Raising Cornish X for Meat – The TRUTH

By aoxa, Oct 8, 2013 | Updated: Apr 17, 2014 | | |
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  1. aoxa
    If you do not want to read about chickens used for meat, you may want to skip over this post. We are omnivores here.. so we eat meat, and enjoy eating meat. If I am going to eat it, I am going to raise it if possible, and know that what is on my plate has had a wonderful life full of adventures and fresh air. I will not send my birds to the butcher either. I want them to spend their very best and the one bad moment here at our farm. It is less stress on the birds in the end, and those are my feelings on the subject.
    So please, if you are vegan or vegetarian move along.. Don’t read this.. Unless you are looking for proof that chickens for meat can be raised humanely. They also can be killed humanely – and that to me is of the very highest importance. We are thankful for every bite of chicken we take. We know that the animal did not live in vain. They were raised with love and care and strict attention to detail in their management.
    I feel a very strong urge to advocate for all the abundant misinformation about the common broiler chickens and their apparent disturbing behaviour everyone seems to go on about.
    Here are some of the many labels I often see associated with the CX:


    • Disgusting
    • Ugly
    • Smelly
    • Lazy
    • Can’t walk (leg issues)
    • Won’t forage..
    • Lays in their own filth
    • Organ failure – heart attacks common
    • Stupid
    • Tasty (*this one is true*)
    What you don’t know is that all of this has to do with improper management! If your CX are disgusting, smelly, lazy, spending much of the day sleeping in their own filth before dying of heart failure, it is YOUR improper husbandry that is the issue, not the Cornish X! if you don’t know any better on how to raise them, I can’t really blame you. The feeding guides shown online make my jaw drop. No wonder your birds are laying around, pooping every 5 seconds and sleeping in it. It’s not your fault. The instructions on raising the CX have mislead you. All the falsity is overwhelming. Threads on backyard chickens with the titles like: Cornish X’s = Nastiest birds EVER, does not help their case any either.
    Last year I had written off the CX as a Frankenchicken based on all the info I read about online. I was dead-set against raising them on my free range only farm. I didn’t want to have birds penned up for their entire life.. I heard that they can’t/won’t free range… I put my foot down… Until I saw one video that made me second guess everything I’ve read about prior. Maybe they can free range and be chickens after all? I might as well give it a shot.. If they don’t pan out, I can at least say I tried, right?
    This is MY experience with the broiler better known as the Cornish X, CX or Meat Kings.
    This is a week-by-week summary. You can read in more detail here.

    [​IMG]
    Week One and Two (Days 1 – 13)
    I had a rough time with them from day 1 to 14 It was extremely humid and incredibly hot.. we had a run in with Cocci and lost 7 CX and 10 RSL chicks. We did not treat for cocci, but offered electrolytes (Stress Aid) the day after we noticed low movement and puffiness despite the heat. They went quickly. Here you can not get Amprol without a vet’s prescription. It took me 48 hours to get my hands on some, and by that time the electrolytes really perked them up. The strong survived. After they were on grass, the birds were golden. No more illness (save one) who I moved back in and gave amprol (the only one that was ever dosed). Chick was fine within 2 days and back out with everyone.
    [​IMG]

    Two Weeks (Day 14-20)
    I opened the pop door. I continued to offer electrolyte water because of the heat being so stressful on the chicks. I found the first week they really didn’t go very far. They could not understand the concept of going BACK INSIDE at night. I had to pick each chick up and place inside the pop door (this includes the red sex link chicks).
    [​IMG]

    Three Weeks (Day 21-27)
    Finally the CX are spreading out and returning to the pen at night on their own. Real feathers coming in. They are a good 3 times the size of their hatch mates (the red sex link layers).
    [​IMG]

    Four Weeks (day 28-34)
    Really good at foraging now. They run as soon as they hear the back screen door slam shut. They want treats. They are getting closer and closer to my neighbour’s property line.
    [​IMG]

    Five Weeks(day 34-40)
    Almost 100% feathered out. They are passing our property lines and ranging two acres now. I do not like to watch them eat. They inhale food. I do love watching them forage, and they are very active. As soon as the pop door is open they are off..
    [​IMG]

    Six weeks (day 40-46)
    Not much change since week five for experience. They have grown some. They are ranging exceptionally well. No leg injuries save one I jammed in the sliding door of the barn. She will be the first processed. Haven’t lost a single one since cocci outbreak.

