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making the best of raising cornish rock cross

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14191
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
The first time I raised cornish rock cross, I was not prepared for ... how different it is to raise them.  By harvest time I had a 30% mortality rate!  I was sure I was somehow inadvertantly torturing these birds!  After doing a lot of checking around, I found out that most people experience at 30% mortality rate.  This breed grows so fast many suffer
from broken legs and many have heart attacks.  These birds grow so fast that there is a period of time at about six weeks of age when their feathers are in, but not completely and they look half plucked.  This breed has no real interest in eating bugs,  they would rather just hang their head into the feeder all day.

As they approached their harvest date I told myself I would never raise these again.  They are just too freaky.  And the way they die at the drop of a hat is just too depressing.

Harvest day came.  And we ate one.  It was the tastiest chicken of my life.

So here's the upsides:  Other breeds are generally harvested at about five months (21 weeks).  These are generally harvested at about 8 to 9 weeks and when you harvest them, they are bigger.  Half the time of having to care for them - that right there
makes for half the hassle, half the predator problems, half the weather problems, half of ... a lot of things.  The feed to meat ratio is excellent.  And did I mention the flavor?

There are people that raise cornish-rock-cross and get a mortality rate under 5%.  I have been able to get it down to 15% and have a lot of ideas on getting it in line with those that get less than 5%.

The first thing I've done is to never keep more than 25 cornish-rock-cross chickens in a pen (paddock) at a time.  When it rains or gets cold they want to pig-pile on top of each other and the chickens at the bottom die.

(something I have not tried yet) If they are in a paddock, cut back on their feed.  Some people insist that you feed cornish-rock-cross twice a day, but make sure they run out of feed at least a few hours before you bring new feed.  This keeps them from getting too heavy, too fast.    I really don't like the idea of depriving a chicken of food since a chicken naturally eats every two hours.  But ... in a  paddock there is gobs of food if they just go and get it.  So my thinking is that on the fourth week to feed them every twelve hours  but just enough so that in three hours the food is gone.  If they want more they will get it from the forage.  And observe  how it goes.  If they do forage more, I might cut it back to once a day.  I prefer the idea of leaving them a week's worth of food  while they are in a paddock and they can eat all they want - but they prefer the forage.  But the cornish-rock-cross doesn't seem to want to play that way.

Enticing them from early on with bugs.  When they are chicks they are active and they LOVE bugs!  But when they get older  they just want to hang their head in the feeder and not chase bugs.  I raised a bunch of meal worms and fed them to  the chicks with the idea of feeding them meal worms once a day for the first three weeks and then, hopefully, they would  forage for their own bugs!  Every time I brought them bugs they went wild for them.  But I never got around to the part  of monitoring how they did in the wild.  My bad.


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Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I was dissapointed also when I tried to raise them. they certainly require a bit more managment then any 'ol chicken. I might give it another shot someday. I also had a horrible mortality rate. I think I only got to eat 4 of them. I was hoping to butcher as needed but that doesn't seem to be possible with them. they need to all be done in at the same time. I left one to grow just to see what would happen. it seemed to do ok till fall and then i found it dead. gave another away to a gentlmen that bought a butcher goat. so that makes 6 out of ten that made it to 'edible'. they were tasty though! much better then the free range mix breed roosters. I think part of why they are yummy is because they don't go out and get much activity. the muscles don't get tough. well, that and they fact they are ready to butcher so young.


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Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I have read that they forage better with other breeds around to set an example:

http://www.homegrownevolution.com/search?q=chickenzilla


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
it might depend on the situation. I had multi generations of wild banties that survived almost exclusively from foraging to set an example as well as a few various other breeds.......the cornish rocks didn't seem to get the idea.......
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I wouldn't be surprised at all.

In fact, the blog I linked to featured a lone Cornish Rock laying hen in a thoroughly mixed, but very small, flock...so, a very special situation indeed.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14191
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
polyparadigm wrote:
I have read that they forage better with other breeds around to set an example:

http://www.homegrownevolution.com/search?q=chickenzilla


That is brilliant! 

