Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raising cornish cross chickens

Just thought I would write a quick entry about our experience with cornish cross chickens. They were "free" with the purchase of a bag of feed at our feed store.

A). They eat so much food that they poop tons. If you don't keep the bed scrupulously clean, which we did not, they get poop stuck to the front of their chest that rips off their feathers. Evidently it is well known that they are quite messy. http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/archive/index.php/t-44426.html

B). When I attempted to remove their brooder light, four of them croaked over dead, even though they did not behave as if they were cold.

C). We put them outside the other day at four weeks old. We're nearing harvesting time and I would like them to have some outdoor free-range time. But they haven't foraged. They just sit on the ground. They won't even roost when night time comes. Ed had been bringing them back in the house at night so they hopefully don't die or succumb to whatever has a taste for my ducks (yes, another duck-a duckling this time-was killed).

They are probably already too heavy to lift themselves up to forage and to put themselves on their roost.

As a side note, I've figured out that the term for "free ranging poultry" is a total joke for meat birds. Nearly all birds in this country that are grown for meat are cornish cross chickens, because they are the most efficient feed conversion and you can slaughter them at such a young age, meaning a more tender and moist bird. But these birds won't free range. They won't go hunting for bugs or eat grass. And they succumb to the cold very early. It's really not possible to have these birds "free ranging" as they are bred specifically for the factory farms. Growing quick for the market is the only feature that they retain.

D). Something isn't quite right about their feather growth. I've already noted their chests, but they have other bald spots and such. It's as if they're bred to not have many feathers so that they are easier to pluck. Or perhaps their protein development is going into their meat conversion versus feathers. They seem very sickly. I don't know if this is normal or not.

Okay, I guess it is normal: pic of mottled chickens

Which leads me to this question. If they won't roost and they get shit stuck to their chests and their skin is well exposed, is it possible that this is only excacerbating the salmonella and other food born problems? When I pick up these birds I feel disgusting. They feel sick. I wonder what raising these animals in close confinement and factory farms is really like.

What a sad, poor existence for these birds. Is it time for us to consider raising heritage breeds for meat chickens as we have for turkeys?

Another blogger's experience: http://antiquityoaks.blogspot.com/2010/04/chicken-for-dinner.html


Motherhen said...

After reading your post & Antiquity Oaks, I'm beginning to wonder if CC is the way to go. I had planned to build them a little run to forage the last few weeks of their lives. But if they won't forage and just sit, it's not going to do much good to build it.

Thanks for your insights.

Anonymous said...

I saw your comment at AntiquityOaks.

I've only raised "Heritage" chickens for egg production. So, I was just surprised to learn about these little CC's. They don't even sound like a chicken. Makes me sad and wonder about what I'm buying at the grocery store!