    See video proof of my CX birds free ranging @ 6 weeks (with other heritage birds.. and goats.. and rabbits). Many of them run like Phoebe on Friends [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Seven weeks (day 47-53)
    I processed the girl with the injured leg. She was limping, but still got around. I didn’t want it to get any worse so she was processed along with three others. They were too small at this age. Roughly 3 pounds. We were going to do ten, but after seeing the first four gutted and weighed, we decided against it.
    [​IMG]

    Eight weeks (day 54 – 60)
    This is when most would start processing the CX. I figured they are still getting around very well, so I’ll give them a little longer.. May do the boys at 9 weeks..
    [​IMG]
    Nine Weeks (day 61-67)
    They were hogging all the food at feeding time from EVERYONE, so we processed the largest 10 boys at 9 weeks old. Averaged out about 4.5 pounds. Largest was 5 pounds, smallest was just under 4. Much more breast meat seen than at 7 weeks.
    [​IMG]

    10-11 Weeks (day 68-81)
    picture is at almost 11 weeks – I have 28 left to process. 4 are boys, 24 girls. Two of the girls look very small. I think I may keep them to laying age. A strict feeding regime is important to do this.. I want to see what they will give out when bred to a Heritage Plymouth Rock. I know they don’t breed true.

    At 12 weeks of age (88 days old) we processed 26 chickens. 22 pullets and 4 cockerels. You can see them in this video at that age. They were still extremely active and a good size. After they were processed (neck, feet and wing tips off) they averaged 5.5 pounds each. Smallest over 5 pounds, largest over 6. One chicken can feed 8 no problem (unless you are feeding teenage boys) [​IMG]
    All in all I loved my experience with the CX. They are not the monsters you read about throughout the meat bird forum on BYC.
    What they are:


    • active,
    • intelligent
    • healthy
    • friendly
    They are just chickens who just happen to be extremely food motivated, and were bred to gain weight at a 2:1 feed conversion ratio. *ie: 2 pounds of feed yields 1 pound of chicken*
    The poop smells like poop. The smell is not indistinguishable between any other breed of chicken I have raised. IT smells like poop. Keeping the litter dry and practising the deep litter method surely helps. If it is very humid out, I find Stable Boy helps greatly with the smell. They do poop bigger than other chickens their age because they EAT more.
    If they are not allowed access to full feeders at all hours of the day, they will go on a mission, searching high and low for all of the food that our beautiful mother nature has to offer them. They are amongst the best foragers I have ever witnessed.
    The only negatives I have noted is that they are food aggressive, so ample feeder space is required. They also do eat extremely fast and to watch them is not pleasant. It’s like watching a starving animal inhale their offerings twice a day. No matter what, they always seem to be hungry. They are not starving. Don’t let them trick you into feeding them at all hours because they INSIST they are starving. I don’t buy it [​IMG]
    Please help stop the misinformation about the Cornish X!

    UPDATE:
    I successfully raised two meat hens to 10 months of age. The winter was rough on them not being able to forage, and unfortuantely they got too large. I was however able to get eggs and hatch chicks from them, so meet the second generation. The mothers were commercial broilers (CX or Meat King) and the father was our one and only Jagger, a heritage strain of Barred Plymouth Rock.
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    5 days