Of course, layers can be a bit harsh to "new birds" - especially if they are smaller. 


Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
I have been wanting to give these a try, but now..... sigh.

Question :
I wonder if there would be a way to weigh the buggers and cull them in small groups when they reach a certain weight....?  Seems like they die when they are reaching a size/weight that is not noticeable except by their own bodies.

I would like to hear what those people with only 1% loss rate are doing.

What did you do with those that died?

~Jami
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
mine didnt' die when they reached a certain weight and that isn't really the problem. they can outgrow their joints and bones at any time really. I had some that had to be put down before they were even fully feathered and certainly not worth eating in my book. and a few that made it into adulthood. I have a hunch that the ones that croaked early were the ones that were a bit more aggressive or for some reason got more feed. the ones that lived longer may have been a bit lower on the aggressive scale.

it appears from my research that there are huge differences in mortality rates based on the different strains used to create them. next time I will go with a different hatchery at the very least.

I just buried them when they died, well I think I fed a few to the dogs.... . I won't eat anything that I don't kill. even if I I think I know why it died and that it was benign. the idea of eating a sick animal doesn't appeal to me irregardless of the reason it was sick.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
Thanks for the info Leah ♥

Looks like I'll have to work on my nerve - LOL
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
One more thing ....

I've heard you have to feed these guys different than chickens, and reading Paul's preference for paddock-free-ranging - what, if anything, were you all feeding these birds?

I love the idea of a totally natural/wild diet for all animals. If we are going to eat from them their diet becomes very important, any ideas on this?

Thanks
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I was feeding a regular starter mix in with the limitations suggested and of course whatever they could scrounge up which they didn't seem terribly interested in. the farthest I ever saw them from the barn as chicks was maybe 20 paces. and they only went that far to meet me when they saw me coming.....you know....the food lady . the one I allowed to mature would never go out and scratch and scrounge for anything. if fact. I suspect he died of starvation because when I stopped feeding the goats anything but hay for the winter. he died. I think the only thing he ate was what he could steal from them. I know for a fact I saw him choking down alfalfa pellets sometimes. never seen that before. but I think also think I got one of the lines that produced a serious broiler bird for commercial operations.
Paca Pride


Joined: Apr 07, 2011
Posts: 5
I've had good success with raising ours in the chicken tractor with turkeys.
My tractor is 4'x12' on skids made from carport parts. 
It follows the llama and alpaca herd and is pulled over the poop piles to rack out and eat bugs.  I can move it within a single pasture if I'm doing a renovation followed by seeding, but it usually ends up having a run in each of the pastures during the season.

I usually raise 15-20 meat birds with 3-4 turkeys in this space.
Once they are past brooding, they are allowed outside the tractor during the day and locked up back at night.  I give use free choice feed during brooding along with the patch of ground they are on with some waste hay or straw.  After brooding, they forage during the day and are go back in at the end of the day with some feed tossed in trays. 
The tractor moves every few days from one spot.  I try to target mossy spots and poop piles with the tractor within a pasture area.  They then go to the next pasture a month or so later and do the same rotation through that area. 

I do reduce feed quite a bit when they are fully foraging. This has worked out well.  A general rule I use is examining their crop. If I can observe them during the day, before feeding time (to get them into the tractor) I can get a sense of their ability to forage. I look for a bulge you can see when standing near them. If you can grab them in the tractor you can also feel how full their crop is as well. I found it good indication that they were getting enough.  As they are growing I give them enough feed to make their crops slightly bulge at the end of the night once they've receive some feed. With great forage, there is little need for a lot of feed. By learning to ration feed to the birds as they need it, I have noticed the birds are healthier and also have less fat accumulation.   

I start my run in Mid-May and then begin to process chickens in Sept-Oct, 2-3 at a time, 1-2 times a week.  By the end the turkeys are the only ones left.  They stay rotating in the pastures until I pull the herd off for the season. I usually then move the tractor up to the front "sacrifice" winter paddocks, with the herd near the barn, and use a deep bedding approach for the rest of the turkey run. I harvest turkeys starting in November and finish in December as needed for holiday meals with the remaining ones used for ground turkey.  In the spring I move the tractor back out to pasture to prepare for the next run and rake the bedding into the paddock to become a garden paddock (this year we are trying wheat and onions).

