Cornish Rock chickens (Cornish X) are a hybrid cross between a pure Cornish and a White Rock chicken. Cornish Rock chickens have been a staple in the industrialized food system for many years because they are very fast growing. They put weight on so quickly that at six or seven weeks their legs begin to break from the weight they carry and their hearts can give out from the strain. They are also very sensitive to overcrowding. All this contributes to the mega-loss of chickens on the factory farms where the majority of these birds are raised.
The chicken-business giants responded in turn years ago by writing a 100-200 a day chick loss into their risk management, reducing the number of chickens they will pay the farmer for to take the losses into account. The second way they addressed the problem is to collect the chickens two weeks early (at 6 weeks instead of 8). These are the smaller Rock Cornish Game Hens that are readily available in the grocery store. They typically weigh at least 2 – 3 lbs less than the full size bird. Less loss for the chicken company, less revenue for the farmer.
There are two things about these birds that makes the breed recognizable anywhere, their speedy growth rate and the fact that they are…well, homely, at least until their feathers come in. Our friends at The Self Sufficient Homeacre have also taken to raising Cornish X as egg layers. They’ve found that if you give these chicks the lower protein chick starter, they don’t grow as fast and they have less physical problems. Their eggs are slightly larger as well.
We’re not in the market for any more egg layers right a the moment. But, you could give it a try. In the past we have bought the birds from Schlecke’s Hatchery in Iowa and more recently from our local Tractor Supply. Let us know how it goes.