Tag Archives: Cornish Crosses

Cornish Crosses not fat enough!

Well who would have thought that I’d have to put off my butchering dates because my Cornish Crosses are too skinny? Not me or any of you either I bet! Instead of butchering at 9 weeks as I’d planned, I’m holding off for another two weeks to see if they gain the weight needed to get to 4 lbs as I’m hoping. While the later date is a bit of a shock, the reality is they look really happy and healthy and no sign of the dreaded list of possibles: heart attacks, water bellies, laying down to eat, coming off the legs and so on.

My skinny, free ranging Cornish Crosses!

My skinny, free ranging Cornish Crosses!

My little guys and gals are running around like all my other heritage breeds and free ranging for a lot of their food. In fact, they are the messiest birds I’ve kept in terms of wasting food from the hopper. There is more food on the ground around the hopper than I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what they are doing with it that the other birds don’t, but perhaps the behavior warrants a ‘quit playing with your food’ lecture.

Cornish Crosses hanging out in their yard.

Cornish Crosses hanging out in their yard.

As it stands, I’m now going to wait another two weeks to see if they get bigger. They are 8 weeks old today in the above photo. When I  first got them I was worried and alarmed at their rapid growth. However, after I moved them out onto the free range pasture their alarming rate of growth seemed to slow to a more natural rate of development. So far, they run and jump and flap and race around like any chickens I’ve kept. I’ve got renewed confidence that I’ll be able to keep a couple of females for breeding and they won’t die of heart attacks before reaching maturity. Well, that’s my thought a present!

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Filed under Animal issues, Chickens

The Cornish Crosses first days

Newly arrived Cornish Crosses having their first feeding.

Newly arrived Cornish Crosses having their first feeding.

Now that the Cornish Crosses are safely nestled in the nursery, it is once again time for poopy bum patrol. It seems that these little creatures have a much higher rate of poopy-bum than the other chicks I’ve raised. I don’t know if that is typical for the breed or because they were highly stressed having not made it here straight away as they should have. And, there is the possibility that the feed store fed them medicated starter while under their care even though I’d already had them vaccinated. At any rate, I have had to do daily patrols and cleanings for several days now and with about 40% of the chicks.

The key thing about these birds that all the literature warns about is the rapid growth. Many advise restricting their food intake in order to keep them from going ‘off their legs’. I’m not quite sure how you restrict these little guys’ food exactly and worry that I’d be starving them so I’m going to try another route to solving this problem.

As with all my baby chicks, I will take them fresh greens as a daily supplement. Not only does this help with the poopy-bums but I’m hoping it will also slow their growth rate down a bit. I was worried that these little guys might not like the greens and at first it looked like they might not eat it. Of course, it only takes a few of the brave to take an interest to get the whole flock jockeying for position around the plate. I’ll employ the ol’ Weight Watchers rule of fill up on vegetables and see if it works–here’s hoping it is a universal principle!

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Filed under Chickens, Educational, How to..., Learning to Farm

First attempts with Cornish Crosses

With any luck, this is what I'll end up with when these babes are full grown. Photo credit: JB Farms

With any luck, this is what I'll end up with when these babes are full grown. Photo credit: JB Farms

Spring has sprung here on Howling Duck Ranch and it is marked with the arrival of the new baby chickens. I have ordered 50 day-old Cornish Cross birds for meat. They are said to be easier to raise than the straight run Cornish broilers with less chance of heart attacks and water-belly that the broilers (regular supermarket birds) are prone to.

The arrival was not without its complications. They were supposed to arrive on Friday afternoon on the mail truck. However, around 11 am I received a phone call from the Williams Lake Post Office letting me know the chicks would be arriving there at 5:oo pm, oh, and could I please pick them up before they close. The Williams Lake Post Office is a nearly 500 kilometer one way trip away!

Needless to say I spent the better part of the afternoon in a panic trying to find someone to care for the chicks over the weekend and arrange for a courier company to pick them up on Monday and bring them in to town. Thankfully, the feed store owner came through for me, they picked the chicks up on Friday night and the only courier that comes to Bella Coola said they would bring them in on the truck on Monday. Even so, the feed store owner was worried about them making another long trip without food and water being less than a week old by Monday.

As luck would have it, someone from Bella Coola dropped into the feed store yesterday and the feedstore pounced! Would you mind taking these chicks with that order of yours? Being a neighbourly sort (as many of us who live in the sticks are) he kindly obliged and my wee-uns arrived safely last night in the gentle care of a man I’ve only met once last year at a party! He did a fine job as everyone arrived alive and well.

So, this morning’s chores once again included the now routine ‘poopy-bum patrol’. So far, everyone still looks well. In fact, I’ll be surprised if I lose any more (one was lost in the mail before making it to the feed store). If there are no other losses, this will be the best rate I’ve had. Usually with 50 chicks I expect to lose 2-3 chicks in the first week. Fingers crossed for these babes.

I decided to try the Cornish Crosses for two reasons this year: my customers wanted a heavier meat bird and I want to breed them into my range birds. I’ve been breeding a heavy heritage mix of bird over the past few years in an attempt to get the best of all worlds: a good egg layer, good meat bird, efficient range bird, and cold heartiness. In the end, the heritage breeds are only so big and don’t have the real ‘meatiness’ of the breast that we’ve become used to thanks to the hybrid birds of the commercial flocks.

I’m by no means doing a professional job of this. I’m not worrying about line-breeding or incubating generation after generation. Mostly my chickens take care of themselves. They do the mating and the hatching on their own. My only hand in the process is to cull the ‘Jenny Craigs’ (the skinny light bodied chooks) and ensure good breeding stock. So far, we’re all quite happy with the program.

This year however, now that I have these Cornish Crosses, I plan to separate some of the bigger hens and mate them to the Cornish Roosters. We’ll see if those plans pan out!

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Filed under Chickens, Educational, Ethical farming, Heritage foods, Sustainable Farming