We also have a fixed coop for 26 egg layers and they free range. We do have to fence them out of the garden paddocks once we start planting them, but some 5' fencing does the trick.  For certain portions where we are germinating in the Spring, the flock stays cooped up for a few weeks and is brought extra greens and a tray of compost with worms and bugs to scratch through.  The floor of the coop is fencing with catch trays that slide out to be emptied every 2-3 months.


[Thumbnail for 06-17-10 Chicken Tractor 001.jpg]

[Thumbnail for 06-17-10 Chicken Tractor 003.jpg]

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5849
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  88
For all of the problems I have heard with the Cornish-X's, and the "Rangers", I think i will either bite the bullet and breed my own (Indian Jungle Fowl=Cornish) X Sussex or just send Meyer a check for $26 +s/h for 100 of their "fry pan special".  No, they won't be ready for slaughter in 6 weeks, but they will still be alive/healthy when they are ready.  The Cornish Xs that are being marketed are a fat, lazy eating machine, designed for the commercial market, not the sustainable producer...they cannot even reproduce...they are too fat to F*** once they are old enough to do so (if they haven't died before that).
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 3953
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
130
The problem we had with them, after we'd sorted out how to make the things walk around and forage instead of sleeping with their heads in the feed bowl, was that their skin is so soft that within a few weeks of them reaching 'finishing size' their feet wore through.  We wanted to keep them for breeding and were very hopeful that the rooster, who was a little smaller and slimmer than the hens, would be a good meaty cross for our laying flock.  But after he wore great holes in the bottom of his feet just from waddling around in the grass he wasn't going to much use to use, so we ate him. 

This a photo of one of the young hens, with her legs bowing under the weight...



This one is sulking as I'd found her hiding and made her stand up and get some exercise...



And this is the rooster, at exactly the same age - noticeably slimmer!  But the skin on his feet couldn't take the strain of exercising and, although we kept him longer than any of the hens, he still didn't make it to breeding age.



We also bought a 'freedom ranger' rooster who was much better at foraging and grew at a sensible-ish rate, but his feet wore through just the same and he lost the ability to walk within days of starting to crow, so he was no use to us either.  Except for the pot.

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John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5849
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  88
The Freedom Rangers and the Cornish X's are absolutely useless past about 8-10 weeks.  Their only saving grace is that you do not need to build roosts in their hut, because they are too lazy to jump up on a roost 35cm (1 1/2" above the ground!  Their usefulness is over before they even reach full flavor!  Your comment about them sleeping with their heads in the feed dish is right on...eating machines.  Cross a Jungle fowl with a Sussex, and you will have a much better flavored eating bird, without all of the health issues.
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 3953
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
130
Our problem is simply *finding* suitable breeding stock. 

We are limited to either whatever the local agri shop has in stock, which is highly variable and not usually suitable.  Or waiting till we have friends visiting from the UK and traveling by land not air, so they can bring hatching eggs with them.  Eggs that are flown never hatch for us, and we have an incredibly poor hatching rate with anything we import, no matter how we do it.  But we did manage to hatch out a couple of light sussex last time, and one, a rooster, has survived long enough to start breeding.  We have him penned with a couple of hens of unknown breed but who look like Delawares (though what on earth Delawares were doing in a Portuguese farm shop I have no idea) and are hopeful that soon we'll have some fertile eggs from them.

We also have a naked neck rooster running with some hybrid layers and bantam crosses (again, all we could get) and have a few young chicks from those.  Also a single Maran hen and single Cream Legbar hen (typically, all that hatched from imported eggs) who aren't laying yet.  I'm still undecided which rooster to run them with...

The naked neck is very popular here, I think because they cope with the hot summers better.  The rooster seems nice and gentle too, though after the last two we had which were crossed with fighting bantams and would tear you apart as soon as look at you, I guess anything would seem gentle. 

