Cornish Cross chicks

Transporting chicks

“I haven’t even been out to look at the chicks today,” Mark admitted.  “I’ve just been watching the ducklings.”

As the primary chick caregiver, I had been out to feed, water, and refresh bedding for our Cornish Cross
broilers, but I have to admit that 95% of my attention had also been on
our other fowl.  The sad truth is that Cornish Cross — although
very efficient meat producers — are not very charming birds.  A
friend of mine runs a pastured meat operation, part of which involves
raising Cornish Cross in tractors, and she once confided that she
doesn’t like chickens.  I don’t blame her — the breed is bound to
turn anyone away from poultry.

Chick coop

What’s wrong with Cornish
Cross?  I’d read plenty of condemnation of the breed, but felt I
had to try for myself, so I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  First of
all, the chicks are definitely hot-house flowers.  We got 26 in the
mail ten days ago and have already lost six — one was runty from the
beginning, three succumbed to dampness in the brooder caused by keeping
the ducklings with the chicks (a problem I’ve since corrected), and the
other two just keeled over one at a time when they were about a week
old.  In contrast, I’m used to vigorous chicks of laying breeds,
all of which generally survive to adulthood if they make it past the
three-day recovery-from-hatching period.  While I’m sure I’d have
lower losses if I raised Cornish Cross again without ducklings, I
suspect you simply have to accept that a certain proportion of Cornish
Cross broilers will perish.  (Please do comment with your
survivability numbers if you’ve had any experience!  I’m curious to
know what you can expect if you do everything right.)

Reclining chicks

Scruffy chickAlthough
I try not to let aesthetics sway me when it comes to farm animals, I
also have to admit that Cornish Cross chicks are just plain ugly. 
Yes, they were cute fuzz balls for the first couple of days, but they
quickly started outgrowing their fluff and sporting a paunch that made
them waddle instead of walk.  Even at a very young age, Cornish
Cross eat and poop so much that, despite me refreshing the bedding
daily, the fuzz on their bellies gets scruffy…an issue that’s
exacerbated by the breed’s tendency to lie down to dine in Roman
fashion.  I actually rushed them out of the brooder and into a coop
when the chicks were just shy of two weeks old in an effort to keep the
manure issue to a sustainable level.  (In case you’re curious, the first photo in this post is the chicks being transported to their new home.)

Cornish Cross chicks on pasture

Thrifty Chicken BreedsOn the other hand, at least at this young age, some of the chicks do
seem willing to go out and forage.  Granted, they’re more prone to
get lost (and then to peep pitifully until I send them home) than our
Australorp chicks are, and only perhaps a quarter of the Cornish Cross
flock is willing to leave the feeder at any one time.  But it’s
nice to know at least some greenery will be converted into this year’s
chicken dinners.

Maybe if I’m lucky our
Cornish Cross will outgrow their tendency to drop like flies and we’ll
end up with twenty broilers in the freezer.  On the plus side, this
breed may be ready to eat at six weeks of age, so at least we won’t
have to put up with their issues for too much longer.  I suspect I
won’t repeat the experiment, though — lower feed costs aren’t quite
enough to counteract the high price of buying chicks and the trauma of
pulling dead babies out of the brooder.  Since I’ve trained Mark to
eat the leggier layer broilers, this experiment just consolidates my
gut feeling that Australorps the best meat chicken choice for our farm.

Latest Comments

  1. Nancy May 19, 2014

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