Can early feeding methods affect leg strength?


10 Years
Apr 29, 2011
Northwest Indiana
Hi everyone! Here's a question for you experienced meatie/broiler raisers. Our latest batch of meaties is from a new hatchery and we've never had chickens with tall, strong legs like these do. They're about the same size as always for the age, but they are the tallest birds we've raised. Could it be food related or just a different line?

The only thing we've done differently with these is feed them 20% the entire time. We usually feed them 24% the first two weeks, but didn't do that this time. I noticed they grew much slower in the beginning, but caught up around 5 weeks.

They're 7 1/2 weeks now and usually walk and sit by this age. These guys actually stand around and are incredibly active. They've even had to spend more time inside than most of our batches because of the weather. Any theories?

This guy is HUGE and look at those legs!
We just had a batch of good birds too. I was told (rumored) that they are genetically getting there to resolve the leg problem. But yes higher protein is better for building muscle but growing bodies faster than the structure can handle causes the leg problems. Calcium & getting vitamin D to help use the calcium is the only help I know of but absolutely they are what they eat! by the way those are some nice looking chickens
I'm doing my first round of meaties and they are from Welp hatchery I was leary to do meat birds beacuse of health issues I have heard about but mine seem to all have great legs and sit up taller too. I wonder if they are breeding back to white rocks to get more rock legs than squaty cornish legs. But mine are very active 6 week old meaties that are in a tractor and graze down everything green before they touch their feed.
I wonder, too! We processed some last weekend, and I cut a few into pieces, and the legs looked more like our extra roosters when we butcher than meaties. I'm curious to see how much these weigh tomorrow to see if they're actually smaller than usual. Maybe that makes them look taller? We'll see.
Mine came from Meyers' four weeks ago today. They seem small to me, but I got all females. They do not have very good feathering yet and I am hoping for a growth spurt soon. The 50 birds went through 150# of feed plus about 15# of grain and 20# of oats plus a few # of BOSS. I have been giving them ACV in their water and !/2 got FF and the other 1/2 got wet food. I see no difference in the size of the chicks. I am rather disappointed with these CornishX from Meyers. When I got meaties from Ideal they grew faster and stronger than these and were more active at 4 weeks. I will try to get them into the pasture over the weekend and see if an outing from the barn does them some good. The sunshine should help. The barn has a lot of light with panels in the roof to defuse the sunlight, but no electric for artificial light. If I get a chance to weigh them over the weekend, I will. Why did I try to raise Broilers in the fall?

Mine are from Meyer, too. I ordered 30 straight run and 30 female (just because that's what was available). They stayed very, very small until about 5 weeks and then seemed to catch up to what I'm used to. We butchered 30 last weekend of the smaller females (6 weeks) and they averaged about 3 1/2 - 3 3/4 lbs.

So, hang in there and see what happens in the next week or two. They may surprise you! (At least I hope they do!)
As an update on these birds, they were actually about a pound smaller than ours usually would be at this age. (Most dressed out between 5 & 5 1/2 pounds for males at 7 1/2 weeks.) That very well may have accounted for why they looked that way. I still think they had very strong legs and am leaning towards the fact that I skipped that higher protein feed for the first few weeks. It's very possible that the slower growth allowed their legs to keep up with them more.
I agree slower growth does help. Some of us on a time line supplement vitamin D and Calcium to help strengthen the bones. But the best is a slow balanced diet.
OP, that looks like a decent size poultry yard. Cornish Cross are much healthier if they have lots of room.

The actual length of the legs is genetic. The bird either has long legs genes or short leg genes and feed won't change that.

I start mine on 28% protein and then switch to 20% and I have not had leg problems. But I treat Cornish Cross legs like I treat duck legs. Fast growth needs nutritional support. So my Cornish Cross get niacin and calcium and sunshine for the vitamin D they need to build bone. Space to exercise strengthens the leg tendons and joints so that the legs can support the rapid weight gain.

Small correction: I did butcher 2 of the last batch early because they got into deep sticky mud and it seemed to strain their tendons. I didn't wait to see if they would heal, I just butchered them. So, I am going to say that good quality footing is also beneficial to leg health.
They did have a large yard, but didn't get to use it as much as previous batches because the weather just wasn't cooperating. They had added vitamins and electrolytes all the way through in at least one waterer -- maybe that made a difference, along with genetics.

I'll be curious to see if my next batch ends up with legs like that again.

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