As for feeding the cornish x, we found that so long as they weren't given any feed in the morning, they soon learned to race (well, waddle) around the place and clear up any stray grains near the other chicken pens, and they would forage really well so long as there was absolutely no concentration of feed anywhere that they could lie down next to.  We would pen them at night with a tiny handful of feed, and they seemed to maintain their weight well on that regime and became quite fit and active.  But the regime wasn't enough to save them - their skin is too soft to cope with all that waddling.

Our freedom ranger *did* roost, by the way.  But he'd hurt his legs jumping down again and I'd have to go into the pen to rescue him every morning as he'd end up stranded up there too terrified to move. 
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3468
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  63
Burra, I assumed Portugal would have traditional breeds of meat chickes. You mention naked necks, are there others?
I'm hard to horrify, but I find these Cornish X things (or more pecisely, our creation of them), quite gross.
Can't breed, can't walk, can't hunt...the whole sordid thing gives me the creeps.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
I have friends who run an organic poultry business.  They have solved the Cornish problem by doing exactly what PacaPride explained so well, limit processed feed!  For these birds foraging for most of their food is a necessity to balance out their growth rate with what their bodies can handle.

Hey PacaPride - is that a duck I see in your tractor  You didn't mention ducks!
Paca Pride


Joined: Apr 07, 2011
Posts: 5
Indeed, two meat ducks were the new thing to try during this past year's run.
They did equally as well, requiring the addition of a small pool of water to cavort in.
I probably won't do ducks again, didn't get enough meat from either of them.

This year's run will be all Cornish Rock Cross (15-20) with 3-4 turkeys; seems the most successful.

Funny, though, the main priority for even doing the tractor was not to raise meat but to help establish the pastures and the cycle of tilth and control biting fly populations.  We took 17 acres of land that had been logged in 1998 and had 10 years of growth over the logging slash and turned it into a homestead staring 2005.  The pastures established in 2006 and here in 2011,  still consider them establishing.  The main battle is moss control which in some areas I use Iron sulfate to kill before seeding.  But with the tractor I can drag it over very mossy spots and let the birds tear it up, then cover with waste hay or straw from the herd's feeders and seed.  The straw mulch seems to do the trick of adding cover and enough sequestered carbon to get grasses and clover established. 

So, getting meat was actually a by-product, a welcome one at that, of our system for fertilizing the pastures and controlling bugs!
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 3953
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
130
Leila wrote:
Burra, I assumed Portugal would have traditional breeds of meat chickens. You mention naked necks, are there others?


We've finally found some Portuguese chickens for sale! 

It turns out there are three traditional breeds in Portugal, the Black Lusitano, the Pedres, and the Amarelo (Yellow).  Each breed can be either fully feathered or naked necked.  Here's a link to a page with a few pictures  http://galinhasalverca.8m.com/corkboard/index.html .

Our 'naked neck' rooster looks identical to the naked version of the Amarelo, so that's probably what he is.  Only a few of his offspring have naked necks so we'd decided he was some sort of hybrid, but it could be that he's a 'pure' Amarelo but not true breeding for the naked neck gene. 



It seems nearly impossible to find local people who will sell you chickens - I think it's fear of doing business with strangers who might cause trouble with things like income tax.  But finally the local agri-shop has some Pedres chickens in stock, in both naked neck and full feathered versions, and the boys have gone off to try to bring me a few back home. 







T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
my experience with the cornish X's is limited to this past month.  i was sent cornish X  by mistake when i actually ordered pure cornish.  i didnt want these things but im stuck with them.  i decided to raise them battery style in some empty rabbit cages.  i have 3-4 per cage.  they are now 5 wks old and im seeing leg problems.  one already is lame.  and on wire is not working out  for their feet.  so im going to butcher the worse ones early.  its an aggrevation caring for them.  plus i dont enjoy butchering chickens.  its alot of work doing all that feather plucking and such.  i find much more joy in butchering rabbits or other mammels.

question for those that raise/raised the cornish X's ....do ya'll always do the plucking deal..or has anyone just skinned them  out?  any opinions or suggestions?
Seren Manda


Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
My dad had a method for plucking fowl: campstove in the back yard with a stock pot of paraffin, which would get melted over low heat. A 5 gal bucket of icewater. Hold bird carcass by head or neck, submerge into the paraffin a couple times then a dunk in the ice water. Peel the feathers off in big chunks. One could then chuck the dried globs back into the hot paraffin to remelt, and just skim out most of the feathers.

