I've a problem......

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by jacque, Nov 7, 2007.

  1. Windy Ridge

    Windy Ridge Songster

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    The old "standard" table bird was the Sussex in Britain. I have several of these girls for laying, and three roosters. Before the advent of the hybrid meat birds, this was THE choice meat bird (along with the Dorking, although less so with Dorkings after the 1850s when they started being selected for show rather than utility qualities). Sussex would be ranged until 13 weeks or so, then fattened by "cramming"--ugh!--force feeding for two or three weeks to add an extra pound before slaughter at around 16 weeks. (I have a book on the history of the Sussex and Dorking by J Batty.)

    Mine are just over 16 weeks old at this point, and I have to say I'm amazed at the size of their fat little bodies. I don't "cram," of course. Mine free range, true free range, and they're very active foragers, VERY friendly, and surprisingly quiet for such energetic birds. I have too many roosters, technically, but haven't had to thin anymore out because these guys are non-aggressive, even less so than my genteel Faverolles. Occasionally, they'll face off with one another for 10 seconds of so with their hackles up like a fancy ruff, then they'll both simultaneously (seemingly to me) back down and go back to preening or foraging or whatever else they were doing. I'm really surprised by how nice they are. These I didn't even order from a breeder... they're just hatchery birds. I had intended at one point to butcher all the Sussex roosters, but the birds have impressed me so favorably, I finally named my favorite Sussex rooster "Lazarus," and decided to keep him to breed.

    I've been considering ordering Sussex males for meat birds in the spring... either that or some variety of the Freedom Rangers. To me, the Sussex have the advantage of my being able to reproduce them on my own (by incubation or by letting a broody hen hatch out her clutches), as opposed to hybrids that I'd have to order every time. On the other hand, they're so darn friendly, it will be hard for me to butcher. I also don't know if they're broad-breasted enough to have a lot of commercial appeal anymore, but I'm not intending to sell them commercially.

    Still, I put it out there for those of you that are in a similar situation: Speckled Sussex are very nice, plump birds that really do make a good dual purpose selection.
     
  2. LynnGrigg

    LynnGrigg Songster

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    We are considering meat birds in the future. I'm wondering about standard light Brahmas and/or Freedom Rangers. We attempted the CornishX as "rescue" birds from an elementary school hatch project years ago and of course had no idea of the health problems associated with these fast growing birds. I don't know that I'd want them again. We lost a few to heart attacks and ended up processing the rest because it became evident that that would be more humane. At that time we had intended only to keep them as pets and it was a difficult job for us. Brahmas are supposed to be slow growing and halfway decent egg layers also.
     
  3. LoneCowboy

    LoneCowboy Songster

    Aug 26, 2007
    Longmont, CO
    McMurray hatchery has a Cornish Roaster that is supposed to have less problems. It grows just a little slower but not bad.

    I'm also thinking about doing meat birds in the spring. But haven't decided which ones. They say Jumbo X's aren't good above elevation 5000, and we are just right at 5000.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2007
  4. greyfields

    greyfields Crowing

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    My neighbor tried the slower growing Cornish Roaster (both from MM and Ideal) and had identical problems, so it's no magic bullet.

    I'm commenting since there is a lot of talk about breeding your own. You bet you can do it. You will not get results identical to the Cornish Cross; but will get a much more restrained crossbreed which will have far more vigor than the over-selected jumbos. But with that said, your backyard cross breeds will be meatier with wider/thicker breasts than any purebreed you would consider raising.

    In working on my own backyard crosses, I'm using Cornish sires on Sussex, Rock and hybrid dames. My results are not yet conclusive as which is best and I have the incubator ready to do another test run this winter (I'll have a blind tasting among my friends to see which way to go).

    A Cornish (called Indian Game in England) crossed on a Sussex or Dorking is an incredibly common backyard smallholder combination that should be tasty. I just caution that the Sussex's (typically Light Sussex) you see in England are mamoths compared with the stuff you get from hatcheries in the US, where they have been bred towards the egg laying strain rather than for meat. Also, when you reference the 19th century, be aware that those meat birds were being caponized for table use.

    Also, check out the threads by Beebiz because he is experimenting with Dark Cornish this year and there is some good advice in the thread regarding how to monitor your resulsts. And in the meantime, while you are working out your own breeding, I highly recommend Freedom Rangers.

