Cornish Cross and Dark Cornish

Cornish cross chickensWhite
, Golden Comets, and Barred
Plymouth Rocks
the only
varieties I’ve had sufficient experience with to really rate.  But
I’ve stumbled across some other chickens that deserve a mention,
especially in the broiler world.  The term “broiler” refers to any
chicken that is eaten at a relatively young age.  While you can
raise a dual purpose breed like the Barred Rock to the broiler stage,
most people who want to raise meat chickens go for a special variety,
the most common of which is the Cornish Cross.

The Cornish Cross is a
hybrid between a White Plymouth Rock and a Dark
Cornish.  Like Golden Comets, the resulting hybrid vigor is a bit
astounding.  While the parent breeds take 12 to 20 weeks to reach
slaughtering weight, Cornish Crosses may get there in as little as 8
weeks.  People also love the big breast on Cornish Crosses, very
different from the slenderer breasts on more traditional broiler breeds.

However, Cornish Crosses
have some major issues.  They grow so
fast that they often overload their hearts and legs and die before
getting old enough to slaughter.  If I thought our White Cochin
was a lazy hen, I’d be shocked by the lack of foraging ability among
Cornish Crosses — I’ve been to visit operations where the pastured
birds spend all day sitting in the shade, panting.  Connoisseurs
of chicken meat also note that Cornish Crosses lack the subtle flavor
of old-fashioned birds (although I’ve also heard pastured poultry
farmers who raise traditional breeds lament the way that their
customers turn up their noses at the more flavorful meat — it is
an acquired taste.)

Dark Cornish chickens

This year, we’re going
to be experimenting with one of the parents of
the Cornish Cross — the
.  This
traditional broiler
breed is reputed to take up to twenty weeks to reach slaughter weight,
but they are excellent foragers and are nearly feral in their ability
to fend for themselves.  I’ll be sure to let you know whether the
Dark Cornish are worth the extra time.

While you’re waiting on
our results, check out our
homemade chicken
.  We
use them in our
and plan to
add them to our
forest pasture as well.

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