Very efficient.


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T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
Seren wrote:
My dad had a method for plucking fowl: campstove in the back yard with a stock pot of paraffin, which would get melted over low heat. A 5 gal bucket of icewater. Hold bird carcass by head or neck, submerge into the paraffin a couple times then a dunk in the ice water. Peel the feathers off in big chunks. One could then chuck the dried globs back into the hot paraffin to remelt, and just skim out most of the feathers.

Very efficient.




thats different i never heard of using paraffin before.  thanks for the suggestion.
Seren Manda


Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
T. Pierce wrote:
thats different i never heard of using paraffin before.  thanks for the suggestion.


During duck season, my dad would charge his buddies $5 a bird for plucking, $10 for plucking/cleaning. He does pretty good business.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5849
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  88
Sounds like a quick/clean way to pluck a bird.
My only objection would be trying to compost the feathers coated with wax.
Poultry feathers are 15% Nitrogen.  Every 7 pounds of feathers in the compost pile adds a full pound of nitrogen.  Not too bad for something most people just throw away.

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
I've used wax for ducks, but did not feel it was worth it.
You save on pluck time but you add the expense and clean up time of wax, so it felt like different work, but not less work, to me.
Note: I've found that if I don't bother with the left behind, hard to get pin feathers they are easy to remove after hanging time, freezing and thawing has happened. A lesson learned for a perfectionist.

We have skinned them, when the circumstances warranted, but it's such a shame to miss out on that wonderful duck fat in the skin really makes duck high on my list of good eats.


Edit: to update.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5849
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  88
Skinless chicken is bad enough.  I don't think I even want to try skinless duck.
That's where the flavor comes from.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1385
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    6
Skinning Birds:  We skinned ours for the first time last fall.  I will never pluck a bird again.  It was so fast and easy and all of the feathers are contained on the skin instead of floating around making a big mess.  Yes, we are missing out on the very tasty skin but my birds are pretty tastey already and hubby and I are not even close to showing any ribs - we can do with out the skin.  Skinning was so fast and easy that I don't dread butchering at all.

Cornish vs. anything else:  Those and Leghorns were my first birds.  Hated them.  It wasn't until I got Rhode Island Reds, and a few other heritage breeds that I like raising chickens.  Don't get nearly as much meat but I feel that they are better tasting and , cooked in a Schlemertopf, I don't mind waiting till they are older so as to get the eggs and the tasty little bird.

PacaPride - thanks for all of the detail.  We are getting Spanish Blacks in another week or so (never had turkeys before) and I got lots of great ideas from your post.


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blackpowderbill Hatfield


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 43
Location: 14519
Jami McBride wrote:
One more thing ....

I've heard you have to feed these guys different than chickens, and reading Paul's preference for paddock-free-ranging - what, if anything, were you all feeding these birds?

I love the idea of a totally natural/wild diet for all animals. If we are going to eat from them their diet becomes very important, any ideas on this?

Thanks


I ran into the Nutrina feed rep at the Tractor supply. She asked what I was looking for, I explained cheapest feed for chickens and ducks...will horse pellets work? It seems to have all the same ingredants as bird feed with the exception of a sweetner. She said its all the same  just check the protien levels.
Guess what? the birds and our one dog now eat chicken crumbles,fowl pellets,cracked corn & horse pellets. I also toss in snails,worms and grass'es. Today the chickes got a treat, scraps from the prior evenings chicken supper.
Next week I'm going on the search for straight oats~