    You really can do this. You simply have to be able to have the guts to let weak chickens die so that you are only breeding the most vigorous, disease resistant and healthy birds for the parents of your crosses. Some people don't have the strength for this. But in a few generations you will have breeding stock ideally suited for your environment.
     
  5. Windy Ridge

    Windy Ridge Songster

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    Quote:You are probably right that the lines are disparate in Britain and the US; Britain has access to some beautiful colors in the Sussex that we don't have, for instance. Actually, though, most of the Sussex in the 19th century were not caponized... they were not even strictly roosters on many farms, but a straight run of birds as they were hatched under the breeding hens, at least according to the existing records. Except for the breeding birds, they were killed before they came into lay, for the most part... at least when they were raised commercially as they were in the 19th century.

    There is one instance in that era that I know of in which a farm was known for its practice of keeping and fattening its chickens until they were around six months old. Those were Dorkings, though. The birds from that farm were highly desirable ultra-high-end birds that sold for two pounds sterling a pair. I don't remember if those were caponized or not, or if it was even mentioned in connection with that farm. It just stuck out in my mind because that seems extraordinarily old for table birds by our standards today. They got top prices for those birds, though, which were said to have very juicy, fine-grained meat. Unfortunately, beginning in the 1850s the Dorkings were crossed with a larger bird and possibly with Scottish Dumpies to increase show points, and--according to Joseph Batty--many strains of them lost their good table qualities.
     
  6. jacque

    jacque In the Brooder

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    Duncan, B.C. Canada
    Well, I picked up a vitamin mix from the feed store, to be added into the water, so we'll see if that helps at all....I think it likely would have been beneficial if we had used it from day 1.....but, I'll try it and see what happens...it can't hurt....[​IMG]
     
  7. I have had good luck with the cross that Rochester hatchery sells. Look on their website and you will see the Cornish cross and then their own meat bird. From the looks of them I'd say they are off of a Cornish cross and a Buff Orpington. They worked really well for me, and they ranged nice. Rochester is in Alberta and ships via Canada Post.

    This is from their website:

    This dual-purpose bird is a pleasure to grow. Our
    unique cross between the original old breed female (traditionally used for meat) and the modern Cornish Giant Male gives you the best of both worlds. A bird that makes a good roaster without having the leg problems, heart attacks, or "waterbelly" commonly seen with modern meat birds, since it is slower growing. The Cornish X is capable of finishing at weights similar to those of the broiler but will take 2-4 weeks longer. The Cornish X being a first-generation cross, tends to be uneven with 3-6% finished undersized. Good quality feed is critical to the performance of the Cornish Cross.

    The most success I have had with the Cornish cross is to have them in big areas. If they can spread out it really seems to help, and if they have to travel from food to water they tend more to keep strong. These birds don't tolorate any trampling or piling at all, they just die. I have done the feed withdrawal but that makes them trample more when you put it back so unless you have huge numbers of feeders for big space it's not a win situation.

    The worst batch I have done was was this year and I got a deal on an overrun of chicks for the commercial places. I got what I paid for, clearly they don't care about genetics at all in those places, they expect a percentage of loss. Rochester's Giants were better than these ones by far so even if you order them you might do better than you have been. Where were you getting these chicks from?

    I'm in BC as well and have no cocci issues.​
     
  8. jacque

    jacque In the Brooder

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    The first batch we bought was local as 2 wk. old chicks, I later found out that they came from Vancouver. We lost big time to heart attacks....

    The second batch came from Rochester.....As day olds and were great for the first 3 wks., now we seem to be having problems with their legs....I've a couple that I keep moving back and forth from the food to the water....I haven't the heart to disbatch them.....as long as they don't appear to suffer I'll leave them be and just move them back and forth....I actually just checked my paperwork again and this batch is Cornish Giants.....I won't repeat that one again....
     
  9. What you had the first time might be the same as what I just did, they came form a hatcher in Abbotsford.

    I did have leg issues with the Rochester giants but very little flip. Try the cross they have next time and see if you too have better results with that. I think that is what I will raise again next year. I have the pasture set up now so it should work well.
     
  10. Windy Ridge

    Windy Ridge Songster

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    Quote:I can't remember who, but someone else on the board here was planning a cross with Orpingtons (and Cornish?), hoping to reduce or eliminate the leg problems. I thought that sounded like a good idea... he's said he noticed his Orpingtons in the past had very nice thighs, so was hoping to get those from the cross.
     

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