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.
Cornish Rock chicks. These birds grow faster than their feathers! Remember the Cornish Rock meat birds post from Aug 5th…that’s 12 days ago. Here are the “little guys” at two days old…
Here they are 7 days later. At 2 weeks old they have outgrown the cage and are now living the good life in the meat bird pen. Lots of room. A happy flock.
Cornish Rock are very sensitive to overcrowding. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, such as feces in the drinking water or accumulation of dropping on the floor can easily cause the parasitic disease called Coccidiosis. (Think “Tyson” and be smart to avoid that brand in the store. See the post.)
The primary symptom of Coccidiosis is diarrhea. In the past, before we had any experience with these birds, we had been guilty of overcrowding. We lost several birds this way. This year we are giving them lots of room, feeding them organic starter feed and adding kelp and the herbal GI Soother that we mix ourselves. (Recipe for GI Soother)
More like January, but still hard to take. Baby rabbits were born this morning to a new mom. But she has them all covered up against the cold, so we haven’t been able to count them yet. When rabbits give birth, they pull their own fur out from under their chin to make the nest.
The other livestock are fine. We finished putting up the meat birds last week – 33 out of the original 53! quite a heavy loss. We heard of another fast growing meat bird this week – White Heritage…supposedly ready in 6-7 weeks. The picture looks amazingly like our Cornish Cross. Have to investigate further, since there is supposed to be less loss than with Cornish.