Heritage Cornish Game Hen


In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
I have a question for any experienced meat chicken enthusiasts.

I am jumping into my first foray of raising meat chickens and I have narrowed my breed possibilities down to a few sustainable heritage breeds which I plan to try out.

The question I have is:

Is there a heritage equivalent to a "cornish game hen?" I understand that a cornish game hen is just a young pullet hybrid bred to be slaughtered at an early age/lighter weight. But is there a single serving heritage bird out there or is this sort of a pipe dream? Would a bantam version of a heritage bird serve this purpose? I don't see how you could slaughter a slow to mature breed earlier and have the result be a tasty meaty bird but maybe I am missing something about how the cornish pullets are raised.

Any help would be appreciated.
The Bantam Cornish could perform this function aesthetically (a small, plump bird, good for 1 person and neat/exotic enough to look fancy at dinner parties) but the raising and cooking process would be different - as it is significantly older than a Cornish Game hen (20+ weeks versus >4), they will be tougher, and much more flavorful. So they will need to be cooked longer, but they may not require so much seasoning. Keep in mind that by the time cockerels reach slaughter weight they will have some "rooster flavor" to them, which will be very different from both the bland taste of a Game Hen and from a Bantam Cornish pullet. There is also the matter of feed - while it is a small bird, and so will not eat as much feed as a typical meat bird, it has a much slower growth rate and poorer feed conversion than the Game Hen hybrids, and so will cost significantly more and take much longer to raise than they would.

I've raised out a lot of Cornish Bantam crosses this season, many of which turned into pullets that, while cute, laid about 2 eggs a week and were pretty much entirely useless. They didn't have enough personality to warrant calling them pets, so I culled 5 of the 6 that remained of the original hatch, leaving a pretty golden partridge girl. They were half Cochin so they weren't bowling balls with legs like their mommy, but they got real decent breast meat. They cooked about 50 minutes in an oven and turned out delicious. They were slightly tough (could've used a little slower and longer cooking) but otherwise very good. Here's a photo of one of them.

A Cornish game hens sold in stores is nothing special it is a Cornish cross meat chicken that has been butchered at a smaller size.

I don't know if you have any prior experience with butchering home grown chickens but all of the heritage breeds will be substantially different than a meat breed in terms of grow out speed, overall amount of meat on the carcass and as a function of age, toughness of the meat. You honestly aren't going to be able to get a carcass comparable to a small Cornish hen out of a heritage breed, they don't have much meat on them at normal butchering age and doing it at a younger age would yield even less. The heritage breeds i would just grow out to 14-16 weeks, they're still tender enough to grill or fry at that age and aren't gonna have much more meat than a game hen anyways. My last batch of fryer roosters weren't much over 2lbs dressed
Thank you for the info, all of what your are saying about the Cornish rocks be the heritage birds is what I already suspected.

I am fine with a longer grow out time I guess I was hoping to find a single serving type bird which does not seem to exist on a heritage scale.

I am also looking at the lyonnaise as they were recommended as a smaller heritage (tho not game hen size) type bird for roasting.

Thanks !
Well a full grown heritage breed is pretty close to a single serving bird, they don't have all that much meat on them especially if you butcher then early enough that they aren't overly tough but the meat will be quite different from a Cornish hen, especially the dark meat, it will have a stronger flavor, not that it's bad but it may be different from what you are used to. As a chicken ages it gets tougher and gains more flavor. Store bought chicken tastes the way it does and is as tender as it is because it is so young, a full grown chicken is no older than 8 weeks, maybe younger, the game hen is only a few weeks maybe 4 weeks at the most, they aren't old enough to get actual chicken flavor not that they aren't still good, but you will notice a difference in flavor.
I actually really like the flavor of a heritage bird breast but there isn't much of it, I don't mind the dark meat but I do notice the stronger flavor
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