    [​IMG]
    6 weeks

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  1. digbychris
    I love this article, thanks so much! I've always had layers and decided to try Cornish x this past spring. My first mistake was buying to early, it was too cold even with heat lamp. I brought them inside to our basement for several days in a galvanized tub. After that they went back out, separate from the larger layers in a large indoor part of a barn. I really wanted to integrate them with my free range laying flock but they quickly got too large, rarely moved away from feed and water, and I was concerned with bullying and predation. A couple of days I tried keeping them outside in a small tractor coop, but I still think it was too cold with the wind (Indiana). Out of 6 I was able to process 4, one died from the initial cold and I lost another later probably due to heart trouble. I processed them myself, which wasn't bad but I am fabricating a plucker to ease the process. Now, this spring I will know that I can integrate sooner (if I buy later in the season, that is) and they can enjoy life a little more.
    Like you I am too interested in quality of life to raise animals inhumanely, and had planned on avoiding the cx in the future for that reason. Now that I've read this article I'm excited to give them another chance and see how it goes. Thanks again!
      ZurcherFarms likes this.
  2. Old Philosopher
    Came here looking for average butchering age.
    I agree with just about everything positive that's been said in the article, and comments.
    One year we raised heritage birds for meat. What a joke. At 5 months they'd gone through two bags of feed and averaged 2 1/2 lb dressed. The carcasses looked like they'd already been salted and peppered. Never again.
    Cornish-X RULZ!!!
      ZurcherFarms likes this.
  3. slordaz
    when we processed the one Cornish x we kept free ranging without special feed with our layes, she was a 15 months old and was starting to have trouble getting around, she's been laying 2-4 eggs a week, She dressed out at almost 13 lbs.
    we had a lot better luck with them making em get up and free range just like the layers the layers from day 1 of getting them , we processed the cockerels early (20) weeks still getting birds as big or bigger than that at the store,when they started becoming aggressive and never had the problem with the hens alone of overly aggressive about food, They stayed pretty active until just over a year old
      MossyOaks likes this.
  4. HollistonHomesteading
    I love these chickens. They are so friendly and my kids hold them and pat them all the time. We bought them to raise for meat but fell in love with their personality. Of course they started getting BIG so we did butcher most but kept a few favorites. Maybe we will get a second generation too!
      MossyOaks likes this.
  5. GreatBreeder
    What happened to the CX x BR?
      ZurcherFarms likes this.
  6. Fields Mountain Farm
    I just wanted to say that is a great article.
    I purchased 50 CX chicks several years ago and raised them with some chicks I'd hatched out of my layer flock, I didn't know how most raise theirs. So I inadvertently saw mine behave just as you have described yours. I butchered them out at about the same time you did yours and had the same types of weights. And I kinda hated to see em go, they really were the friendliest birds in the yard. :)
  7. chickadoodles
    I enjoyed reading your article. I am ordering my first cornish x today they should be here by the end of next week. I will have to keep them separate from my layers as the layers have automatic feeders and food in them at all times. So I will limit these to twice a day feedings. Thank you
  8. katierosew
    I bought three Cornish X's by mistake, and this article has helped me to understand them a lot! I couldn't figure out why I had these supposed gold sex links turning white and were three times the size of my other chicks! I wanted backyard chickens for eggs, but my husband was really looking forward to the meat side of having chickens. Since they aren't the breed I wanted anyway, and they'll probably get too large for the coop, we might cull them just for meat.
  9. Betsy57
    I fed mine chick starter and flock raiser until butcher. No health issues and they were nice and meaty at the time I butchered them. 6-8 weeks.
  10. KatD
    I don't read your recommendations for feed. I just brought home four one week old active, strong Cornish Rock and placed them in the brooder with 2 bantams of the same age. How do you recommend to feed them.
    1. GreatBreeder
      Restrict the feed, no free feed.
  11. Sojourner2
    I've always raised Cornish x with my fancy layer hens. One time I kept a Cornish, named Lucky of course, because I missed her during processing. She became our double yolk Queen of the laying hens. All her eggs were double yolked, don't know if she could have reproduced as we never tried to hatch her eggs, she lived to the age of three, when a fox got in the hen house, she was too slow and earth-bound to get away. We did have to give her a special laying box on the ground as she was too buxom to fly.
      ZurcherFarms likes this.
  12. bwindell
    We are presently on our second batch of CXs. Our first 12 were butchered, most at 10 weeks, the last 4 made it to week 13 or 14. We allowed them to free range with our RIR. There were no problems encountered during this time. We had one cock that had trouble walking because of his size, he was butchered first. I must say, I was so impressed with the finished bird, that we went out and got 20 more. Presently raising our second batch. They are free ranging at this date and have become the "ward" of one of our ganders who watches over them as a mother hen... lol. I will buy no other meat bird but these from now on! LOVE the bird! Thank you so much for the article, it is truly an accurate description of what to expect and what they can be!
  13. slordaz
    We kept 2 hens out of 10 chicks we got in April , and they are free ranging with the rest of the mixed flock including the ducks, hoping to get chicks from them as our barred rock likes them. They are doing well about once a week for last 2 weeks we started to give them a spa day which they love ,warm water with some epsom salt in a big bucket,and keeps the others from trying to clean them. They are on same feed as our egg layers plus they forage with them. yesterday though we saw one limping and checked it out it's not an injury but more like maybe she got stung or something in the foot pad while out free ranging so we isolated her and are keeping an eye on it. They are kinda bossy at feeding time with the others but that was easily fixed by we put a lid of feed outside the coop, one inside and lined the ramps to the nesting boxes, they actually prefer to stand up and get the feed off the ramps as feeding time. They are pretty docile and a lot easier to catch if need be than the egg layers, dual purpose and the ducks. They were given a next box down on the ground but are going up the ramps and trying to fit into the egg layers nesting boxes now, so I could make an extra large box with a ramp for them as the only ones using the box on the floor are the ducks.
  14. bwindell
    Thank you so much for this article! We are present;y raising our first CXs, 12 of them, and this is the best info we have read so far about the breed! I was wondering if they could be free ranged along with our RIR, this has certainly answered all the questions I had about them!
      ZurcherFarms likes this.
  15. bwindell
  16. HeatherLynn
    Thanks so much for this. I just have not been able to bring myself to raise these because of all the stories. I raise healthy happy birds and that is my one consolation when I do process some birds. If my care can make this big a difference from the stories that this could be well worth it for my family.
  17. onaquest55
    they are friendly and I love raising them. As long as they don't have food sitting in front of them all day they do forage. I can't wait to raise my next batch!
  18. lightchick
    They are so cool! Is there anyway to make them get excercise in the winter?
  19. mmmooretx
    I have just started researching raising, batch style, these for meat and have a question. In the reading I have done I have repeatedly seen the caution about overfeeding them so how correctly feed them, assuming no free range.
    Thank you for your time and support in advance.
  20. phinux
    Great article! I hope to do meat birds someday.
  21. aoxa
    I'm very happy that most of you see that it can be done, and are willing to try it. If one person succeeds in raising them differently, then my job is done :)
  22. ShelbyCoral
    I love this! This is the best. My cornish hens are foraging to! inside a pen sadly, we have a hawk problem. But its a huge pen! Fits about 30 chickens. and i have 12 in there. :)
  23. bensteph821
    I just purchased 6 of these around 4 weeks ago and it is amazing how fast they grow! I think after reading your article I will let them out to free range now, see how they do! Thanks for the info!
  24. daynamariex
    +None of my chickens that lived past 8 years old showed signs of pain or struggling to walk towards the end.
  25. daynamariex
    I have had pets of all sorts, dogs, cats, horses, a cow, a pig, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, hedgehogs, guinea pigs, budgies, fish, you name it. I'm sure most the people on this post would agree there's nothing inhumane about letting a chicken live out it's life naturally. I kept my comment simple, not tryna make you look like monster. I'm sure you would rather grow old than be killed young. But if you have a response to this comment, please message me cause I don't think you're allowed to debate this topic on a public post on this website.
  26. daynamariex
    I take back the last 15 words from my last comment. I hadn't seen the part where it says you kill them as young as 12 weeks old.
  27. NaturalMomOfTwo
    This is awesome. I also free range my meaties and it's the best chicken I have ever eaten. I put apple cider vinegar in their water and that helps a great deal with all the so called problems others have with meaties. Thank you for writing this.
  28. JFreeman
    I enjoyed your article immensely! Now I think I'll have my husband build me a fourth... fifth(?) (ducks need two, lol) coop/brooder set-up just for meat chickens. :)
  29. daynamariex
    I'm a vegetarian and I'm not gonna read through this and argue my thoughts. Just wanna point out that it's impossible to 'prove' there's a humane way to take something's life. If you believe killing chickens is necessary, fair enough, I believe some people deserve the death sentence, but it definitely isn't humane. If anyone has anything against this comment please message me cause I respect this post isn't here to debate, neither is my comment. I'm glad you're making their lives as humane as can be in the meat industry.
  30. piglett
    thanks for the info

