dying, is expensive. Plus, it sucks to deal with dead chickens on a regular basis.

Heritage breeds are like heirloom seeds, and we should support these historical legacies. When small commercial farmers turn to the hatcheries for quadruple hybrid birds (Cornish Cross), we are telling the hatcheries that we dont care about heritage breeds. If only backyard enthusiasts purchare the heritage breeds, their stock will slowly degrade and we will be left with curiousities, not the historical workhorses that our ancestors developed. It is a cause worth supporting to keep our flocks biodiverse.

Slow growth means a long growing season, which happens to line up perfectly with the foraging resources of a temperate climate. We hatch chicks in mid-April in the greenhouse. The environment there is protected and bursting with bugs and forage. By mid-May, we move the chicks to their field house. They are well-feathered, robust, and ready to make use of the bugs that are hatching outside. All summer long, from May-Sept, the chickens are ranging during the season of optimal life on the farm. The chickens are still around in the orchard in Spetember to clean up the dropped orchard fruit. The life cycle of slow growing chickens is perfectly timed to the cycle of life on our farm. Remember, chickens are workers on a permaculture farm, and we work our chickens from last frost in spring up to the first hard freeze in fall. The whole farm organism benefits from this long life cycle.

The labor requirements of a five month grow-out are suprisingly similar to a shorter, more demanding grow cycle. Once our birds are three months old, they have 'gone pro' at being range chickens. They are perfectly trained to come home at night, large enough to withstand a hailstorm, and smart enough to avoid predators. All the work is getting the flock established.

At harvest time, we average over 5 pounds dressed carcasses per bird. The meat is dark and rich. The copious body fat is golden yellow. The birds are just on the brink of sexual development at 5 months, so we have maximized the natural life cycles of the chicken.

By now, you must be wondering, which breed? After years of experiment, I have settled on Black Jersey Giants. They are commercially available, heritage birds. They are smart but not devious. They grow large as a chicken can. The inexpensive assortment of hatchery meat chicks often is full of second rate meat breeds, like Aracaunas and Wyandottes, that never fill out a plump satisfying carcass before sexual maturity. The cheap choice is usually not the most economical, and that is certainly the case with meat chickens.

Finally, as the icing on the cake, the female Jersey Giants go on to lay quite well. So well, in fact, that we have taken to keeping a dozen hens and hatching out our own chicks this year. So the hatching of baby chicks is one more element in the cycle that we control and profit from. The vigor and vitality of home hatched chicks is something to behold! Such a joy to participate in. I'm raising a big, fat, fried heritage chicken leg to this system right now! Cheers!


Bella Farm, a Biodynamic Farmily Farm-

Brown Swiss Raw Milk Dairy - Heritage Meat and Egg Chickens
French Intensive Market Garden - Diverse Permaculture Fruit Orchard

https://www.facebook.com/BellaFamilyFarm

struggle - hustle - soul - desire
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Tabatha, you ought to show that fellow my videos! He'd have to sit down and check his pulse! LOL I agree....treat them like regular chickens and you'll have a regular chicken, just with more meat when you are done. They can be raised to as old as someone wishes if they are treated in this manner.

My first batch of CX had zero mortality out of 20 birds. My second had one chick die of unknown causes(or the rooster, not sure of that one) at around 3 wks. Out of 54 chicks, that's as good as DP mortality rates. I'm convinced it's the husbandry and not the breed that have given this CX chicken a bad rap.

I am currently raising 24 heritage line Delawares and 2 WRs from the same source, a nationally respected breeder. I've had 2 of those chicks die a little after the first week of unknown cause. The rest act much like the CX and are voraciously foraging and eating like sharks at a feeding frenzy, putting on weight like the CX even. We'll see where it all ends with this heritage line of true dual purpose breeds~I can already tell that the feed conversion rates on the Delawares is phenomenal and I'm already familiar with the rates on the WR~they are my all time favorite DP breed.

This is some pics of her breed stock, which she has been working on for many years to restore this old breed:









 
 
subject: making the best of raising cornish rock cross
 
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books