Considering some Cornish Cross birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by lutherpug, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a flock of 6 hens ranging from 15 weeks-10 months old. I've been keeping chickens for about a year at this point but have turned my eyes towards the future....


    Our hens are our pets as well as the producers of our breakfast. I have a soft spot for animals and am always concerned about the day I have to cull one of our hens as I consider them to be members of our family. They all have names and I love their different personalities. Well, except for one of them :) That said, we intend to be on a few acres in a couple of years and at that time I would like to have the skills and confidence to be able to humanely raise and butcher our own chickens for meat consumption. In my mind this serves a couple of purposes. First, it allows us to control the source of our meat to a certain extent and secondly it allows us to become efficient and respectful butchers-both for harvesting young meat birds as well as dispatching old hens that have been our pets.

    In a nutshell, I'm considering getting some Cornish Cross birds this summer to raise and butcher both to provide meat for my family as well as get some practice on proper techniques before we are in the unfortunate position of having to dispatch of one of our "pet" birds either due to injury/illness or lack of production.

    Given that we are in a very suburban area (think cul-de-sac) and limited in terms of space, etc. we are thinking about *maybe* doing 3-4 birds at the most....as a trial run to get a feel for what this looks like on a larger scale and to give us some experience in how to humanely dispatch a chicken.

    Did anyone else get their start like this? Any advice? Is 3-4 a reasonable number or is that a lot to process at one time (emotionally/physically/mentally) for a first timer? Lessons learned that you'd care to share?

    Just trying to get an idea of what we aren't considering before we make a decision.
     
  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Overrun With Chickens

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    Processing will be HARD for you. I am thinking in terms as myself, as I only keep chickens as pets. I would be able to do it if it was an emergency, but would not be able to eat my pet. [​IMG] I currently have a chicken who is blind, but otherwise healthy. She is 11 years old. All I want is for her to go naturally. All my chickens live long lives unless encounter a predator or unfortunate health disease. We do eat chickens from the grocery store as well as KFC.
    WISHING YOU BEST.. [​IMG]
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I think you sound pretty well thought out.

    4ish is probably a good start. That many birds is easily do-able to butcher all in one day, especially if you have two of you doing the work. It's also fine if you only do 2 and decide to hold the other 2 for another week, depending on what may come up or your response to butchering. Doing all 4 at once will also give you a chance to perfect your technique and cement your knowledge and skills.

    First thing...don't name them. Think of them as food from the start.

    Second thing--don't plan to eat them right after you butcher. When I have a hard time with a specific bird or batch, I freezer them for a good month or so, to let the emotions associated with the bird fade. That time helps a lot.

    Third thing....have a comfortable work station and a sharp knife--multiple is good, and/or a sharpener you're comfortable using.

    There are several good threads here about processing, and the emotions that go with it. Lots of good you-tube videos also. In the end, my best advice is not to hesitate or worry about hurting the bird. Remember you're killing the bird, and need to be swift, sure and like you mean it.
     
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  4. Hay Belly

    Hay Belly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I started out the same way as you and was lucky enough to find someone who taught me how to butcher chickens (NJ girl, we can't even pump our own gas). I had 10 Cornish x and that was a good start, I did 2 a day. Now I raise and process 20 Cornish and Rangers every 3 months.

    They don't need much space but they are better off the more room they have. I have mine in a 6 x 10 dog run and let them out during the day to wander. Cornish x are way different from egg layers, you'll find that out very quickly!

    Contrary to what donrae said, I respect my meaties and treat them like every bird I have. They have emotions and personalities just like every other being.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
  5. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Overrun With Chickens

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    Reread Donrae's post. It does not imply to mistreat or disrespect them, just don't get attached to them as pets. Think of them as your source of food.
     
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  6. Hay Belly

    Hay Belly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, don't forget, the chickens you bought to butcher to be your food are going to be your food.
     
  7. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Since you only are thinking of a few birds and seem motivated by some degree of self-suffiency, I'll just theow this out there: what about going with dual-purpose, at least at first? And then if it goes well you can also breed your own meat birds (and layers if you like) in the future-- ultimately allowing you to control the source of your meat more completely. Raising cornish cross can be traumatizing in itself--they often suffer health problems and are generally weak and losses are corresponding higher. They also tend to be smelly (from lying around in their copious poo) and pitifully ragged. Raising healthier, more vigorous, more natural birds to begin with you may find less demoralizing and certainly easier to manage.

    I know too many horror stories from first-time "meat bird" raisers who went with cornish cross that frankly could have been avoided with heritage or dual purpose meat birds. And I did help process some myself once (anothers, not our own) and I would honestly say I found the overall process a good level of gross beyond what I had ever experienced with my own DP birds.

    Just a thought.... I just would not recommend cornish cross as a first time experience...

    (Actually, I don't think some if those more notorious strains should be raised at all for humane reasons, but thats just an ethical opinion, and belongs in a different discussion, and anyhow irrelevant to my above advice. I do know people who do a good job of raising them well with whom i can respectfully disagree on that point).

    Whatever you decide, good luck!
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
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  8. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for this, I can see myself falling victim to this line of thinking pretty easily.

    My husband would do the actual killing, at least at first, but I would help with the processing. He doesn't have the same emotional attachment to the birds. He likes them and helps take care of them but would have no issues culling one if the situation called for it. Hopefully we will make a good team :)

    Interesting idea about raising DP birds. I had considered it but had some reservations-namely having to raise them much longer before you can process them. Maybe I'm over thinking it but my concern would be having roosters starting to crow, becoming more attached to them, etc. It would be pretty difficult for me to cull a perfectly good young hen who is close to POL. I have 3 pullets just shy of 4 months old right now and I cannot imagine culling them.

    Clearly I still have things to think about but I really appreciate all of the good advice given here.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Since you are very suburban, what are the laws that affect you? Are you allowed to butcher, some cities don’t allow that. Will DP cockerels cause problems with crowing? Whether or not you decide the follow the law of not is your decision, but at least know the laws so you can factor that into your decision.

    Obviously you can go in any direction with this, but I’d encourage you go with 3 or 4 Cornish Cross to start with, if you can get that few. They are living animals, you can become attached to them, but they are different and you are less likely to become as attached to them. It’s just easier to think of them as food rather than pets since they are different. Another advantage is that they will be butchered so young you can pretty much cook them any way you wish. Since they grow so fast, you can repeat the process much sooner if you wish.

    The emotions can be difficult. I think Donrae gives good advice. I had not thought of waiting to eat them, I can see how that could help a lot. There are many different ways to kill them, the main thing is do it in a way that you can be sure. You do not want to flinch where you injure yourself or them. Treat them well so they have a good life with only one bad day, and that bad day is over pretty quickly.

    Good luck with it.
     
  10. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm not aware of any legal issues to butchering but I'll double check.

    Everything you mentioned regarding DP vs CX is precisely why I'm inclined to go with the CX. I cannot have crowing roosters and I do not want to raise a batch of meat birds for months and months. Your argument about them being different is a good one. That thought was rattling around in my head but I wasn't able to articulate it. My gut feeling is that it will be easier to remain detached from them if they're around for less time and are dissimilar to my other chickens.
     

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