meat bird mamma failure?

anniekrs

Hatching
Jul 15, 2021
5
7
4
After a 7 year hiatus, we are back on a farm/ranch and I'm raising meat birds again. We have a Salatin style tractor. It's horribly hot here in Montana.

Last time, I raised Freedom Rangers and they roamed all over the pasture. I still lost a few to predators, but otherwise pretty healthy birds. Took a long while to grow but I felt pretty successful.

Now, I'm raising Cornish Xs because our growing season is shorter and I don't want to spend so much on feed as with the FR. I started with 61 birds and I think I've lost about 7 or 8 now. Lost 2 or 3 in the brooder, dogs have gotten to 3 of them, then I thought I had Cocci going through the flock. Found a dead bird each morning for 2 or 3 mornings. Could've been the heat, too.

These birds do nothing but lay around under the shade panting all day. They waddle if they walk and many of them just recline by the feeder. I tried to do 12 on 12 off, but they were piranhas by morning. Now, I add food 3 times a day--8 am, 3 pm and 8 pm. The 8 pm is really more like a snack before bed since we move them to fresh greens at that time.

Is this normal? They don't seem very healthy. Some of them are huge! Super wide over their spindly legs.
How do you manage the heat? I tried to raise the back of the tracker about an inch per Salatin's book, but the dogs dug under and grabbed a bird. :-(
How can I improve their health?

Thank you!
 

Parront

Crossing the Road
Jul 27, 2017
6,522
27,667
907
Prescott, AZ
After a 7 year hiatus, we are back on a farm/ranch and I'm raising meat birds again. We have a Salatin style tractor. It's horribly hot here in Montana.

Last time, I raised Freedom Rangers and they roamed all over the pasture. I still lost a few to predators, but otherwise pretty healthy birds. Took a long while to grow but I felt pretty successful.

Now, I'm raising Cornish Xs because our growing season is shorter and I don't want to spend so much on feed as with the FR. I started with 61 birds and I think I've lost about 7 or 8 now. Lost 2 or 3 in the brooder, dogs have gotten to 3 of them, then I thought I had Cocci going through the flock. Found a dead bird each morning for 2 or 3 mornings. Could've been the heat, too.

These birds do nothing but lay around under the shade panting all day. They waddle if they walk and many of them just recline by the feeder. I tried to do 12 on 12 off, but they were piranhas by morning. Now, I add food 3 times a day--8 am, 3 pm and 8 pm. The 8 pm is really more like a snack before bed since we move them to fresh greens at that time.

Is this normal? They don't seem very healthy. Some of them are huge! Super wide over their spindly legs.
How do you manage the heat? I tried to raise the back of the tracker about an inch per Salatin's book, but the dogs dug under and grabbed a bird. :-(
How can I improve their health?

Thank you!
Welcome to BYC! :welcome
You are talking about normal Cornish-X behavior sad to say.
There is a reason that they are expected to be processed at~42 days. If it is hot, misters can help, CA and AZ experience is speaking here. These guys are bred to be meat, they grow fast and are super feed efficient. BUT, they do not act like other chickens, even other meat birds.
 

U_Stormcrow

Crossing the Road
Jun 7, 2020
8,191
28,653
776
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
CornishX are remarkably brittle birds. They are also not particularly heat tolerant, or well suited to tractoring, much less free ranging. Even in ideal conditions, losses tend to be high with CX.

But their feed efficiency is so high, and they have the significant breast/thigh ratioAmercian consumers want, that those losses remain economically acceptable to bulk breeders.

Given the choice, a CX will lay in front of the feed gorging itself, moving only to get a drink before returning to the feeder. They are predator ignorant, can't fly, waddle more than walk, certainly can't run, and have ahost of associated joint problems besides.

That said, I have successfully free ranged CX with the rest of my layers and DP birds in hot, humid FL. But I didn't get the massive weight numbers at early age that make CX worthwhile. I had to restrict feedings and force them to range. Eventually, had a roo over 14#, another at 13.4#, and used a hen as a breeder - just took her at 10.14# as she was suffering a hard molt. At roughly 15 months of age. But if you look at my posts from last year this time, my birds were consistently 1-1.5# lighter than those raising CX on free feed or closely similar management plans at similar age. At 20 weeks, I was hitting weights they hit at 8 or 9 weeks.

Honestly, your losses (apart from the dog) don't sound high, based on my readings. All you can do for the heat is ensure they have shade, are well ventilated, and have places to dig into the earth, stretch out, and pant while temps are high. Electrolyte support in the water is a good idea as well.

best of luck

p.s. CX were not bred to lay eggs. CX were not bred to hunt for food. CX were not bred for long life. CX were not bred to entertain the children. CX were not bred to survive the wild, not even the "wild" of a suburban back yard. CX were purpose built to provide a heavy, attractive carcass at a very young age with high feed efficiency - if we do substantially eveything else for them.
 
Last edited:

iwltfum

Crowing
Sep 10, 2018
771
1,581
251
Maine
Better to move the pens to fresh grass in the morning rather than moving them in the evening. Chickens poop 90% of their poop during the night. I would guess they arent getting the cooling benefit of the fresh grass during the day since they have already wasted the area with poop by the morning. Running a mister as @Parront mentioned can be a good idea if its sunny and 85f+.
 
Last edited:

anniekrs

Hatching
Jul 15, 2021
5
7
4
Better to move the pens to fresh grass in the morning rather than moving them in the evening. Chickens poop 90% of their poop during the night. I would guess they arent getting the cooling benefit of the fresh grass during the day since they have already wasted the area with poop by the morning. Running a mister as @Parront mentioned can be a good idea if its sunny and 85f+.
Ohhh, good thought! Unfortunately, I need help moving the tractor and that help won't get up early. :-(. I will talk to him, though!!
 

iwltfum

Crowing
Sep 10, 2018
771
1,581
251
Maine
I hope to as well. Right now, we are using the one my sister/BIL built. I will have a better one soon!
There are a few key secrets in pastured poultry profits as well as some of the YouTube videos of joel salatin that he gives for success. Huge issues people have with his pens is weight, but many people try and do it without the dolly that he gives specifications for in his book. Many people also decide to build out of 2x4's instead of 2x2's - major weight addition. Really the salatin pens should be built with ROUGH SAWN 2x2s which are actually 2x2 as opposed to using planed framing lumber which will not rip in half evenly, leaving you with 1.5x1.75 which is significantly less strong structurally, rots more quickly and is more difficult to work with on a account of it not being square.
 
Last edited:

Parront

Crossing the Road
Jul 27, 2017
6,522
27,667
907
Prescott, AZ
There are a few key secrets in pastured poultry profits as well as some of the YouTube videos of joel salatin that he gives for success. Huge issues people have with his pens is weight, but many people try and do it without the dolly that he gives specifications for in his book. Many people also decide to build out of 2x4's instead of 2x2's - major weight addition. Really the salatin pens should be built with ROUGH SAWN 2x2s which are actually 2x2 as opposed to using planed framing lumber which will not rip in half evenly, leaving you with 1.5x1.75 which is significantly less strong structurally, rots more quickly and is more difficult to work with on a account of it not being square.
The special wide dolly is what makes those big pens work. My little chick growers are made of light weight EMT bent in a hoop. Only 6' square so it fits where the big 10x10 kind does not go. We are just doing a few backyard birds.
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom