Raising large table birds

By duluthralphie · Aug 2, 2015 · Updated Aug 2, 2015 · ·
  1. duluthralphie
    The lowly CX gets no respect, until you put a 13 pound dressed bird fresh from the oven on the table!

    We have all heard the names they are called “frankenbirds” or “mutants”. The common story line goes something like “ they are lazy, stinky, smelly' sit in there own poop.”

    The myths are they are too lazy to walk, their legs are so bad they can't stand, and of course they will die at 8 weeks of age. Well, I am working to dispel those nasty rumors. They do not need to be processed that early and have a 4-6 pound dressed bird. You can raise them longer for a larger juicier bird.

    CX's can be healthy normal chickens, they can lay eggs and have babies and live longer healthy lives.
    Look at the guy in this picture, he is Bert, I use him as my avatar. The picture is Bert at 9 months of age and over 25 pounds.

    Now I am not going to tell you, you can raise a CX for 5 years and get 280 eggs a year. You are not going to be able to over come the genetics. But you can and should expect more from them than a bird that needs to be a drumstick in 6-8 weeks. Nor am I going to tell you this is the cheapest way to raise a broiler. If you want the fast growing bird at the cheapest cost possible, move on there is nothing to see here... If you want the best tasting chicken you have ever eaten, keep reading...

    It starts with the arrival of the CX's. You need to have lots of room for them. This is what I use. These are panel either 6 or 8 feet wide and 2 feet tall. I use to make them out of 2x4s, but to cut the weight I now use 2x3s. I make the frame and attach ½ hardware cloth. I attach them using torq head screws. They can be set up in many configuration in a matter of minutes.

    As you can see some of the cover panels are larger than 24 inches wide. That was an old design, I have since refined. They had problems and were clumsy.

    Once you get your chicks and get them into the brooder area, you need to start training them. I place the waterers a fair distance from the feeders. By the time they are 3 days old I will have the waterers as far away from the feeders as possible. CX's are lazy by nature. Make them work and move for the things they want and need.

    I do not use the commercial feeders. I use wooden trays I made myself. The reason is genetics. I do not want them crowding a small feeder. My trays are 4 feet long and 6 inches wide to accommodate as many birds as possible in a short time. Cxs are breed to eat all the time, I want to fight that genetics. I start buy giving them 22% protein for the first 2 days, and I let them eat at free will. Now I do measure what they eat. This is done for later so I know how much to feed them.

    After 2 days you need to start severely limiting the feed. I feed them twice a day and let them eat all they can in 20-30 minutes. I found most birds are done eating at 30 minutes. I then remove the trays. I want to force the CX's to be active. I give them sand/gravel in a tray to pick at all day and to give them some grit. I have mixed in commercial chick grit to give them something to dig for. When they start “free ranging” I feed them once a day for 30 minutes every evening so they will go back into the “safe area” of the brooder/tractors every night. You will find you may need to modify some of your chicken raising techniques and equipment to raise the super large birds.


    Like this door ,for instance, is a little small for Bert.

    You will find others on BYC have raised super huge roasting birds. We all do it by limiting feed intake and keeping the birds active. Free ranging a CX will make a better bird in the long run. I keep the chicks indoors for 10-14 days. I then move them outdoors. I place them in a brooder/tractor with a heat lamp. I only use it a few more days until I get them acclimatized to the cooler Minnesota nights. After a few days in the tractor start letting them out for a few hours in the late afternoon. After a couple days of this I let them out all day long.
    As you can see, I use a bunch of panels and wood boxes to make a brooder/tractor for my 70 Cx's. Nothing fancy, kind of redneck, does the trick.

    I have a large uncovered pen 65x50 ft which I keep my other chickens out of ( or try too) so the weeds and grass grows 3-4 ft tall. I have a door from the tractor to the pen. I will keep them in the pen until it is eaten and trampled down, then they hit the great outdoors. When letting them free range it is important to give them something to keep them active. I have lots of junk for them to climb on and crawl under. I throw them a little and I mean little scratch so they keep digging for morsels.




    This is the" free range" area I have set up for them to start with.

    Choice of feed is as important as the amount of feed. CX's are predisposed to kidney, heart and leg problems. I use a 22-24% protein chick starter for the first few days. I buy one bag and when it is gone I drop to a 18% protein feed for a couple bags then to a 15-16% grower. I like mash but have used crumbles, your choice.

    Now the feed store people will think you are crazy. The guy at my feed store tried to tell me I could not feed CX's less than 22% protein. Told me all kinds of things I was doing to hurt my birds and all the nasty health problems I would have. I did not try to change his mind, I simply said, I have done this before, I raise them slower, longer and larger than most people. Adding I like to have my birds dress out at 12 pounds. At which point the conversation changed to “ really? You raise 12 pound birds?”.

    On the way to becoming 13 pound table fare. Forgive my socks and sandals, a fashion statement designed to drive my kids nuts.

    They are happy healthy birds, when I switched to this method I stopped having large losses, I did not have one case of ascites in my last batch. I processed at 13 weeks and had roosters averaging between 11-13 pounds, hens 9-11. They are not “tough” or “stringy”, they are delicious. We had a 13 pounder on the table last thanksgiving with extended family around. The turkey on the table hardly got touched. The chicken was the star.

    We do not roast all the CX's, we cut them up as fryers too. They are just as good fried as baked. We actually filet the breast fillets, so we can get twice as many meals from the breasts. One thigh or drumstick makes a meal!

    The current batch of CX's are owned by people at that Thanksgiving dinner. They all like the home raised super large chickens, my daughter-in-law's mother is very citified, she is not in any way or form a farm person, even she has said she does not like the taste of the “little store bought chickens” anymore!

    I kept 4 birds to try and breed and see what I could get. Unfortunately a predator cut that experiment short. I only managed to successfully over winter Bert, which I bred to Dixie rainbows and got some great looking meaty birds from, that seem to not want to eat all the time. I am going to try and breed the chicks and get a larger slower growing bird.

    Bert passed at 11 months of age, it was my fault. I thought of him as a “normal” bird and let him have free access to food. I stopped limiting him. I will never do that again. As long as I have CX's they will not be free will fed. Bert developed bumblefoot, I am thinking from my over feeding him.

    CX's are the sweetest birds, they are friendly and luvable. With the bonus of being tasty!


    Here is the goal, this one was only about 7 lbs. My goal this year is a 16 pound roaster!

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  1. shawluvsbirds
    Now I'm hungry :drool
  2. Molpet
  3. NaJoBeLe
    Very informative. I agree with Liz, needs updated for toads. Guess I will head over to the thread and check it out.
  4. DwayneNLiz
    there are no toads in this article, i think you need to do an update
  5. rjohns39
    Thanks for this article.
  6. karenerwin
    Oh, I forgot to add that when I processed the pullet with the broken leg she had a lot of eggs in her, some where golf ball size. She had not gotten to the point of laying any eggs though.
  7. karenerwin
    Last year I kept a pullet & cockerel CX from the batch I got. I was hoping she would lay some eggs that I could try to hatch. We almost made it to that point! Unfortunately, the roo broke her leg when he was trying to mate her. He had mated her previously, but I guess he was too heavy. He did have a hard time doing his job, it seemed like he had difficulty getting on her back & staying there long enough to do his job. We let our "free range" in an enclosed yard area. I also don't let them eat all the time. The have been very large & delicious when I process them.
  8. katsdar
    Thanks for the info, I might have to try raising them. I also do this with my broad breasted turkeys, raise them slow and they are wonderful, at 7/8 months one bird dressed out at 25 and the other at 22 so tender,juicy.
  9. fatcatx
    Do you limit them to two feedings a day up until processing?
  10. TroyerGal
    Very interesting! i had no idea they could live so long :) i have a batch of CX that i am raising... maybe i will experiment and see if i can keep one or 2 alive :)
  11. SillyBird
    I like the fact that the birds have room to MOVE. Some people think because they don't move much, are sluggish, have leg problems, that is is best to keep them like sardines. I think this is cruel. Ours were not free range but they had plenty of indoor space in a light, airy, pleasant barn. They were happy. Two are pets. Anyway, great article on raising them with respect and kindness for a better result. It is a win win. : )
  12. Shadow920
    i just got cornish rocks for the first time. they are a new breed for me. two are roosters on is a hen. all are just now fully feathered probably about 7 weeks. the two roosters are healthy and energetic. the hen is energetic but about a week ago she started limping and still is. she hops around her cage at feeding time but then lays down for the rest of the day. i had already lowered feed portions to slow down their growth rate. but i did that when they were about three weeks. the were two weeks when i got them. the hen has no ijury but the leg that hurts is thinner than the one she stands on. is this a genetic problem in these birds? and if so is there a way i can fix it. is there a way i can help her strenghen that leg so that she'll walk normal again. because she did not start out that way. this happened about four or five weeks after i cut their feed. and i put them in a pen on nice days without any feed so that the will scratch.
  13. Bogtown Chick
    Beautifully done. I like your approach and fashion sense.
  14. woodlumn
    Nice article! We're raising our Cornish X's in a similar way...slowly! They are indeed sweet birds, and they feel so soft and meaty when you pick them up :) Always nice to read others' experiences, thanks for sharing!
  15. Chicken Girl1
    Great article!
  16. mymilliefleur
    I like your approach! I agree that the ''low and slow'' method is definitely the way to go if you have the space and are not in a rush to get your birds in the freezer. I rotate my meat birds on pasture and feed them very little feed. They take longer to grow out, but the result: A bigger, healthier, more flavorful bird, on the same or less feed.
  17. N F C
    Thanks for taking the time to put this article together @duluthralphie . I haven't raised meat birds yet but like your approach, it makes sense. A very informative article, thank you!
  18. Mountain Peeps
    Good article!

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