Wm. Brookover~ Opinion's given at no extra charge
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
blackpowderbill wrote:
I ran into the Nutrina feed rep at the Tractor supply. She asked what I was looking for, I explained cheapest feed for chickens and ducks...will horse pellets work? It seems to have all the same ingredants as bird feed with the exception of a sweetner. She said its all the same  just check the protien levels.
Guess what? the birds and our one dog now eat chicken crumbles,fowl pellets,cracked corn & horse pellets. I also toss in snails,worms and grass'es. Today the chickes got a treat, scraps from the prior evenings chicken supper.
Next week I'm going on the search for straight oats~


i had some gamefowl on a farm walk before.  it was a cattle farm.  they would scavange behind the cattle and eat the missed cattle pellets.  it was a lower protein but what the fowl ate from the natural feed around them made up for it.  but they did wonderfully well on those pellets.  cattle feed is cheaper per 50 lbs too.  if i remeber correctly. 

as for oats.  oats is a wonderful feed for chickens.  its only 8% protein.  but if you soak/ferment them, the protein shoots up to 12% or so.  if feeding oats its best to at least soak them.  the fowl will like them much better, and are easier to digest.................if the fowl are grown they may not take to eating them to readily cause they arent use to them but if you soak dog food,  fowl love this,,,,,,so mix the oats in with dog food and they will get used to eating them. 
Michelle Johnson


Joined: Nov 16, 2011
Posts: 10
    
    1
Here's my experience of raising cornish cross this year. I started with 19 chicks for the first bunch put them in a Large plastic dog crate with a heat lamp and a large feeder and cake pan waterer. After losing 3 and giving away a sickly one I put some 2x4's around on the floor so they would stop climbing on top of and smothering each other. It worked, no more smothered chicks. As they got too big for the dog crate I just opened the door into the dog kennel and added another feeder outside the crate. The 15 birds grew like crazy and at 7 1/2 weeks old we butchered them (mid May). They were huge and delicious!

Another batch was started basically the same way on May 11th and butchered on July 6th at 8 weeks. I got 30 chicks. This just happend to be 1 week after I started some sexlink chicks with my banty hen. When the banty heard the new chicks she went crazy trying to get to them, so I put her and her dozen week old chicks into the pen with the 30 cornish cross chicks (thinking this is crazy). I did not lose a single chick! The banty took care of the whole mob! At butcher time most of the cornish cross were alot smaller than the first batch. I presume that this is from having more birds in the same amount of space and more pecking order issues. They had three feeders full of food at all times and one waterer. I also put the 2x4's around on the floor to keep them from climbing on each other and on occassion threw in greens from the garden that were devoured with relish!

I am sure I have alot to learn but wanted to share my experience!
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
My first batch of CX were a couple of springs ago. I got 20 chicks from TSC and placed them under a White Rock broody hen in the middle of the night. By next morning you couldn't tell where broody began and chicks ended there were so many little orange legs sticking out from under her!

I had them out on grass within a week with the rest of my layer flock(30+ dual purpose layers) and they foraged right along with everyone else....right up until the day I processed. They were fed once a day along with my layers and ate the same ration~laying mash and whole grains, had to walk up a ramp into the hen house each time they wanted water or food and later, when it got a little hotter out, the water was kept outside. I only put out enough food for all chickens to eat once a day and no more.

I added unpasteurized ACV to their water from day one.

I butchered at 11 wks with finishing wts of 9-10 lbs and dressed wts on average of 6+lbs. I didn't lose a single bird and all internal organs were healthy, the birds were clean and active right up to the day of processing with good mobility and health in evidence. These birds were still foraging along with the layer flock, so the foraging question, in my mind is answered by, "Yes, they still forage when they aren't presented with continuous feed a few inches from their beaks all day."

Next month I will be doing my second CX batch of 40-50 chicks but I won't have a broody this time. They will still free range, still be fed once a day and, I expect, I'll still have big, healthy chickens when I process.

IMO, you get out of these birds just what you put in. The meat was delicious, the birds were meaty and healthy and they foraged beautifully.
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
I haven't read all posts. With Cornish you have to manage their food. If they have a feeder that is full they can't stop eating.
As Jay just said he feeds once a day.
Puttings the chicks under a broody is a great idea.

