Meat breeds


9 Years
Jun 14, 2013
I would like to raise meat chickens this year for the first time. I don’t want something like the Cornish x that grow so fast it’s unhealthy, I would like something more along the lines of a heritage breed, but that I don’t have to wait 5 months to dress out. What would y’all suggest?
Simple, don't wait 5 months.

Waiting that long reduces the means you are able to cook a bird. It's gaining flavor as it ages but it's also getting tougher. You can only roast 6 month old birds, you can stew them too. If you want high heat cooking like on a grill or broiling then butcher no later than 14 weeks. If you like southern fried you can wait as long as 18 weeks of age.

The other thing to keep in mind is body structure of most dual purpose birds is not what you're used to. Leg meat is dark. Older birds leg meat flavor is closer to duck than chicken flavor. The breast meat is thin. You will not have that ultra thick breast like a CornishX or slower growing hybrid meat bird. In a nutshell dark to white meat ratio is far different than you are used to.

If breast meat is key to your culinary taste and you still want a sustainable flock of meat you should look into obtaining Cornish from a breeder. Dorking has a little more breast than typical dual purpose birds too but nothing compared to Cornish and hence foundation of all hybrid meat birds.

If you have settled on a Dual purpose, Cornish are not dual purpose as they don't lay many eggs (read- you'll get enough to hatch out another generation each year but little more), there are several at the top of the list for growth and fleshing quality. The afore mentioned Dorking, New Hampshire, Buckeye, Red Sussex and maybe Australorp.

Any dual purpose can work really but those above would be considered better. Regardless of what you use you certainly want to obtain breeder stock. Standard bred birds will have the carcass qualities meant for dual purpose. Hatchery stock do not, plain and simple, quality dual purpose with vent for meat can only begot from breeder stock.

I'll go even further as this thread is likely to be inundated with breeds that really are not better. Many may attempt to suade you on Orpington. It's an OK dual purpose, Australorp were bred from the original black Orpington with eye to utility and why I suggested them. They are not to the standard they once were though. Also many will attempt to say French breeds are the best. This is untrue also. Let's take Bresse for example. It's a culinary delight in France due to fattening sheds. This is where you keep the birds from moving and force feed them concoctions of malasses and corn or the like. It's the fattening that makes them a delight to eat not the breed itself. It's unlawful to do this in America, not to poultry and not to veal anymore.

Since this is already turning into a novello perhaps I should add that a slow growth hybrid may be more suitable to your desires. Instead of rapid growth CornishX you could look into the Ranger type hybrids. Designed to be culled at 12 weeks opposed to the 8 weeks CornishX do. That way you have a more active bird that grows slower so health issues are not of concern and still double breasted- breast meat twice as thick as dual purpose birds. CornishX is more like three times thicker.

Good Luck.
It's a trademark name. Same thing from different hatcheries are called Red Broilers or Black Broilers. If you search the "meat birds etc." forum with advance search you'll see actual weights and how these type birds perform.

Search from top bar then search Red Ranger and with advance search titles only and choose the forum meat birds. Loads of threads on them.

Here's a photo of 4+ lbs carcass of 12 week old cockerel- found with that search
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Cornish types can be fed on a schedule as to limit their crazy growth to keep them a bit more active. We raised some meat birds last year for the first time and all 12 remained active while growing, up until day of butchering at 8 weeks. They could still waddle-run across the enclosure to get to the water or food (which we kept at opposite ends). Maybe that was the strain we got, and they were naturally more active. We purchased 12 more of the same this year and they are 7 days old today. We will see how these do. We were really pleased with their size after just eight weeks of growth and they were tasty. Again, could just be the strain we got. The downside - wow, they poop A LOT.

We butchered some extra cockerels at 15 weeks once. They were not the breeds mentioned above
The afore mentioned Dorking, New Hampshire, Buckeye, Red Sussex and maybe Australorp.
but, they also were not trim Mediterranean types, and they were very, very tough. I don't think we let them age in the fridge long enough (recommended 3-4 days), and spouse decided to grill them, so this did not help their texture. But they were pretty lean on the meat. If I were to process extra cockerels again, I would want them to be of a meatier heritage breed as mentioned above. We currently have a few Dorking chicks, so it will be interesting to see how they grow and develop. One of these chicks is clearly a male (by 4 weeks it had an obvious and reddening comb), and it is distinctly larger and wider than the likely female hatch mates, and remains quite active, so curious as to what it will look like by 12 weeks (possible freezer camp age).

Good Luck.
I know a family that raises rocks for meat rather than cornish and they sell the meat for a living. Anything other than cornish will not be as cost effective but any dual purpose breed should work. I would buy a collection of different breeds and see which ones you like for temperment, weight, and taste. Just make sure you keep them on a broiler diet. All my chickens eat an egg layer diet and are pretty skinny from all the running around free range style. You'll want them to eat a differently so they become weighty meat birds rather than skinny fast rascals like mine. Have you thought about doing turkeys instead? The jersey giant chicken breed was made to replace the turkey and the cornish was made to replace the jersey giant. If you're really interested in heritage a turkey would give you more bang for your buck. The heritage breeds are also more flavorful than the broad breasted turkeys so it might work out better for you. They are a bit more sensitive than a chicken but with the right care you shouldn't lose any.
The Jersey Giant never took off as a breed. It failed miserably in the meat industry. Only reason the breed survived is due to the conservation trend that started during the Jersey Giant demise. It's not a good choice for dual purpose. Very slow growing, eats a lot of feed.

The ones I mentioned are faster to mature so you have decent fleshing in the 12-14 week age you can still broil them. Dorking are small but meaty. This Roman era chicken is still around for a good reason.

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