    we just got 6 to try this week

    i figure on putting them on fermented grower at about 4 weeks old
  31. puravidatricia
    Wonderful article, I had been contemplating raising some CX and your article was encouraging. Had a serious laugh watching them run.
  32. Lisa Glasgow
    This is wonderful, thank you for taking the time to write and share this...
  33. Anna-MN
    FINALLY! The truth about CX very eloquently written.
  34. Magic Birdie
    Very interesting
  35. redchickenguy
    i was not going to get any more meat birds because the red rangers lost money not saved it. i always thought Cxr where horibale birds but now i think you have changed my mind
  36. mmgillan
    This is my first time raising them and at first they ate all the time! Even laying with their heads in the feeder. Until one AM I found one dead. So I researched and found they shouldn't be eating all the time. I have since moved them to the outside coop which is open down below for them to forage. Also cut their feed to in the AM and when it's gone I don't refill till before nightfall. I noticed on a few of them their rear ends are bare and red & bulging. They are walking, eating & popping fine. I have them in with some pullers same age and there is no picking going on that I have seen. Is this normal? Just curious.
  37. lzeynep
    Wow they grow so fast!
  38. SarniaTricia
    Great article... your experience is worth sharing..Thanks
  39. Ocegra
    Maybe if every person on every chicken website made a contribtion to shop the factories from doing stuff inhumanly that would be awesome. Imagine how much better the chickens would taste if they could free range and have a better variety of foods, it's less cleaning for the factories, and it's saving them a lot of money from not having pay for all that food. Why not! Why can't they let chickens be chickens! It really gets me mad how they treat chickens when they help us so much in life AND are smart, funny creatures! Who's with me!?! Let's make a special category on this site to stop chicken abuse! We can change the world, if we put the effort in, so why not! you'll be helping out so many lives? It's worth a try, so come on, who agrees!
  40. Cheepskate
    Well presented information, thank-you. I am looking to raise some meat birds soon and appreciate your info.
  41. tepchickens
    We raised CX last year and they were my daughters favorite. So friendly and curious. (Yes she will still eat them) Can't wait to get this years batch in a few weeks. Thanks for the great article.
  42. NanaLynn
    Great article, thanks! We may be getting some of these in the next few years to try out. I was really debating ever getting any due to all the negative stuff out there.
  43. katsdar
    Thanks for the article. You will have to do an update on your chick
  44. K-12 Chickens
    Great article. We raised nine Cornish Rocks last year, with great success and are doing fifteen this year. For the first week or two, the nine we raised were kept in the brooder with chick starter available at all times. When it was warmer (and the chicks were getting larger and able to jump out), they were moved to the "meat bird coop", which is triangular, floorless, and moved around when the ground begins to get packed down. At night, the chicks were brought back inside because it was still a little chilly for them. By about three weeks of age and after, food was limited to around three or four servings a day. This worked well and encouraged them to forage and walk around for food outside of the coop. The heat lamp was eventually removed from the coop and the Cornish Rocks were kept outside day and night. By allowing them to free-range and moving the coop every few days, they never had any health issues and every one survived to processing, which was done at around 8 weeks old. We fed them more chick starter than usual, with scratch mixed in about 2 weeks before processing. The average finishing weight was around 5 lbs.
  45. new2chickes
    Thank you very much for writing this, I was horrified to read some of the stories. I'm getting my Cornish crosses next friday along with my Layers and Turkeys. I plan on free ranging them all as well.
  46. Arielle
    Nice documentary!!! You should win an award for this one
  47. ButchGood
    I raised Cornish Cross myself. I also free range all of them with free choice finisher feed. They do waddle around and forage quite a bit espeacially when raised with your egg laying flock, but most of the time they like to lay around the food dish and eat and eat and eat and poop and eat and eat and poop. Mine grow way to fast to consider letting them live past 8 weeks old. I raise all Males and the biggest are 7 to 8 lbs with the smallest 5 lbs dressed. I would never consider raising one of these birds past its market age. I just find it cruel to let them grow that fast that big for that long. I know one man that let one of his grow to 18 lbs. I was not impressed and felt for the poor creature. These guys IMHO should be raised with great respect and humanely treated for thier short lives. They should be dispatched as painlessly as possible at 8 weeks old. They are a woderful table bird and I consider their life a gift. These birds are my #1 choise for meat production.
  48. boyswillbeboys
    I need to decide where I'm going to let my CX range, i'm worried they are to stupid to stay away from the dogs (who are chained) and there is no grass left in the run after last year's broilers. I had them in with layer chicks, so they had to much feed and were fatty. :(
  49. holm25
    how big do you think the chicks will get im guessing pretty big
  50. MichelleVA
    I had a meat chicken like them she was my best friend! She knew her name and loved to be cuddled! Then...she had a...heartatack I think!.. I loved her so much!!! Before she came along I would of loved to butchered a chicken, but now...I wouldn't be able to find it in me too do so... I wish I could hug her one more time...

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