Poltry was our cash crop when I was a boy. We bought chicks for 1cent each raised them to fryers.

Now we incubate our hen's eggs, raise the chicks to replenish the hens and for frezer camp.



Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
This spring's batch of meaties will also be fed fermented feed from day one, along with the UP/ACV. It increases the protein levels of average feed rations, increases good bowel flora thereby increasing nutrient absorption and stopping the yellow, liquid and stinking feces that is characteristic of these birds. Better health is the result, with a bird that isn't losing all its nutrition out its backside. Free ranging~not in a portable pen~but out on the fresh grass, also helps with digestion and health.

A pic or a few of the last batch:









Here's some of those birds that "don't forage".....and they are foraging.



And some of the CX awaiting processing:

richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
Your place looks great.
kent smith


Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
Jay, thanks for the post, it is inspiring! I was talking to my neighbor who raises over a thousand of these out on pasture and we just raise enough for ourselves, but we both agreed that we had differing results from different hatcheries. we both use a hatchery that is close and their breeding stock seems to do better out in the pasture than a couple of other hatcheries that cater to broilers that are raised indoors. I like that the hatchery is only a few hours away and even though we get our chicks in the mail, they are hatched on a monday or tuesday and we get them the next morning.
kent


Kent
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
YW!

I'm getting mine next week in the mail from Central Hatchery in NE. All reports from others who use them are favorable with healthy, huge chicks that thrive well. I am getting 50 chicks for $60(shipping included) for a chick price of $.12 per....unbelievable cheap pricing and, from all reports, a good product.

From a frugal viewpoint, this is a good bird to raise for the amount of meat one puts in the freezer and jar and it doesn't have to be a sad tale of illness and death if one uses their noggins on husbandry for this meaty breed.

I'll post pics of the new chicks and their progress if anyone is interested.
Ryan H


Joined: Dec 03, 2010
Posts: 58
Does anyone have experience with McMurrary Hatchery CX?
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Here is a pic of the CX in their paddock at 2 wks of age:



And today at 3 wks:





These have been fed fermented feeds since arrival and are now on fermented barley, wheat and cracked corn only. They free range all day and are very active and on the go at all times. A hungry bird is a foraging bird~these get fed twice a day and that will soon go to once a day feedings.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
My current batch of meaties are still in full good health and foraging like madmen at 7 wks. No health problems, no leg problems, no problems at all except they range so far out in the surrounding woods and land and they don't come back to the coop until almost full dark. These are the best foragers I've ever owned of any breed I've had...extremely good at hunting and come home with full crops.

IME, anyone having high mortality rates needs to look to their husbandry methods instead of blaming it on the hatchery. If they arrive at your place healthy and make it past the first week, the fault is probably your own if they didn't survive to be processed.

These birds can be raised just like any free ranged layer flock as long as you are not offering continuous feeding....and no one should be doing that with a free range flock anyway.

To give you an idea of the difference in size and production of these CX, this pic is of a dual purpose roo next to a CX hen of the same age~this pic was taken when both birds were 4 wks old. I am feeding fermented layer mash and whole barley grain, once or twice a day depending on their needs. Please note the absence of bowed legs that everyone complains of with this breed....slower growth, more exercise, better bones and joints~just like with us humans.





My CX roost on roosts every night, forage like normal birds and have great personalities. There is no smell in my coop, though it houses 50 birds in an 8x 10 space each night, and they do not drink excessively...no matter what the next picture shows! LOL This is their favorite waterer that was used when they were chicks and they just like it better than the larger 5 gal. waterer. I have no idea why but they all want to drink at once.



And in the coop:



On the roosts...these are the lower ones. There are higher roosts for those who like it up there and even higher places...like on top of my water buckets~GRRR!



Raising these CX is a breeze and even a joy. They are great birds for entertainment and for huge quantities of tender meat.
 
 
subject: making the best of raising cornish rock cross
 
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