Disappointed in our meat birds


In the Brooder
Sep 8, 2020
We were excited to try raising heritage chickens for meat but are very disappointed in our first batch. We got 4 Buckeyes and 4 Calico Princess hatchlings at the recommendation of the chicken expert at the feed store. We fed organic chick start (23% protein) from the beginning, put them out in a plenty big enough coop (about 4' x 3' x 6' tall with roosting bars inside) with a medium-sized run (about 12' x 12') attached. We harvested them at about 17 weeks according to what we read online and based a little on our schedule.

Our first disappointment was that they were much smaller than we expected - they dressed out at an average of 2-2.5 pounds. Our second and biggest disappointment was that the meat was very tough. We were hoping to use these for roasting, grilling, and frying rather than just soup or stew. We're wondering where we went wrong. Were they the wrong breeds? Wrong feed? Not enough feeders? Too much height for flapping around and jumping to the roosting bars? Too much room in the run? Too hot this summer?

Thanks for your input! We didn't want to do Cornish Cross for meat birds, but if that's truly the best route to good yield of good meat we might reconsider.
We just processed a Minorca male (19 weeks and 6 days) and a frizzle bantam male (20 weeks and 6 days). Obviously they were not large males, but they were not incredibly tough either though and we ate them the same day we processed. We baked them though for a few hours with the skin in before we removed the skin and tore it into strips to eat. That likely helped it not be as tough (it certainly wasn't rotisserie chicken soft, but far, far less than I had feared).
We didn't want to do Cornish Cross for meat birds, but if that's truly the best route to good yield of good meat we might reconsider.

If they're easy enough to get where you are, it's certainly a route worth considering.
They have their issues, but if you plan and set up things right a lot of them can be simply avoided.
Raise them during a cooler part of the year and they will already grow a bit slower.
Feed them a bit less and healthier foods, I like to add lots and lots of greens to their diets. They seem to like that a lot once used to it, but they will grow slower.
I've done this for years, when we could just go to one of the many weekly markets around here and just pick up whatever you needed. I actually often fed them a low protein grain-mix, greens and whatever they could forage. They thrived on that too and still grew markedly faster than any other chicken. I, however, only butchered them past three months, at which point I had a nice chicken with a more colored meat and with a bit of bite than what you buy in the supermarket.
I can't remember any weights, though, didn't even take weights in those days. The last CX rooster I raised this way, to use for breeding, weighed 4kg cleaned at 6 or 7 months, if that can serve as an indication.
I recently did Cornish Crosses. The smallest was 3 lbs and the biggest close to 5 lbs. They were wonderful, execpt the fact that they needed moved every day. (they were in a chicken tractor)
I would have probably have gotten birds close to 6 lbs, but out of my 32, 23 of them were killed in ONE night by a fox. I only had 9 left. I would suggest doing Cornish Crosses.
You simply learned that you can't buy egg birds and hope for them to taste like Cornish Cross broilers :)

Everything tastes tougher than CX, because everything is older than them. Americans have grown used to extra soft chicken.

I would suggest you get actual meat birds, be they broilers or rangers.
Nothing but nothing beats the Cornish X for meat production. They do have their quirks but if you accommodate them you will not be disappointed. Most people who have trouble with the Cornish do so because they try to make the Cornish into something it is not. They eat a lot, poop a LOT, and grow very fast. They need a high power feed to do that.

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