The Case for Cornish Cross


Gavin DinnelToday’s post is going to be on a controversial subject. The dreaded Cornish Cross chicken; this chicken has been called a Frankenbird, genetically modified and a freak of nature. I know that I won’t change everyone’s minds but I’m hoping I can change a couple.

The Cornish Cross is what is considered a hybrid. It is the result of decades of specific breeding that has brought about the current meat chicken that we are all familiar with. This specific breeding is no different than the hybrid tomatoes you buy at the nursery, or the commercial breeds of pigs that have been selected for their length and quickness of growth. There is no genetic modification at work here, only selective breeding.

The reason that many eschew the Cornish Cross, is that it doesn’t “act” like the backyard chickens we are used to. Those chickens are slow growing, better foraging and look prettier. I’ll definitely agree with all those points, but we must keep in mind that we are raising meat chickens and not laying chickens.

Cornish Cross also require more management. A chicken tractor that can be moved at least daily will help keep chickens clean and provide them more grass and bugs to eat. Chicks must be monitored often to make sure that they are kept sufficiently warm or cool as necessary. Feed should be removed for periods of time to prevent overeating and encourage foraging.

If you are willing to manage these birds properly, you will be rewarded with a quick growing bird that is healthy, hardy and most importantly, tasty.

We recently took in our first batch of Cornish Cross to the processor. We ordered birds from a local hatchery, Jenks out of Tangent, OR. We purchased 30 birds and were shipped 32 (as is normal practice). All 32 arrived safe and sound and were immediately placed in the chicken tractor on pasture! That is unheard of on most farms!! Most brooding operations are conducted in buildings, on a hard surface covered with wood shavings. We wanted our birds to be on grass from the very first day and to prove that these Cornish Cross could be raised outside from the very beginning.

6/4/2016 9:32:09 AM

Fantastic post and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I recently did a post on these same birds (we are raising them for the 4th time) and a woman lambasted me for growing them, however if you eat chicken anywhere outside of homegrown this is what you are getting in restaurants, grocery chains, etc. But, growing them at home allows control like you said over non-medicated feed, fresh forage and ventilation. Chicken tractors are by far the best way to raise these delicious dinners, I TOTALLY agree with you! Dawn- the incidental farmgirl-

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